For kids from fourth grade up.
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.
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
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?
Adults eat elderberry leaves and flowers. Larvae eat the inside of
elderberry stems. See pictures in sidebar.
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.
There are four stages in VELB's life-egg, larva, pupa and adult.
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.
Birds, lizards, European earwigs, Argentine ants.
RANGE: The Central Valley of California from southern Shasta County
south to Kern County.
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
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
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.