Biodiversity in Belize
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Some interesting Invertebrates from Belize

By Jan Meerman

(Click an image for a larger picture)

Epiperipatus sp (?) Onychophora: Peripatidae

The Peripatus or Velvetworm has ceived a lot of attention since it used to be seen as a missing link between the worms and the arthropods. Little is known about these animals since they are rare and difficult to locate. They appear to be associated with ants and are sometimes found inside ant nests. The two in the picture were found in a cluster of four in soil at the Green Hills Butterfly Ranch.


Find out more about the Peripatus at Earthlife

Callipogon senex

Callipogon barbatus (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae )

This very large beetle (nearly 9 cm or 3¾" long) is quite rare in Belize. Very little is known about it. The larvae are woodborers.

Euchroma gigantea. (Coleoptera: Buprestidae).

This large beetle (5 cm or 2") is relatively common in forested areas. The larva are borers in wood and the species appears to be restricted to members of the Bombacaceae family. This family includes species such as the Kapok (Ceiba pentandra) and the Provision tree (Pachyra aquatica). Flying beetles are attracted to any large cylindrical object (including concrete pillars) but quickly move on until they find an appropriate tree species.

Euchroma gigantea

Pyrophorus noctilucus

Pyrophorus picture taken using  its own light

Pyrophorus noctilucus (Coleoptera: Elateridae)

This is the largest (4cm, 1¾") bioluminescent insect and it has been reported as having the greatest surface brightness, 45 millilamberts (or 1/40 of a candle). The light emitted from the 2 spots on the thorax is actually bright enough to read by (if you hold the beetle close to the lines that you are reading that is).

The beetles are common in forested areas and can be seen flying around just after dusk. The sight of several beetles winding through the trees is quite spectacular. The flight season is from April through June.

Leptoglossus sp?, (Heteroptera: Coreidae)

This leaf-footed bug is quite attractive but it is also a pest on various passionflowers. Both adults and larva suck fluids from young passionflower shoots, causing them to wilt and die off.


Leptoglossus sp.
Megasoma elphas

Megasoma elphas (Coleoptera: Melolonthidae; Dynastinae)

This Rhinoceros Beetle grows up to 9 cm (3¾") long (without the horns!) and is a spectacular sight. The larvae live in large, dead trees and take 3-4 years to complete their development. Because of the rapid destruction of mature forests, there are fewer and fewer large logs available for the beetle to breed in. Not surprisingly, this species is declining rapidly.

Brachypelma vagans (Arachnida: Araneae: Theraphosidae)

This is the most common of the Belizean Tarantulas. The common name is "red-rump" which refers to the abdomen being covered in reddish fur. They are most common in disturbed areas and this terrestrial species is easily found by locating its burrow. Quite harmless. See separate Tarantula page.

Brachypelma vagans
Citheracanthus meermani

Citheracanthus meermani (Arachnida: Araneae: Theraphosidae)

This species is smaller than the previous; it is also terrestrial but prefers forest over open areas. It has only recently been discovered and named (Reichling & West, 2000). The species is named after its discoverer: Jan Meerman. See the separate Tarantula page.

Pepsis sp. (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae )

These large wasps are also known as "Tarantula Hawks". They locate a Tarantula in its burrow, anaestisise it and then drag it away to its own burrow as is happening in this picture. Also notice the wasp egg on the abdomen of this B. vagans victim.

Pepsis sp.

Centruroides gracilis

Find out more about the sting of the scorpion

Centruroides gracilis (Arachnida: Scorpiones: Buthidae)

This species occurs all over Central America and the Caribbean (Including Florida). In Belize it is the most common scorpion around. It reaches 80 - 146 mm (including tail) in length (3-6"). This species is venomous as are all scorpions. This however is not a very dangerous species. I have been stung many times and I am still alive! The sting is painful for a very brief moment. But the aftereffects may take up to 24 hours to completely disappear. Panic is your biggest enemy in the case of a scorpion-sting in Belize.

Paraphrynus raptator (Arachnida: Amblypygi)

This is a very common "whipspider" in Belize. It is found in crevices between rocks, under bark and in caves. The pedipalps are heavy and used for capturing prey. The first pair of legs have evolved into sensory tacticle appendages, and are long and whip-like. These animals are very flat and fast moving. They look "freaky" but are actually quite harmless. They don't even have any poison.

Phrynus parvulus
Fulgora laternaria

Fulgora laternaria (Homoptera: Fulgoridae)

This most unusual insect reaches up to 10 cm (4") in length. Apart from its size, the most astonishing feature is the inflated head. This hollow ornament (see the real, small eye just behind it) has the appearance of a lizard's head including eyes, nostrils and grinning teeth! Hence the name "alligator bug". Another common name is "lantern bug".

This because of the widely held (but false) belief that the hollow "head" contains a light. "Peanutbug" is a more appropriate common name due to the shape of the ornament. Little or nothing is known about the biology of this oddity. In Costa Rica the species is believed to be linked to the tree Hymenaea coubaril (Leguminosae). This tree is quite rare in Belize and I have found specimens of Fulgoria most commonly on trunks of Zanthoxylum trees (Rutaceae)

Fulgora laternaria
Choeradodis strumaria

Choeradodis strumaria. (Mantodea: Mantidae)

Of the many praying mantids found in Belize, this is one of the more easily identified species. The pronotum of this species is flat and leaf-shaped. See the Praying Matis species list

Eurhinocricus sp?: (Diplopoda; Spirobolidae)

This is a giant millipede (12 cm or 5"). Millipedes are recognized by the 2 pairs of legs per body segment. The centipedes have only one pair per segment. These milipedes are harmless but can emit a caustic fluid capable of staining skin and clothing.

Spirobolus sp.
Pomacea flagellata

Pomacea flagellata (Gastropoda; Ampullariidae)

The applesnail is probably the most important animal in the ecology of the Belizean wetlands. They are large, extremely common, and food for a large number of animals. Some species such as the Limpkin and the Snail Kite, depend nearly entirely on this species but even large predators such as the Morelet's Crocodile eat them in huge quantities. There is an entire web site dedicated to this family of snails.

Pachychilus indiorum (Gastropoda: Pleuroceridae)

This is one of the "Jute" snails found in Belize. Other reported species include Pachychilus largillierti and P. galaphyrus. All live in fast-flowing streams and rivers and are good indicators of water quality. Recently, the construction of the Mollejon Hydro-dam has been implicated in the disappearance of Jutes downstream of the dam. Historically, jutes have been eaten by humans and large deposits of shells can be found in archaeological middens. Even today, people still eat them.

Pachychilus indiorum
Catasetum + Eulaema

Eulaema cingulata (Apidae: Euglossini)

Males of this and related species pollinate a number of Neotropical orchids such as this Catasetum. These male bees visit the flowers nut so much as for the nectar but in order to obtain certain chemicals they need. For this reason the males can also be attracted by using benzyl acetate and other chemical substances as bait.

The bee to the right is incapacitated by a pollinarium of Catasetum integerrimum that is stuck to its wing. It was unable to remove this pollinarium and only after I removed it myself, the bee was able to fly again.

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