Amelia Claridge, of Weston School, asks :-

What is this insect?

John Marris, an entomologist in charge of the Research Collection at Lincoln University, responded.

The insect in the photo you sent is a native species of beetle called Zorion.

It belongs to a family of beetles that are commonly called longhorn beetles due to their very long, slender antennae (or feelers), which look like long horns. There are ten different species of Zorion beetles. They are only known from New Zealand and are found quite commonly throughout the country.

There is even a species restricted to the Chatham Islands. Although these beetles are tiny (around 5 to 7 mm long), they are some of our prettiest insects and come in a range of colours, from bright orange with whitish spots, like your specimen, to metallic blue with yellow spots. Some species have lost their spots entirely.

I can’t tell for sure which species your one is because I would need to see the fine details of the patterns of the body and legs. But, since it came from the Otago region, it is most probably Zorion australe – which means Zorion from the south. Another species, Zorion minutum - meaning the tiny Zorion - was collected during Captain Cook’s first expedition to New Zealand and, in 1775, was among the first animals from New Zealand to be given a scientific name.

A common name used for all Zorion species is the flower longhorn beetle, as the adult beetles are often found feeding on the pollen and nectar of flowers. Not much is known about the larvae (or grubs) of these beetles except that they are known to feed on wood inside freshly dead branches and twigs, or under the bark of a range of native plants.

New Zealand is home to about 200 species of longhorn beetles, all of which are wood boring insects, ranging from tiny Zorion to some up to 50 mm long. The most famous of these is the huhu beetle – also known as pepe te muimui - whose big, fat, juicy larvae were traditionally eaten by M�ori. Adult huhu beetles are attracted to lights on warm summer nights and, if disturbed, can give a sharp bite.

You will have a good chance of seeing more Zorion beetles if you keep an eye out on flax, Hebe and other flowers over the summer. Happy hunting!

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