Brazilian Scarab Beetles Hide Inside Termite Nests

Posted on January 13, 2015

Leucothyreus suturalis

Scientists have found Brazilian scarab beetles hiding inside the nests of termites. Termites soldiers chemically detect and destroy most intruders that find their way into its nests. Some arachnids and insect species are able to escape detection by termites. They are known as termitophiles.

The scientists found a species of leaf beetles (Leucothyreus suturalis) in Brazil that are termitophiles. The beetles and their larvae were found living in the nests of two different species of termites - Cornitermes cumulans and Silvestritermes holmgreni. The scientists say the larvae inhabit parts of the termite nest that are not often inspected by termite soldiers. This is likely the key to their survival within the termite nest.

The scientists say in a report published in Annals of the Entomological Society of America, "We think that the location of the larvae of L. suturalis within the periphery of the host nest is a strategy that maximizes survival and also minimizes costs to the host colony. Larvae were not integrated into the host galleries, and soldiers were not apparently patrolling this portion of the nest."

The scientists also believe that the larvae are feeding on something found in the termite nest that does not draw attention to them. Other beetles in the genus Leucothyreus like to feed on roots, which could potentially expose them to termite soldiers.

The researchers say, "Feeding on roots within the termite nest would require larvae to migrate toward the root resource, thus exposing them to patrolling termite soldiers. Therefore, we think it is most plausible that larvae of L. suturalis feed on the nest structure itself rather than roots within the exterior wall of the nest."

Photo: Entomological Society of America