Page images

the day, resting upon or flying round the trunks of white oak trees, and recently cut timber of the same kind of wood. I have repeatedly taken it upon and under the bark of peach-trees also. The grubs or larvæ bore into the trunks of these trees.

The Buprestis (Chrysobothris) fulvoguttata," or tawny spotted Buprestis, first described by me in the eighth volume of the “ New England Farmer," is proportionally shorter and more convex than the two foregoing species. It is black and bronzed above, and brassy beneath; the thorax is covered with very fine wavy transverse lines, and is sometimes copper-colored; the wing-covers are thickly punctured, and on each there are three small tawny yellow spots, with sometimes an additional one by the side of the first spot; the tips are rounded, and the fore legs are not toothed. It varies very much in size, measuring from about three to four tenths of an inch in length. I have taken this insect from the trunks of the white pine in the month of June, and have seen others that were found in the Oregon Territory.

Professor Hentz has described a small and broad beetle having the form of the above, under the name of Buprestis (Chrysobothris) Harrisii. It is entirely of a brilliant blue-green color, except the sides of the thorax, and the thighs, which, in the male, are copper-colored. It measures a little more than three tenths of an inch in length. The larvæ of this species inhabit the small limbs of the white pine, and young sapling trees of the same kind, upon which I have repeatedly captured the beetles about the middle of June.

These seven species form but a very small part of the Buprestians inhabiting Massachusetts and the other New England States. My knowledge of the habits of the others is not sufficiently perfect to render it worth while to insert descriptions of them here. The concealed situation of the grubs of these beetles, in the trunks and limbs of trees, renders it very difficult to discover and dislodge them. When trees

Mr. Kirby has redescribed and figured this insect under the name of Buprestis (Trachypteris) Drummondi, in the fourth volume of the “Fauna Boreali-Americana."

are found to be very much infested by them, and are going to decay in consequence of the ravages of these borers, it will be better to cut them down, and burn them immediately, rather than to suffer them to stand until the borers have completed their transformations and made their escape.

Closely related to the Buprestians are the Elaters, or springbeetles (ELATERIDE), which are well known by the faculty they have of throwing themselves upwards with a jerk, when laid on their backs. On the under side of the breast, between the bases of the first pair of legs, there is a short blunt spine, the point of which is usually concealed in a corresponding cavity behind it. When the insect, by any accident, falls upon its back, its legs are so short, and its back is so convex, that it is unable to turn itself over. It then folds its legs close to its body, bends back the head and thorax, and thus unsheaths its breast-spine; then by suddenly straightening its body, the point of the spine is made to strike with force upon the edge of the sheath, which gives it the power of a spring, and reacts on the body of the insect, so as to throw it perpendicularly into the air. When it again falls, if it does not come down upon its feet, it repeats its exertions until its object is effected. In these beetles the body is of a hard consistence, and is usually rather narrow and tapering behind. The head is sunk to the eyes in the fore part of the thorax; the antennæ are of moderate length, and more or less notched on the inside like a saw. The thorax is as broad at the base as the wing-covers; it is usually rounded before, and the hinder angles are sharp and prominent. The scutel is of moderate size. The legs are rather short and slender, and the feet are five-jointed.

The larvæ or grubs of the Elaters live upon wood and roots, and are often very injurious to vegetation. Some are confined to old or decaying trees, others devour the roots of herbaceous plants. In England they are called wire-worms, from their slenderness and uncommon hardness. They are not to be confounded with the American wire-worm, a species of Iulus, which is not a true insect, but belongs to the class MYRIAPODA, a name derived from the great number of feet with which most of the animals included in it are furnished; whereas the English wire-worm has only six feet. The European wireworm is said to live, in its feeding or larva state, not less than five years; during the greater part of which time it is supported by devouring the roots of wheat, rye, oats, and grass, annually causing a large diminution of the produce, and sometimes destroying whole crops. It is said to be particularly injurious in gardens recently converted from pasture lands. We have several grubs allied to this destructive insect, which are quite common in land newly broken up; but fortunately, as yet, their ravages are inconsiderable. We may expect these to increase in proportion as we disturb them and deprive them of their usual articles of food, while we continue also to persecute and destroy their natural enemies, the birds, and may then be obliged to resort to the ingenious method adopted by European farmers and gardeners for alluring and capturing these grubs. This method consists in strewing sliced potatoes or turnips in rows through the garden or field; women and boys are employed to examine the slices every morning, and collect the insects which readily come to feed upon the bait. Some of these destructive insects, which I have found in the ground among the roots of plants, were long, slender, worm-like grubs, closely resembling the common meal-worm; they were nearly cylindrical, with a hard and smooth skin, of a buff or brownish yellow color, the head and tail only being a little darker; each of the first three rings was provided with a pair of short legs; the hindmost ring was longer than the preceding one, was pointed at the end, and had a little pit on each side of the extremity; beneath this part there was a short retractile wart, or prop-leg, serving to support the extremity of the body, and prevent it from trailing on the ground. Other grubs of Elaters differ from the foregoing in being proportionally broader, not cylindrical, but somewhat flattened, with a deep notch at the extremity of the last ring, the sides of which are beset with little teeth. Such grubs are mostly wood-eaters, devouring the woody parts of roots, or living under the bark and in the trunks of old trees.

