The Marvelously Cryptic Dicerca lurida

Dicerca lurida on trunk of wind-thrown mockernut hickory (Carya alba).

This is Dicerca lurida (family Buprestidae), another of several woodboring beetle species that I found on the trunk of a large, wind-thrown mockernut hikcory (Carya alba) tree during my early April hike of the lower Wappapello Section of the Ozark Trail.  Actually, I had already spent some amount of time at the tree photographing a checkered beetle (Enoclerus ichneumoneus) and a longhorned beetle (Stenosphenus notatus) giving a ride to a phoretic pseudoscorpion before I even noticed not one, but several of these cryptically colored jewel beetles on the trunk of the tree.

Like other species in the genus, the brilliant metallic gaudiness of Dicerca lurida as a pinned insect specimen in a cabinet belies its near invisibility when sitting on the bark of its host trees.  Several different trees have been reported as hosts (Nelson 1975), but hickories of the genus Carya seem to be the most preferred.  The beetles rapidly colonize wind-thrown or cut trees and branches while the wood is still hard and strong, and I have collected it from a number of hickories and reared it from dead pignut hickory (Cary glabra) and shellbark hickory (Carya laciniosa), as well as sandbar willow (Salix exigua).  Most jewel beetles are active as adults only during a limited time during the season – typically late spring and early summer in eastern North America, but species of Dicerca occur as adults throughout the year – even during winter hibernating under loose bark.  This individual probably represents one of those hibernating adults that resumed activity in the first warm days of spring, searching for freshly killed host trees on which to mate and lay their eggs.  Widespread across eastern North America, it is perhaps the commonest species of the genus and one of the commonest jewel beetles in North America.  Yet, despite its abundance, year-round occurrence, relatively large size, and attractive coloration, its cryptic habits keep it seldom seen by those who don’t look for it.

Photo Details: Canon 50D (ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/18), Canon 100mm macro lens, Canon MT-24EX flash (1/4 ratio) w/ Sto-Fen diffusers. Typical post-processing (levels, unsharp mask, minimal cropping).

REFERENCE:

Nelson, G. H. 1975. A revision of the genus Dicerca in North America (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Entomologische Arbeiten aus dem Museum G. Frey 26:87–180.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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7 Responses to The Marvelously Cryptic Dicerca lurida

  1. That’s a beautiful little beetle, the bronze-gold eye and the dusted-metallic look is outstanding. I especially like the golden high-lights at the joints of the legs.

    Your flash diffusion system seems to be working well!

    • Thanks, Adrian. The beetle is actually not as prone to specular highlights as it might seem because of its strong surface sculpturing. They definitely fit the classic concept of “jewel beetle.”

  2. jason says:

    Oh wow! Now that’s a stunning beetle. I think it’s the subtle colors that I tend to find more enchanting because the beauty seems a bit more hidden. And those eyes… It certainly explains why they’d go unnoticed with ease.

    And as Adrian pointed out, this flash setup is really accomplishing things in your hands. Kudos!

    • Yes, even though it is a common species, it’s not something that most people ever get a chance to see. There are some other species in the genus that are even more dazzling, with intensely rugose (bumpy) patches amidst a sea of sparkling iridescent punctures – quite the lookers.

      Again, I can’t take full credit for how well the lighting turned out with this one (see my response to Adrian above), although I can say I’m getting better at hitting the right f-stops and have gained more understanding of post-process tweaking of levels to better effect. I do have another diffusion system in mind that I want to try – it’s pretty simple to make and has been used with fantastic results by some of the macro specialists that I follow. I’ll probably put it through a good test drive during a Memorial Day weekend trip I’ve got planned.

  3. This beetle looks gold-dusted – and I love that eye, too. You guys quit making me want to go macro lens shopping!

  4. Pingback: 29 V 2014 – Maupin, OR and White River Falls State Park | Oregon Beat Sheet

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