The Blog: Elderberry Beetles

Elderberry Beetles

Feb 22, 2013 | Paintings

Usually, I like to document the process of a painting from sketch to finish for this portion of my website. In this case, I forgot to take photos along the way—but I still thought it would be fun to post.

The valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) is a federally threatened species, found only in riparian forests of California’s Central Valley. I’ve depicted it here with its host plant, elderberry (in this case, blue elderberry, Sambucus cerulea). After mating, the females (dark green wing coverings) lay their eggs on the elderberry, and the larvae spend that stage of their lives burrowed into the stems of the plant. The brilliant red-and-black males are slightly smaller than the females.

Valley elderberry longhorn beetles are considered threatened due to loss of habitat in the Central Valley; agricultural and urban development has wiped out much of their riparian habitat. But these lovely beetles can still be seen from March to June on elderberry shrubs along rivers and streams.

For more information on valley elderberry longhorn beetles, visit

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