Confused and Confused-er

Carpophilus mutilatus:
a species of beetles in the family sap-feeding beetles.
Encyclopedia of Life

In the great tree of life, Carpophilus mutilatus comes at the end of a disturbingly long buggy branch.

Arthropods (Arthropoda) » Hexapods (Hexapoda) »
Insects (Insecta) » Beetles (Coleoptera) »
Water, Rove, Scarab, Long-horned, Leaf and Snout Beetles (Polyphaga) » Series Cucujiformia » Sap, Bark and Fungus Beetles (Cucujoidea) » Nitidulid series »
Sap-feeding Beetles (Nitidulidae) » Carpophilinae » Carpophilus »
subgenus Myothorax (Carpophilus subgenus Myothorax) » Carpophilus mutilatus

Disturbing because from Class Insecta on down, every branch suggests/implies/dictates one or more twigs not listed here. Just how many species of insects are there? I’m thinking “many.”

Anyway, I’m pretty sure we didn’t cover most of this in Biology 10, but I guess they have to leave something for us to do in the years after we graduate from high school.

You might be wondering why we’re talking about Carpophilus mutilatus, which sounds a bit like the Class Insecta version of Hannibal Lecter, so I’ll tell you. It’s all part of the “common” theme emerging here, completely spontaneously I swear. Carpophilus mutilatus has a fabulous common name that calls out for examination. Even for celebration.

But first, let’s look at this beetle’s family.

Although there are many species of sap beetles,
only several species are known agricultural pests
of field and stored products.
– University of Florida website,
“Featured Creatures”

The corn sap beetle feeds on (wait for it) . . . field corn. The pineapple beetle feeds on . . . pineapples. The strawberry sap beetle feeds on . . . strawberries. The dried fruit sap beetle feeds on . . . dried fruit. (You know, I think we’re getting the hang of this now.) The yellowbrown sap beetle also feeds on dried fruit, colour unspecified but I’m betting yellow-brown. The picnic sap beetle feeds at . . . picnics, I presume. The dismal dusky sap beetle (Carpophilus lugubris) feeds on field and sweet corn; its near relations dididiatus, freemani, and mutilatus feed on stored maize.

Now, by my count, that’s 10 species of sap beetle that are “known agricultural pests” and I admit that I’m confused as to how this can be dismissed lightly as “only several species.” It suggests that there are not just “many species of sap beetles” but many, many, MANY.

But let’s move on to happier thoughts. It’s time for the great and common reveal. The common name of Carpophilus mutilatus is . . . Confused sap beetle. Is that not fabulous?

But it does raise an obvious question. About what, exactly, is the confused sap beetle confused? About what it should mutilate/eat? Where it should overwinter? How many siblings it has in the great sap-beetle family? Who its Daddy is?

I don’t know. I would even say that Google doesn’t know. And that does confuse me.


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2 Responses to Confused and Confused-er

  1. They are confused. Their cousins C. sayi are wilting oak trees by munching beneath the bark, which is nowhere as delicious as the agricultural pests you elevate with your prose. These critters must be everywhere.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – I think I’ve mentioned the (perhaps apocryphal) Haldane quote; here a footnote to a paper published in 1959 from a delightful post in Quote Investigator:
      There is a story, possibly apocryphal, of the distinguished British biologist, J.B.S. Haldane, who found himself in the company of a group of theologians. On being asked what one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of his creation, Haldane is said to have answered, “An inordinate fondness for beetles.” If Haldane didn’t say it, he should have. He certainly said things very like it.

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