MALACHIIDAE Fleming, 1821

Flower Beetles

All species occur on flowers from the middle of spring through to mid-summer. Malachius bipustulatus and Cordylepherus viridis are both abundant and very familiar species.

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Superfamily:

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Size: 

POLYPHAGA Emery, 1886

CLEROIDEA Latreille, 1802

11

17

2-7mm

Introduction

While the soft-bodied ‘melyrid’ beetles form a distinct lineage within the Cleroidea the literature abounds with various classifications within this group and the present family is often classified as a subfamily within the Melyridae Leach, 1815 along with various other groups such as Rhadalinae LeConte, 1867 and Dasytinae Laporte, 1840. The situation is not clear and all of these groups are variously classed as distinct families but we have been persuaded to include the present group as a family by a consideration of recent taxonomic ‘juggling’ along with a molecular study by Bocakova, Constantin and Bocak in Cladistics (August 2011). As such the family includes about 4000 species in more than 150 genera and 6 subfamilies. The group occurs in all the major biogeographical regions but is absent from New Zealand.

Classification

  • Lemphinae Wittmer, 1976 includes 6 genera and is often included as a tribe of the Malachiinae Fleming, 1821, it is mostly tropical in distribution and absent from both the Palaearctic and Nearctic regions.

  • Carphurinae Champion, 1923 includes more than 400 species in 12 genera, more than 300 of which are included in the huge genus Carphurus Erichson, 1840, the subfamily occurs worldwide but is most diverse in Australasia and especially Australia, where all the genera are represented, and New Guinea;  the group is represented in the Nearctic region by 3 species of Chaetocoelus LeConte, 1880  and in the Palaearctic region by 3 genera and 31 species although most occur in the far eastern and oriental areas and none occur in Europe.

  • Attalomiminae Majer, 1995 includes a single species, Attalomimus cephalotes Wittmer, 1976 from the Dominican Republic.

  • Amalthocinae Majer, 2002 is also monogeneric, the genus Amalthocus Fairmaire, 1886 includes 7 African species.

  • Pagurodactylinae Constantin, 2001 includes 5 genera and is exclusively tropical in distribution with many species occurring in Africa.

  • he vast majority of the species are included in the Malachiinae Fleming; this group is divided into 7 tribes and about 140 genera and while it is primarily a tropical group it is well-represented in northern regions; almost 200 species of 18 genera are Nearctic and the European fauna includes 320 species although only about 36 extend into central areas and 17 extend to the UK. The wider Palaearctic fauna is very diverse and representative of the whole family, 7 tribes are represented by about 67 genera and more than 1360 species; this represents around 34% of the total species and 45% of the genera.

  1. Apalochrini Mulsant & Rey, 1867 includes 14 genera and more than 110 species but the majority occur in eastern Asian regions and only 10 species of 3 genera extend into Europe, these are mostly of very restricted distribution but Apalochrus femoralis Erichson, 1840 is widespread.

  2. Illopini Jakobson, 1911 includes 3 genera and 38 species and is restricted to Asia; the 35 species of Condylops Redtenbacher, 1850 are all restricted to various regions of China.

  3. Troglopini Mulsant & Rey, 1867 includes almost 150 species of 11 genera and is primarily Asian but several occur in Europe and North Africa. Only 2 species are widespread in Europe: Troglops albicans Linnaeus, 1767 and T. cephalotes (Olivier, 1790), the latter extending to the UK. Troglops Erichson, 1840 is otherwise represented in Europe by 17 species and in the wider Palaearctic by 66 species.

  4. Ebaeini Portevin, 1931 includes about 350 Palaearctic species in 17 genera and is almost entirely restricted to Asia, especially China, with only a few of the 2 largest genera extending to Europe. Of the >150 species of Ebaeus Erichson, 1840, 27 occur in Europe and a single very widespread species, E. pedicularius (Linnaeus, 1758) extends to the UK. Hypebaeus Kiesenwetter, 1863 includes 110 Palaearctic species; 8 occur in Europe and of these the very widespread H. flavipes (Fabricius, 1787) occurs in Britain.

  5. Colotini Abeille de Perrin, 1890 includes 58 Palaearctic species of 9 genera and is mostly Asian but 2 genera extend to Europe; of the 6 species of Pelochrus Mulsant & Rey, 1867 4 are European, and of the 40 species of Colotes Erichson, 1840 10 occur in Europe and the single widespread species C. punctatus (Erichson, 1840) extends to the UK.

