Monday, July 12, 2010

Conspicuous Mating

Rhagonycha fulva on Hogweed, Heraculeum sphondylium

At this time of year (mid- to late July), the common red soldier beetle (Rhagonycha fulva) is quite visable in hedgebanks and on uncultivated ground. Its vibrant orange-red colour contrasts easily with the green of the plants it visits to hunt other insects. Of these plants, the Apiaceae (umbellifers) are especially preferred (Meek et al., 2002 Biological Conservation 106 pp. 259-271). Mating pairs are a common, conspicuous sight on such plants. Sexual dimorphism is evident with females being larger than the males (see picture below of mating pair) and also at a chemical level where Jacob (1978, Hoppe-Seyler's Zeitschrift für physiologische Chemie pp. 653-656) showed that the composition of cuticular lipids in R. fulva is sex-dependant.

A mating pair of Rhagonycha fulva

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