I found this soldier beetle (Cantharidae) a couple of evenings ago sitting in the middle of a Shasta daisy in my garden. Unfortunately I don’t know what kind it is. That’s one thing about writing this blog: I have come to realize just how few species of insects I can positively identify to species, or even genus. Mind you, given that there are 350,000–400,000 species of beetles in the world, I don’t feel too bad about not knowing this one. [UPDATE: thanks to the folks at Bugguide I now know that this beetle was a specimen of Rhagonycha fulva.]
This particular beetle was acting quite odd: it wasn’t moving around very much and didn’t appear concerned about my presence. When it did move it appeared almost drunk—moving slowly and uncertainly. It would periodically try to clean its antennae, but not very effectively. It certainly was easy to photograph, and the amount of pollen on it made for an interesting picture. But I couldn’t help but wonder why it had so much pollen on it? Had it been feeding on the flower—maybe feeding on pollen? I thought soldier beetles were carnivorous. None of the other flowers had any of these beetles on them, covered in pollen or not. And why was it acting so sluggish on a nice warm evening? Did the pollen have anything to do with its lethargy, or was it sick or dying?
I took a number of photos from different angles, some of which are shown here. Then I left it alone. The next evening I went out in the garden and the beetle was still there…dead.
So was the beetle feeding on the flower? Was it dying and that is why it didn’t clean off the pollen? Or did the pollen somehow cause its death, perhaps by clogging its spiracles—the tiny openings in an insects exoskeleton through which they respire?
It’s a mystery…
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus E-620 digital SLR
Lens: Zuiko 35mm macro
Settings: manual exposure (F22 @ 1/125 sec)
Lighting: Olympus RF-11 ring flash (manual; ¼ power)