Reader wildlife photo

by Greg Mayer

My Okinawa correspondent sends a happier picture than last time, this one of a living longhorn beetle, a member of the family Cerambycidae. Note the very long antennae, and the impressive tarsi. Cerambycids are often brightly or contrastingly colored.

An Okinawan longhorn beetle, 30.iii.2016.

An Okinawan longhorn beetle, 30.iii.2016.

Normally I’d have no idea what particular genus or species an Okinawan insect would be– I was happy I recognized the order and family!– but this seems to be an Asian longhorned beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis, which has become an invasive species in the US, Canada, Trinidad, and several European countries. The larvae feed on the sapwood of maples, elms, and other trees. If a reader more knowledgeable about Okinawan or East Asian insects has an opinion, please weigh in.


  1. Randy Schenck
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    The story sounds much like that of the Emerald Ash Borer (Jewel Beetle) (Agrilus planipennis) that has been killing the Ash trees starting on the east coast and has now made it’s way to Iowa and beyond. The ability to stop this type of devastation will have to come from those in the field because I see little hope of preventing the import of these creatures.

    I am not an expert in this at all but did see first hand how Japan, including Okinawa attempt to stop these types of problems in their country. Japan customs is far more strict in their laws and practice to prevent importing such destructive insects. Mostly by making it illegal to import most items that would carry the insects.

    They also require fumigation of any plants that are shipped there, followed by extensive inspection of the plants. During my working years we were required to ship Xmas Trees, of all things, into Okinawa and Japan. Most of the shipments did not make it through customs inspection and the entire shipments were often burned upon failure to pass inspection. I only mention this to contrast what efforts they go to in preventing invasive insects compared to what is done here and other places.

    • Posted March 30, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Your description of Japanese customs inspection practices compared to those in the U.S. reminds me of one time in the West Indies when a colleague and I noticed apparently foreign snails and ants on ornamental shrubs and trees that had just been imported to the islands. When I inquired of him if he knew what the customs or quarantine practices for plants were, he said that the inspectors look inside the container, and as long as there’s nothing bigger than a raccoon wandering around inside, they let it pass through!


      • Randy Schenck
        Posted March 30, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Yes. I did not want to going into all the boring details but the Japanese customs officials would put white sheets on the ground and then pull some of the trees off the seavan and smack them on the ground to shake off any insects (dead or alive). They had little bottles and little suction devices to pick up anything they found and put into the bottles. The bottles would go back to a lab for further identification. Then when word came back that you failed, a fire would take place and you would get the bill.

        • Posted March 30, 2016 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

          totally not boring.

          helps to debunk Man from Taured type stuff and other TV/Movie nonsense. 🙂

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    That is one handsome beetle. I have read that it also is invasive in Europe.
    It is a complicated story as to why a species moving into a new country may become a destructive pest, while it was less so in its native country. For wood boring insects it can be that their native host trees are better at resinating the burrows. Fungi may also attack the insects, along with native parasites. These countermeasures can keep populations in check.
    When entering a new environment, the invasive species finds fewer natural enemies, and their food plants are not prepared to fight back.

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted March 30, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      Should also say the same is true sometimes if you move a tree or other plant into a new country. Sometimes a local insect that does not hurt others will kill this new one.

      • Posted March 30, 2016 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

        rabbits in Australia. and other Oops we brought Rats with us moments of history. Black Plague…..

  3. Posted March 30, 2016 at 6:05 pm | Permalink


    check out this walking fish

    (CBC is the Canada national broadcast, mainstream newsmedia site, safe for work)

  4. Posted March 30, 2016 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Nina's Soap Bubble Box and commented:
    sad that most people would squish these rather than photo them, eh?

  5. Mark Joseph
    Posted March 30, 2016 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    That is one cool beetle. Too bad it’s an invasive species. 😦

    • Posted March 30, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      But not the one in the picture– Okinawa is in its native range. So a 🙂 for this particular one!


  6. Posted March 30, 2016 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    According to the BBC, we also killed off the Hobbits.

    Homo floresiensis in 2003 caused a sensation because it seemed the creature could have been alive in the quite recent past.
    But a new analysis indicates the little hominin probably went extinct at least 50,000 years ago – not the 12,000 years ago initially thought to be the case.

    • zackoz
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 1:57 am | Permalink

      That’s fascinating. This is the first news about the Hobbit I’ve seen for some time.

      That timing sounds much more credible than the startling later date that we originally heard, (though my memory was 18,000 years rather than 12,000).

      What remains mysterious is whether any progress has been made with DNA analysis. Presumably this would be very difficult in tropical regions, but I gather efforts were being made about this.

      Does anyone know?

      • Posted March 31, 2016 at 2:24 am | Permalink

        well, they have gotten actual DNA from t-rex fossils for real. we know enough now to predict where ancestors should be on the species branch, tree, web of niches.

        I think the funniest thing is that creationists still argue as if sciene advances are unknown.

        and what science is done – Pi the math number is known to repeat now.
        so how ancients figured it out well enough to rock bashing and sand grinding and cutting along grains of rocks that they heated or cooled to help crack and shape, as done with wood and bone….

        it’s been interesting to watch the Hobbit debate go from they were Island Dwarfism to Diseased outcast.

        I mean, this is part of the difficulties of bone studies and working from fragments.

        archaeology is the ultimate forensic science. plus extreme antiquing, eh!

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

          Pi the math number is known to repeat now.

          Source? I’m not a mathematician, but I’m pretty sure that the maths bods stopped discussing that several centuries ago, having proved that pi is irrational.

      • Posted March 31, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        Maybe the problem for the public is understanding what “peer review” means.

        Finder Blarts out a Claim, and shows their data

        challengers check it LOL error LOL miscount… Oh wait…

        check recheck… test… useful information to wait for a context.

        Like how the 75,000 years ago supervolcano is Volcano traceable all over the entire world like the Flood is absolutely not.

        explain the math about the water and then say why are you denying climate change when your alleged flood was a time changer, eh?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      Hmmm, paper is here (de-paywalled ; you may get a Russian CAPTCHA).
      Short version – they’ve approximately doubled the area of the site that they’ve excavated and found that there is a more complex stratigraphy than was originally thought, and that pushes dating back. It still leaves the hominid family tree a much more complex beast than 15 years ago.
      Looking for DNA … no doubt they’re still doing it. But in a tropical cave the odds are stacked against success.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted March 31, 2016 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        Video describing the stratigraphy here.
        Un-paywalled supplementary information here.

  7. Posted March 31, 2016 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    That’s one fascinating beetle. What cool tarsi!

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