Bright red beetle tries to hide

There’s a grassy area across the road from our townhouse that my daughter and I have spent quite a bit of time exploring. I’ve taken so many bug and wildflower photos there. It’s a bit wider than a ditch and includes some small hills or grassy mounds of dirt that Avery loves to climb.

One day several weeks ago we were exploring this area in the cool evening hours before Avery went to bed. Suddenly she was beckoning, calling me excitedly. “There’s a red bug, mom!”

I rushed over to see the cutest beetle. As I tried to get photos it scooted around to the back of the blade of grass. Its long horns stuck out conspicuously on each side and its little feet gripped tightly. I couldn’t help but laugh, thinking, “You can’t see me, I’m hiding!”

Eventually, the poor guy fell. I took a few photos of it crawling around in the dry grass on the ground, which showed its spotted back. Unfortunately, none of those photos came out clearly, as it was moving too quickly. When the bug grabbed onto another dry stem, I was finally able to get some photos of its face. I gave up trying to get a good photo of its back, as it continued to scoot around and around the stem, and I was afraid it was going to fall again.

Two things struck me. One, what a cute face! It makes me think of a teddy bear for some reason. Perhaps it’s because of the second thing I noticed. When the photo is blown up large the beetle looks almost furry. I’ve seen lots of furry moths and butterflies but it’s not as common in beetles. At least not in the beetles I’ve photographed so far.

I identified this cute little beetle as a longhorn red milkweed beetle. It makes sense, that grassy area is full of milkweed plants. Bright red often signifies danger in the natural world. In the case of this beetle, they get their red coloration from eating the toxic milkweed plant, which scares predators away. Tricky, tricky.

Milkweed beetles eat all parts of the milkweed plants while their larva burrows into the ground and eat the plant’s roots. The scientific name of the beetle, Tetraopes tetrophthalmus, means four eyes. Its antenna separate two pairs of eyes, one above and one below.

I have to say, this was one of my favorite finds this summer. It made it even more fun considering my daughter so generously told me where it was. She knows once I see a bug I’ll be absorbed with taking photos for a good while.