After their last transformation, Elaters or spring-beetles make their appearance upon trees and fences, and some are found on flowers. They creep slowly, and generally fall to the ground on being touched. They fly both by day and night. Their food, in the beetle states, appears to be chiefly derived from flowers; but some devour the tender leaves of plants.

The largest of our spring-beetles is the Elater (Alaus) oculatus, of Linnæus. It is of a black color; the thorax is oblong square, and nearly one third the length of the whole body, covered above with a whitish powder, and with a large oval velvet-black spot, like an eye, on each side of the middle, from which the insect derives its name oculatus, or eyed; the wingcovers are marked with slender longitudinal impressed lines, and are sprinkled with numerous white dots; the under side of the body, and the legs, are covered with a white mealy powder. This large beetle measures from one inch and a quarter to one inch and three quarters in length. It is found on trees, fences, and the sides of buildings, in June and July. It undergoes its transformations in the trunks of trees. I have found many of them in old apple-trees, together with their larvæ, which eat the wood, and from which I subsequently obtained the insects in the beetle state. These larvæ are reddish yellow grubs, proportionally much broader than the other kinds, and very much flattened. One of them, which was found fully grown early in April, measured two inches and a half in length, and nearly four tenths of an inch across the middle of the body, and was not much narrowed at either extremity. The head was broad, brownish, and rough above; the upper jaws or nippers were very strong, curved, and pointed; the eyes were small and two in number, one being placed at the base of each of the short antennæ; the last segment of the body was blackish, rough with little sharp-pointed warts, with a deep semicircular notch at the end, and furnished around the sides with little teeth, the two hindmost of which were long, forked, and curved upwards like hooks; under this segment was a large retractile fleshy prop-foot, armed behind with little claws, and around the sides with short spines; the true legs were six, pair to each of the first three rings; and were tipped with a single claw. Soon after this grub was found it cast its skin and became a pupa, and in due time the latter was transformed to a beetle.


Elater (Pyrophorus) noctilucus, the night-shining Elater, is the celebrated cucuio or fire-beetle of the West Indies, from whence it is frequently brought alive to this country. It resembles the preceding insect somewhat in form, and is an inch or more in length. It gives out a strong light from two transparent eye-like spots on the thorax, and from the segments of its body beneath. It eats the pulpy substance of the sugarcane, and its grub is said to be very injurious to this plant, by devouring its roots.

The next two common Elaters, together with several other species, are distinguished by their claws, which resemble little combs, being furnished with a row of fine teeth along the under side. The thorax is short and rounded before, and the body tapers behind. They are found under the bark of trees, where they pass the winter, having completed their transformations in the previous autumn. Their grubs live in wood. The first of these beetles is the ash-colored Elater, Elater (Melanotus) cinereus of Weber. It is about six tenths of an inch long, and is dark brown, but covered with short gray hairs, which give it an ashen hue; the thorax is convex; and the wing-covers are marked with lines of punctures, resembling stitches. It is found on fences, the trunks of trees, and in paths, in April and May.

Elater (Melanotus) communis of Schönherr, is, as its name implies, an exceedingly common and abundant species. It closely resembles the preceding, but is smaller, seldom exceeding half an inch in length; it is also rather lighter colored; the thorax is proportionally a little longer, not so convex, and has a slender longitudinal furrow in the middle. This Elater appears in the same places as the cinereus in April, May, and June; and the recently transformed beetles can also be found in the autumn under the bark of trees, where they pass the winter.

Another kind of spring-beetle, which absolutely swarms in paths and among the grass during the warmest and brightest days in April and May, is the Elater (Ludius) appressifrons of Say. Its specific name probably refers to the front of the head or visor being pressed downwards over the lip. The body is

« PreviousContinue »