California Edition

a red and black beetle with a red heart emoji over its body.
a red and black beetle with a red heart emoji over its body.
Male Valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Credit: USFWS (modified image)

We’re using the the term “bugs” loosely here. True bugs belong in a family known as Hemiptera while beetles are insects of the Coleapotera family. The main differences lie in their mouth parts and how they grow from egg to adult.

Now that we’ve covered that, did you know the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protects over 24 insects in California? Here are four threatened and endangered California crawlies that need some love this Valentine’s Day and beyond.

1. Delta green ground beetle

a green iridescent beetle on the ground
a green iridescent beetle on the ground
The Delta green ground beetle is approximately ¼ inch long. Credit: USFWS

A bug colored like a gemstone certainly deserves some love. The federally threatened Delta green ground beetle has a brilliant emerald and bronze colored exterior that blends into its grassy habitat. Found along the shoreline of vernal pools and in bare areas scattered throughout the Jepson Prairie grassland in a small part of Solano County, California, it emerges from its underground home just in time for Valentine’s Day and stays active until mid-May. When the weather gets hot, they enter an inactive phase called diapause that allows them to survive the dry Sacramento Valley summer. Unfortunately, the attractive appearance of the beetle and its rarity make it a target for unscrupulous bug collectors and, among other activities, serves as a threat to its recovery.

2. Casey’s June beetle

a white beetle that’s tagged with the number 18 on a biologist’s hand
a white beetle that’s tagged with the number 18 on a biologist’s hand
On peak emergence evenings, males (like the one pictured here), can be seen flying low over their desert wash habitat, looking somewhat like snow flurries. Each beetle is marked with a unique number and color combination when we process them in the field. Credit: Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS

The federally endangered Casey’s June beetle lives most of its life underground. They emerge from April through June to mate. Males can fly, but females are flightless. They’re only found in Palm Springs, California, on fewer than 600 acres of desert wash and adjacent upland terrace habitat. Males have clubbed antennae made up of a series of leaf-like plates that they can hold together or fan out to detect the scent of female beetles. Our research, monitoring, and recovery efforts are ongoing.

3. Valley elderberry longhorn beetle

a mostly black beetle with red outline on an elderberry leaf
a mostly black beetle with red outline on an elderberry leaf
Female Valley elderberry longhorn beetle on elderberry shrub. Credit: Brian Hansen/USFWS

The federally threatened Valley elderberry longhorn beetle’s name was inspired by their distinctive antennae. At ½ to 1 inch long, these beetles live their entire lives on elderberries throughout Shasta and Fresno counties in California. Efforts to restore elderberry thickets in riparian forests throughout the Central Valley are occurring. Learn how we’re helping conserve the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle here.

4. Ohlone tiger beetle

a vibrant emerald green beetle on the ground
a vibrant emerald green beetle on the ground
Adult Ohlone tiger beetles have a striking iridescent green color. Their larvae are also predatory, with strong jaws and a hook-like appendage that anchors them inside their burrows. Photo courtesy of Alex Jones/University of California, Santa Cruz

Tiger beetles evolved during the Pleistocene era when mammoths and giant ground sloths roamed Earth. The federally endangered Ohlone tiger beetle, found in Santa Cruz County, was named after the Native American tribe it co-existed with for millennia. While these metallic green beetles can easily be mistaken for iridescent jewels on the ground, they’re quite ferocious predators. Their excellent vision and sharp instincts help them pounce unsuspecting prey that crosses their path. Last year, two of our biologists spearheaded the first-ever translocation of adult tiger beetles in the world by working in conjunction with local land managers and tiger beetle experts from across the country. If this translocation is successful, more may take place in the future and help with expanding their population!

Everybody deserves some love on Valentine’s Day, even beetles.

If you ever encounter potential wildlife crime, please report it directly to our law enforcement officers: 1–844-FWS-TIPS (397–8477) or FWS_TIPS@FWS.GOV. Please include screenshots, links, images, location, etc. in the email (whenever possible) and any additional information to help with a potential investigation. Send non-crime related inquiries to lawenforcement@fws.gov.

Contributors: Jane Hendron, public affairs officer, Carlsbad FWO, Meghan Snow, public affairs officer, Sacramento FWO, Olivia Beitelspacher, public affairs specialist, Ventura FWO, Susan Sawyer, public affairs officer, Klamath Basin and Rebecca Fabbri, public affairs specialist, California-Great Basin

We’re dedicated to the conservation, protection and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats.

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