  6. Attalini Abeille de Perrin, 1890 includes 7 genera and about 320 Palaearctic species; more than 40 occur in Europe, mostly of the genus Attalus Erichson, 1840, and many more in North Africa but the group is otherwise mostly eastern and only the very local European and North African Sphinginus lobatus (Olivier, 1790) extends to the UK.

  7. Malachiini Fleming, 1821 includes about 350 Palaearctic species in 16 genera; it is most diverse in eastern regions but is well-represented in Europe and members of several large and widespread genera occur in the UK.  Of the 39 Palaearctic species of Anthocomus Erichson, 1840 13 occur in Europe and 2 extend to the UK. The Holarctic Axinotarsus Motschulsky, 1854 includes 35 Palaearctic species of which 14 are European and 3 are British. Clanoptilus Motschulsky, 1854, sometimes considered as a subgenus of Malachius Fabricius, 1775, includes >100 Palaearctic species, almost 40 occur in Europe and 3 extend to the UK. Cordylepherus Evers, 1985 includes 14 Palaearctic species, 5 occur in Europe of which the very widespread and common Eurasian C. viridis Fabricius, 1787) extends to the UK. Malachius is a mostly Asian genus of about 75 species in 2 subgenera, 30 extend to Europe and of these the 2 most widespread extend to the UK. The six species of Cerapheles Mulsant & Rey, 1867 are western Palaearctic and all but the Azerbaijan endemic C. hauseri Pic, 1907 occur in Europe; with the exception of the widespread Eurasian C. terminatus (Ménétries, 1832), which extends to the UK, they are of very limited distribution. With representatives of some of the larger genera our UK fauna provides an insight to the family as a whole and allows a good appreciation of the general morphology of the group.

Description

Members of this group are small to medium size beetles, 1-8mm, many are brightly coloured or patterned with red, yellow, orange or white and many are metallic blue, bronze, copper or green. More generally species vary from entirely dull black to dark metallic or with discreet areas of colour margined with contrasting metallic margins. Most are smooth and lack any larger structure, finely punctured and possess a double pubescence. Most are dorsally flattened and elongate, parallel-sided to broadly oval and usually widened posteriorly, in many the elytra do not completely cover the abdomen and extreme cases the species resemble rove beetles. Some species of e.g. Paratinoides Medvedev, 1964 or Embrocerus Peyron, 1877 (Malachiinae) have reduced hind wings but most have fully developed wings and are active diurnal fliers. A very distinctive feature of the family are eversible structures on the lateral margins of the thorax and basal abdominal segments which are most developed in males but also sometimes occur in females, these have ducts from pheromone glands, called ‘excitators’, and are used to attract mates and stimulate mating behaviour, the secretions being actively consumed by the females, males are often otherwise modified with processes on the antennae, head, pronotum, metathorax, abdomen or legs and the elytra may be modified with pits, plica or more complex structures. These structures are often species- or group-specific and used in the systematics of the family. The following brief description applies to the family generally. 1.0-8.0mm. Elongate-oval and usually discontinuous in outline, soft-bodied and variously flattened, colour very variable (as above) but the eversible vesicles vary from yellow to red. Dorsal surface usually shiny and only finely punctured although a distinct microsculpture is usually present and the elytra (especially) may be finely rugose. Pubescence generally doubled, consisting of fine, dense recumbent pubescence and longer erect setae although this is variable and almost glabrous species occur. Head usually prognathous, only occasionally declined, with flat to very convex eyes which are entire or weakly emarginate, and a distinct frontoclypeal suture, sometimes produced anteriorly, clypeus prominent and trapezoidal and labrum transverse to quadrate, only rarely elongate. Temples usually long and converging to the base but often at least partially hidden within the prothorax. Mandibles elongate; sharp apically or bidentate, mola and prostheca absent or reduced and the incisor edge often denticulate. Maxillary palpi 4-segmented with all segments narrow and elongate. Antennae 11-segmented, only rarely 10-segmented, inserted laterally in front of the eyes, the insertions visible from above, robust and relatively long, filiform, serrate, pectinate (e.g. in the European Haplomalachius flabellatus (Frivaldzsky, 1835) or to some extent incrassate. Males generally have modified antennae, often with the inner margins of the basal segments enlarged, sometimes greatly so e.g. in species of Collops Erichson, 1840. Prothorax, metathorax and abdomen with eversible vesicles in males. Pronotum transverse to quadrate, only rarely elongate, evenly convex to flat and widely explanate and often with widely rounded posterior angles and a continuously rounded anterior margin. Broadest at or behind the middle and usually with a complete lateral border.  Prosternum variable in front of round to transverse coxal cavities, process very variable. Scutellum visible and usually relatively large, flat broadly rounded to truncate.  Pro- and mesocoxae conical and projecting, metacoxae transverse and weakly convex. Trocantins broadly exposed, trocanters long and obliquely joined to the femora, femora long and at most only weakly broadened at the middle, tibiae long, often curved and usually near-parallel, tarsi 5-segmented, the segments ventrally lobed, claws with a variable fleshy ventral appendage. Abdomen with 6 visible sternites. Elytra typically with well-developed shoulders and broadened to a continuously rounded apex, lacking striae and randomly and finely punctured, in some they are truncate or obliquely truncate with the outer angle produced into an acute angle. In most species at least some of the abdominal segments are exposed beyond the elytral apex. Larvae are elongate, slender and, apart from the head and the ninth tergum which bears a pair of urogomphi, weakly sclerotized and many are pink or red in colour.

