The violet oil beetle (Meloe violaceus) is our way into a discussion of leaky leg joints, toxic oil, aphrodisiacs, the cantharidin world, hitch-hiking, egg-laying on an industrial scale and hypermetamorphosism. There are not many animals that better illustrate just how weird and wonderful Nature can get …
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Read on for photos and links that’ll help you explore the weird and wonderful world of the oil beetles …
Here’s the Violet Oil Beetle, cunningly disguising it’s deeply unusual habits and life by looking for all the world like just another blackish beetle:
And here is the hitchhiker itself, the triungulin larva of that beetle above:
And here’s a chance to play spot the triungulin. A close up of a solitary bee (i.e. the correct target species!) with a hitchhiker in place:
For basic info on the violet oil beetle, check out the excellent Buglife page.
For basic info on other topics mentioned in the episode, try these:
And (if you dare) Spanish Fly.
And this, by the way, is what hypermetamorphosis actually looks like (in a related species, not actually the violet oil beetle – but it’s a species with essentially the same life cycle, so the forms are the same). Triungulin on the left, through various stages to adult beetle at bottom right:
And should you want to delve a bit more deeply into some of the topics:
You can access a PDF (in English) covering just about the full range of known canthariphilous insects, and speculating on why they like cantharidin so much, here: Hemp, Dr Claudia & Dettner, Konrad. (2001). Compilation of canthariphilous insects. Beiträge zur Entomologie. 51. 231-245.
Midges hassling violet oil beetles is recorded here: Turner, Clive & Mann, Darren. (2003). Atrichopogon (Meloehelea) winnertzi Goetghebuer (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) feeding on Meloe violaceus Marsham (Coleoptera: Meloidae). British Journal of Entomology & Natural History. 16. 7-9.
A look at the lives and prodiguous egg-laying abilities of various oil beetles is over here (i.e. you can download the PDF): Lückmann, Johannes & Assmann, Thorsten. (2005). Reproductive biology and strategies of nine meloid beetles from Central Europe (Coleoptera: Meloidae). Journal of Natural History. 39. 4101-4125.