Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

FNZ 34 - Anthicidae (Coleoptera) - Popular Summary

Werner, FG; Chandler, DS 1995. Anthicidae (Insecta: Coleoptera). Fauna of New Zealand 34, 64 pages.
( ISSN 0111-5383 (print), ; no. 34. ISBN 0-478-04547-6 (print) ). Published 21 Jun 1995


Anthicidae are most commonly called the 'ant-like flower beetles,' though in fact relatively few species are commonly collected on flowers, and no New Zealand species are found frequenting flowers. These small, active beetles are readily recognised by their sharply constricted neck, which is often combined with a lateral constriction of the pronotum. The pattern of these constrictions superficially suggests an ant-like appearance, which is particularly enhanced by their busy, short-legged gait when alive.

Some species in other countries are commonly collected with ants, and are quite difficult to distinguish when moving about in ant runs. Presumably they mimic the ants as a protective measure while searching for food.

Adults are scavengers or predators, feeding on small invertebrates or on vegetative debris. A few species in North America have been investigated for their value in biological control, because they feed on the eggs and small larvae of several insect pests.

Anthicidae are often found beneath objects lying on sand or soil, or running about on vegetation during the day. Some species are strongly associated with coastal sand dunes.

The immatures are not well known, and apparently have a diet similar to that of the adults. Adults from many species are strongly attracted to cantharidin, the irritant produced by beetles of the family Meloidae, and use of cantharidin or drying meloid beetles can be quite effective when trapping adult Anthicidae. Acquisition of this chemical is believed to enhance mating success and decrease predation. Attraction to cantharidin has not yet been tested for the New Zealand species.

Twenty-six species of Anthicidae are now known from New Zealand. Nine of these have been introduced, probably through human commerce - seven are from Australia, and the other two are cosmopolitan species associated with human settlements. The seventeen native species are frequently associated with endemic species of monocotyledonous plants.

Two species are found only on the South Island, and four are found only on the North Island. Members of the genera Cotes and Zealanthicus are restricted to New Zealand, and are closest to genera found in Australia and South America. The faunal relationships of the New Zealand Anthicidae are clearly closest to Australia, and more remotely to temperate South America.