Length: 11-19 mm
Beginning beetle watchers often fail to recognize members of the family Lycidae as beetles. The elytra are soft. They are also pretty flat, and held flat like some moth species hold their wings.
Other traits of this family: Usually the elytra are broader in the rear than in the front. Antennae are often saw-toothed, sometimes thread-like.
Some adult Net-winged Beetles are predacious, while others feed at flowers or on decaying plant material. The larvae are found under bark where they feed on other small invertebrates.
Net-winged Beetles are distasteful to birds. In 1932 on Martha's Vineyard, F.M. Jones offered birds a tray with 519 insects on it, including 47 of the Net-winged Beetle shown here, Calopteron reticulatum. The birds almost invariably left the Calopteron reticulatum on the tray. The one exception was Blue Jays, which didn't seem to mind eating the Banded Net-wings. Further experiments showed that not only birds, but other predators both vertebrate and invertebrate avoid eating Net-winged Beetles.
A 1961 study published in the journal Evolution mentioned that one of the authors had eaten three Lycid Beetles but did not find them distasteful; the smell was like fresh hay.
Because so many predators have learned to leave Net-winged beetles alone, many other creatures have evolved to mimic them in body shape and markings. According to one study, the Lycid mimics include other types of beetles such as Longhorns, also moths, flies, and true bugs.
Calopteron reticulatum, pictured above, is by far the most common Net-winged Beetle in West Virginia. It is most often seen in the Mountain State in June, July, and August, resting on leaves or visiting flowers. One key trait for identifying this species is that the front black band on the elytra is wider at the center, and a little narrower at the edges of the elytra.
Note: This page is both the Calopteron reticulatum page, and the family page for Lycidae. Insects of West Virginia