Where's the Elderberry Longhorn Beetle?

Where's the Elderberry Longhorn Beetle?
Image: Courtesy of Quer0zen, via Wikimedia Commons.

Dan Duran, an evolutionary biologist and entomologist at Philadelphia's Drexel University, is looking for help from citizen scientists to find "Desmond," an Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, formally known as Desmocerus palliatus.*

This beetle species used to live throughout a large part of eastern North America but in recent decades it appears as if it has declined in numbers. Duran wants citizen scientists to help him figure out if and why this might be true and how we can help them move back into areas they once lived.

The Elderberry Longhorn Beetle is easy to spot with its bold patterns of blue and gold and long antennae. It's so attractive, in fact, that it was chosen for a USPS stamp design in 1999, according to Duran. The best way to find one of these beetles is to first find elderberry plants. Although Elderberry Longhorn Beetles will fly around and land on a variety of plants, they are usually not far from the elderberry plants that they need to complete their life cycle.

Elderberry (Sambucus) is typically shrub-sized, but it may get as large as a small tree. It has white flowers arranged in loose clumps or “sprays” and leaves that form clusters of 5-7 smaller leaflets.
“I can't promise you'll find one, but if you keep an eye out, you might have a chance at seeing one of these impressive creatures,” Duran says. “They come out at different times in different places, but June is often a good time to see them.”

*Correction (05/27/14): This sentence was edited after posting. It originally referred to Desmocerus palliatus as Desmocerus palliates. The photo of a valley elderberry longhorn beetle has likewise been replaced with one of an elderberry longhorn beetle.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Dan Duran, Assistant Teaching Professor
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: Drexel University
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Fieldwork
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Visit the SciStarter citizen science Web site and register. The “Where's the Elderberry Longhorn Beetle?” page has a link to a data form where citizen scientists can record their observations and upload photos.

See more projects in FreeFieldworkAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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