New Family

We recently came across a specimen representing a new beetle family for the collection – Belidae!  It was collected in February of this year from a Malaise Trap in a Sawgrass/Red Maple wetland called the Mackay Tract, located across the street from campus.


R. slossoni_lateralThe family Belidae is represented in the United States by two species, both only occuring in Florida.  Rhopalotria mollis (Sharp) is adventive and feeds on non-native cycads.  The specimen we collected was Rhopalotria slossoni (Schaeffer), a native species that feeds on coontie, Zamia integrifolia Linn.  While both of these species feed on the cones of their host plants, they are also responsible for pollination.

This specimen represents a Northern range expansion of R. slossoni, previously found only in South Florida.  The increasing popularity of using coontie as an ornamental in Central Florida might explains this.  However, the other known pollinator of coontie, the languriid beetle Pharaxonotha floridana (Casey), has a distribution that ranges into Northern Florida, and is locally abundant here in Central Florida.  This begs the question, why has P. floridana been seemingly so much more successful than R. slossoni?