Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Melyridae (Soft-winged flower beetle)
"Mrs. ProfessorRoush is not fond of bugs."  I'm sorry, but that statement isn't strong enough to accurately summarize the situation.  "Mrs. ProfessorRoush hates bugs!"  Yes, perfect, that wording is more descriptive of the depth of her emotions.  Mrs. ProfessorRoush hates spiders and ants and chiggers and ticks and bagworms and generally just about anything that has six or eight legs and gains entry to her home or body.  And she's also not very happy with ProfessorRoush when insects hitch a ride on his flowers into the house.

Thus, we reached a domestic crisis when a number of the creatures pictured here began falling out of every rose bloom that I, her knight-in-shining-armor, so chivalrously tried to gift her.  And as I examined my roses closer, these were everywhere, hiding in the open blooms and running around or abandoning ship at the first sign of human interference or disruption.  The blooms seemed to tolerate these free-loafer tenants without damage, but the bugs were surely putting a strain on the whole "I'm sorry for breathing, here are some roses to make up for it" sequence of my marriage.

Thanks to the Kansas State Extension entomology and their excellent diagnostic service at, I now know that these are beetles in the family Melyridae, also known as soft-wing flower beetles.  They do not, in fact, harm the roses, but are omnivores that primarily feed on other insects and insect eggs, and that sometimes add a little pollen and nectar to their regular diet.  Their larvae live and feed in the soil and there are 520 species in 58 genera of Melyridae in North America.  The "melyrids" as the bug people refer to them, are nuisances to those of us who bring flowers indoors, but they will not eat the carpet or survive long in our homes.  From a fascinating publication titled The Coleopterists Bulletin (2003;57:154-160), I learned that melyrids may even be important pollinators in the western United States, and that my personal melyrids probably visit other flower species as well as my roses.  The author of that article seemed more excited by that discovery than I felt upon reading it, but hey, how much does it really take to excite a coleopterist?

 Melyrids were once recognized as the "Bug of the Week" by someone calling herself "The BugLady," who appears to work for the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Field Station.  These beetles may contain batrachotoxins, potent heart and nerve toxins that are also found in poison dart frogs in the South Pacific, so I would recommend that you do not make Melyridae a mainstay of your own diet even though you'd have to eat your weight in them to be harmed.  I think I'll keep the latter information from Mrs. ProfessorRoush, lest she begin shaking the blooming roses over my soup du jour.

Regarding my melyrid infestation, I view them as a simple byproduct of my religious conviction to not indiscriminately use insecticides in my garden. If I were spraying the roses with Silent-Spring-inducing poisions instead of allowing nature to find the controls for me, I'd have less melyrids, but also less ladybugs, and I would increase the chance that some insect that the melyrids normally eat would proliferate and cause more damage.  So, I'm going to let bygones be bygones and simply shake out the roses a bit more carefully before presenting them to Mrs. ProfessorRoush.  And hope that she forgives me.   


  1. Isn't it incredible howmany things go un-noticed in our big world. Stopping to be alone with one's thoughts and taking steps to dump all the electronics just for a few hours will go along way in fascilitating that.

    Thanks for sharing this. It's one of those common things people see but never give a thought to. I'm glad there are some individuals who spend their study careers on some things most would consider useless. Can you imagine all the mant things we would miss and not know. I'm grateful to mycologist who peer into a world most folks find creepy, yet without this world life on earth would not exist.

    Oh yeah, and I wouldn't have a blog if some folks way back when didn't study Fungi.

    On another note, I wrote a post on California Coffee Berry Rhamnus californica. Do you have versions of Rhamnus (Buckthorn) out where you are ? It may be late to view, but every spring on my property high up in the mountains above Palm Springs CA, my Coffeeberry would bloom in late springtime. Now the flowers are mostly inconspicuous and uneventful and not at all showy. With the exception that they attract every type of winged creature in the fly, bee, wasp and beetle family. Lierally all of these creatures were massed together on these blooms attracted by who knows what (fragrance or the sticky nectar substance on the flowers) but it was entertaining to watch all these insects climb all over each other waiting for their turn at a taste of these dull boring flowers. What was accomplished is that it brought preditors to my garden and for that I was greatful.

    Thanks for your focus here on this amazing little public known insect that most folks would never appreciate unless someone shared

    - Kevin


  2. Hi, I check your blogs on a regular basis. Your writing style
    is awesome, keep doing what you're doing!


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