Bugs may acquire a heavy scientific literature because they’re big pests or because they prey on big pests. The Checkered Beetle (Enoclerus eximius) falls between those chairs. It’s a member of the Cleridiae family. The clerids generally are carnivores, feeding on other beetles or their eggs or larvae, and sometimes on their own. A close cousin of the Checkered Beetle, Enoclerus sphegeus, has a big following because it has an appetite for the Douglas-fir Beetle, Dendroctonus pseudotsugae, an insect that destroys large numbers of valued Douglas fir trees, particularly during times of drought. Some other clerids are useful in forensics because they feed on cadavers in advanced stages of decomposition, aiding medical examiners in establishing time since death. But the Checkered Beetle has not earned merits as a predator of the Douglas-fir Beetle, nor as a carrion eater. The slim and dated scientific literature about it says that it “preys chiefly on the ptinid beetles infesting soft trees such as California bay, alder, willow, wax myrtle … from California to British Columbia.” In other words, it attacks beetles infesting lumber of relatively minor commercial value. Some of the Ptinid beetles, which look like tiny spiders, cause substantial economic damage to woodwork, siloed grains, or stored tobacco, but the Checkered Beetle apparently pursues the ptinids only in the wild. The Checkered Beetle is found throughout the Western half of North America from Canada to Mexico. The bold dark spots on its orange body make for relatively easy identification. We have California Bay as well as Arroyo Willows in the park, and presumably there are enough ptinids on them to sustain this brightly colored beetle.
Tomorrow: Aphids and Ladybug