Ecology

Worldwide the greatest diversity occurs in arid biotopes and semi-desert areas; the family is thought to have originated around the Mediterranean area as this is rich in both species and higher taxonomic groups. Adults typically occur in the spring and summer and have a short season, they often occur on the flowers and foliage of herbaceous plants and shrubs and many are active in hot weather when they may be found in large numbers, others occur on trees and some are nocturnal. They feed on pollen and fungi and also on small insects visiting flowers and many are known to pollinate flowering plants, the dense pubescence and setae on both the dorsal and ventral surface of most species traps pollen grains which are transferred between flowers. Larvae occur in a wide range of habitats, the majority probably develop among leaf litter or in the soil but many occur in herbaceous plant stems or among dead wood or under bark where they inhabit galleries and predate other insects. They are typically predatory but some are known to be scavengers on carrion or material of animal origin, some predate the larvae of nest-building Hymenoptera and some are known to feed on larvae and pupae of alfalfa weevils (Hypera postica Gyllenhal, 1813) although none have been used in biological control.

UK Species

Several of our UK species are common and will soon be found on flowers or by general sweeping, the conspicuous bright metallic green Malachius bipustulatus (Linnaeus, 1758) and Cordylepherus viridis (Fabricius, 1787) are common throughout England and Wales while the smaller Axinotarsus marginalis (Laporte, 1840) is widespread in the south and should soon be found by sweeping foliage. The striking red and green Scarlet malachite beetle, Malachius aeneus (Linnaeus, 1758) has suffered a drastic reduction in recent decades and is now a very local and rare insect of southern England and Wales. Axinotarsus pulicarius (Fabricius, 1777) and A. ruficollis (Olivier, 1790) are both rare in the south of England while our 3 species of Clanoptilus are now mostly confined to the coast; C. barnevillei (Puton, 1865) in the north of Norfolk, C. strangulatus (Abeille de Perrin, 1885) from West Sussex, Suffolk and the Thames estuary, and C. marginellus (Olivier, 1790), which was formerly much more widespread and common, from the south and southeast coast generally.  Three species are generally associated with wetlands; Cerapheles terminatus (Ménétries, 1832) is very local and rare in the south while our 2 species of Anthocomus are widespread and locally common across Wales and the south of England. Colotes punctulatus (Erichson, 1840) was added to our list in 2008 and its status is uncertain, and Hypebaeus flavipes (Fabricius, 1787) and Ebaeus pedicularius (Linnaeus, 1758) are known from only a few records. Troglops cephalotes (Olivier, 1790) has recently been recorded from a few sites in the south and is thought to be established. Sphinginus lobatus (Olivier, 1790) was added to our list in 1984 and has since been recorded from many sites in the south, adults may be sampled by beating oak and we have found them nocturnally on Beech trunks in a Watford park.

Colotes punctatus

Ebaeus pedicularius

Hypebaeus flavipes

Axinotarsus marginalis

A. pulicarius

A. ruficollis

Troglops cephalotes

C. strangulatus

Sphinginus lobatus

Cerapheles terminatus

Anthocomus fasciatus 1.jpg

Clanoptilus barnevillei 

Anthocomus rufus 2.jpg

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