Kids' Species Information

Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle

female valley elderberry longhorn beetle

Photo: USFWS

NOTE

People often call this species "VELB" to avoid saying the whole name.

STATUS

Threatened. But we are now thinking about taking VELB off the endangered species list.

Since it was listed in 1980, 50,000 acres of habitat have been protected. And 5,100 acres have been restored.

DESCRIPTION

Longhorn beetles have long tube-like bodies. They have long antennae.

Males are about 2 centimeters long. (1/2 to 1 inch measured from the front of their head to the end of their abdomen.) Their antennae can be as long as their bodies.

Females are broader than males. They have shorter antennae. Adult males have red-orange wing covers with four spots. Females have dark colored wing covers. Is the beetle in the picture at the top of this page male or female? (Answer in Photo Credits below.)

FOOD

Adults eat elderberry leaves and flowers. Larvae eat the inside of elderberry stems.

blue elderberry bush

Photo: Copyright © 2004
George W. Hartwell


HABITAT

Elderberry bushes along rivers and streams.

VELB is nearly always found around red or blue elderberry bushes. Females lay their eggs on the bark. Larvae hatch and burrow into the stems.

Stems need to be at least about one inch in diameter. Learn more from Theresa Sinicrope Talley's VELB Information pages.

LIFE CYCLE

There are four stages in VELB's life-egg, larva, pupa and adult. See a VELB life-cycle diagram from Talley's web site.

Larva is the "worm-like" stage of an insect after it hatches. (In butterflies, larvae are called caterpillars.) In VELB, this stage may last 2 years. After that the larvae become pupae. They turn into adult beetles.

Adults are active from March to June, feeding and mating.

PREDATORS

Birds, lizards, European earwigs, Argentine ants.

RANGE: The Central Valley of California from southern Shasta County south to Kern County.

THREATS

Habitat destruction is the most significant threat to the beetle.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Remember that many insects are beneficial. These include honey bees, pollinators, lady bugs, silk worms and many more. Don't automatically kill insects.

EXPLORE

You are not likely to see a VELB. But there are insects to study everywhere. Lots of times they are places you don't want them, like at your picnic.

There are hundreds of thousands of beetle species. There are more beetle species than plant species. Many are easy to study. Many, including VELB, are beautiful.

Bugs of Northern California by John Acorn is a good introduction to insects in our area. It includes a chapter on how to study insects.

Most insects won't hurt you. Very few will bother you unless you bother them. Visit Potentially Dangerous Arachnids and Insects to get an idea of which are safe or dangerous.

Visit the online Essig Museum of Entomology - California's Endangered Insects.

Photo credits: Female VELB at the top of the page - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Blue elderberry bush, Copyright © 2004 George W. Hartwell. Calphoto id: 0000 0000 0804 0212.

Words to Learn

Scientists who study insects are called entomologists.

Entomologists call VELB Desmocerus californicus dimorphus. Scientific names are in Latin or Greek.

VELB is a subspecies of Desmocerus californicus.

When the male and female of a species are very different, it is called sexual dimorphism.

VELB males and females look very different. So their subspecies name is dimorphus.

Longhorn beetles are in the Cerambycidae family. Entomologists have identified over 20,000 species of longhorn beetles.

The titan longhorn beetle (Titanus giganteus) of the Amazon rain forest can be 6 inches long. It may be the world's largest insect. Wow!

Antennae: More than one antenna. Biologists say "antennae" rather than "antennas."

Elytra: Hard wing covers. These protect the wings that beetles actually use for flying. They are a distinctive feature of beetles and some other insects.

Bug: Entomologists use the term "bug" for species in the order Hemiptera, especially the suborder Heteroptera.

True bugs include stinkbugs, bedbugs and lots of water bugs such as backswimmers and water boatmen. Learn more.