Scarab Beetle larvae Survive Unnoticed Within Termite Nests
As far as many insects are concerned, termites live the easy life. While most insect species are forced into the same habitat as their predators, termites get to retreat into their relatively safe nests. As it turns out, there are many different species of insect and arachnid that also want to enjoy the benefits of living within a well-built termite nest. Most insects that are looking to casually move into termite nests are rejected by the live-in termites. However, some insects are either welcomed into a termite nest by the termite-inhabitants, or they successfully dwell unnoticed within termite nests. These types of insects are referred to as “termitophiles”. This blog has mentioned termitophiles before, and scientists have long been aware of many different termitophile species. Now, for the first time in history, a type of scarab beetle has been found to dwell within termite nests. This was an interesting find to researchers as scarab beetles were only thought to coexist with other social insects, such as ants and bees. Scarab beetles have never been found dwelling within termite nests before.
There are over four thousand different scarab beetle species known to mankind. Of this four thousand species, only seven have been documented as cooperating with social insects. These social insects include harvester ants, leaf cutter ants, and honey bees. The species of scarab beetle known as Leucothyreus suturalis is a kind of chafer leaf beetle that has recently been found to live within active termite nests. Termite nests belonging to Cornitermes cumulans and Silvestritermes holmgreni termite species can also contain the larvae of chafer leaf beetles. These two types of termites are active in the country of Brazil, which is where the recent discovery was made.
The chafer leaf beetle larvae were found inhabiting areas of a termite nest that are not patrolled by termite soldiers. These areas exist on the periphery of nests where beetle larvae can remain hidden. Although scientists do not yet understand exactly why these beetle larvae prefer to dwell within termite nests, researchers believe that the larvae are feeding on some type of matter that is available in certain areas of termite nests. Most termitophiles feed on routes within termite nests, but this is not the case with the chafer beetle larvae. The larvae would become noticed by termite inhabitants if they fed on a nest’s routes. Instead, the larvae probably feed on a material that termites use to build their nests.
Do you think that the leaf cutter beetles in this study prefer to dwell within termite nests only during their larval stages?