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April 20, 2012

North Campus Unveiled with a Bang and a Bug!

Yesterday, we unveiled the North Campus at a press preview! We wowed the press with our amazing scientists, Poppy the pond turtle from our Live Animal Program, and a gaggle of school children planting in the Home Garden.

Dr. Greg Pauly, Museum Herpetology Curator with
Poppy the Pond Turtle
Student from the Ambassador School of Global Education
inspecting the Home Garden

Although there was a lot going on, there were a few distractions. Firstly, in the middle of Poppy's debut performance, there was a loud bangyes people, that was a collision between a motorist and the new Exposition light rail. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured! Secondly, I found a Green Fruit Beetle grub! In my mind, both of these distractions are equally diverting.

Big bangs aren't always theoretical!
Green Fruit Beetles, Cotinis mutabilis (or GFBs as I fondly refer to them), are a well-known scarab beetle here in the L.A. basin. Many people regale me with stories of their dealings with these insects. It's either, "Oh yeah, I used to tie dental floss to their legs and let them fly around my head." Or, "that's what has been eating the fruit in my garden, they are Japanese beetles right?" These beetles do indeed feed on a wide variety of fruits including tomatoes, peaches, plums, figs, apricots, nectarines, grapes, and even cactus fruit! However, they are not Japanese Beetles, Popilla japonica, which is an East coast species. To make matters more confusing, these insects are commonly referred to by many names including "junebugs", "fig eating beetles", and even "crawlybacks" when speaking of the grubs!
Finding a picture of the adult in my
Green Fruit Beetle grub
I usually find GFB grubs in compost piles. These c-shaped larvae are, like caterpillars, tube-shaped eating machines. They hang out in decomposing plant material and move around on their backs. According to Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, "they obtain purchase on the substratum with transverse rows of stiff short stout bristles on the back of the thorax." Next time you find one of these grubs, pick it up and rub the top of the thoraxthe area right behind the grub's headand you can actually feel the bristles (I just tried it, they are really there). 




Posted by:Lila Higgins