Sunday, May 23, 2010

Green Protea Beetle

Image from Natural Solutions
The Green Protea Beetle is one of 30,000 members of the scarab beetle family which is distinguished by heavy-bodied oblong figures, and who feed primarily on plant materials (though the Dung Beetle  side has slightly different tastes). The Green Protea Beetle is the common named for Trichostetha fasicularis, a remarkable little pollinator. They reach about 25mm in length and have a smooth black and green topside, but what drew me to them was their underside. It is covered in little brownish hairs that are used to help propagate another species - the Protea plant... which is also its namesake. (And the namesake for both goes back to Mythology yet again)

There are actually numerous types of Protea plants spreading through Africa, Asia, South America and Australia. In the country of South Africa, especially around the cape, there are numerous species of Protea, which, like many plants, require outside help to pollinate. This is where the beetle comes in. Green Protea Beetles live exclusively in the South African cape areas, and feed on the nectar of the plants. When they land on them to feed, pollen gets dusted on to their fluffy looking bellies, which then gets carried to the next meal site and dusted off... only to get more pollen brushed on, etc. etc. Other species should also get major credit for Protea pollinating, but with as many as 2,000 beetles being found on one flower head, the Green Protea Beetles definitely make an impact.

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