Insect of the month: Musk beetle

After a break, I started working again at the natural history museum, but this time at the entomology (insects) department. When I worked at the ornithology (birds) department I tried to focus on one bird each week. I have a feeling that I won’t be able to make a weekly commitment for the insects, but I’m happy to share one (maybe if the circumstances are right, more…) insect each month.

450px-Aromia_moschata_2a

The first insect that I’ve chosen is the Musk beetle (Aromia moschata). This beetle caught my eye mainly because it is so colorful compare to the beetles I was working with before. They have a very nice greenish/copper like metallic sheen. It was also the first one that had exceptionally long antennae, which made me wonder how life would be if humans also had antennae 😉 . The family name is well-chosen: they belong to the longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae). The antennae of musk beetles can be up to 2 times the length of the body. I did not find any information on the uses of their long antennae, but most insects use their antennae for smelling, hearing, feeling, tasting and some even use it for navigating. Male musk beetles might also use their antennae for impressing females, but this needs to be investigated further.

Musk beetles mainly live on willow trees. In their larval stage, which can take up to 3 years, they live inside the wood; as adults they live off pollen and sap. You can imagine that if a tree is infested with these creatures, it may suffer.

The musk beetle got its name because it secretes a liquid with a musk-like smell when disturbed. It is therefore thought that this smell serves as a defense mechanism to deter predators.
I’ll end this post with a video where you can see this insect probably searching for pollen. Also, notice the difference in antennae length between this species and the other beetles you see in the video!

Extra (scientific) information:
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00049-004-0277-1

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