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Who is Flea-on-a-mouse?

(Pronounced: Flea-on-a-mouse)

Phloeonomus - Drawing: John Rainbird

Phloeonomus is the "surname" of one of the most common beetle species in Protea heads. Alas, the poor Phloeonomus I am speaking about does not even have a first name! This is because he has not yet been described by scientists, who must give "surnames" (genera) and "first names" Protea Atlas Logo(species) to all species of animal, plant and fungus on earth. Understandably, with millions of insect species there are very many without "first names" and quite a few without "surnames". So we will call our beetle Phloeonomus "sp." to indicate that he does not have a first name. Other beetles, like the larger Green Protea Beetle, Trichostetha fascicularis, have both a surname and a species name. [You will of course recognize from this that `Protea' is the "surname" and `cynaroides' is the "first name" of what you know by the common name of King Protea, and that all the plant species in the Proteaceae also have both surnames and first names.]

What's more, poor Phloeonomus sp. does not even have a common name. All this does not bother little Phloeonomus sp. one little bit. He belongs to a group called the "rove beetles". Rove Beetles are easily recognized amongst beetles by having very small wings - so that you can see Phloeonomus - Drawing: John Rainbirdmany of the segments of the abdomen which stick out. These small wings are merely the outer wings (elytra). They protect the delicate flying wings, which fold up neatly under the elytra when not needed. In fact, rove beetles are amongst the strongest flying beetles.

You will probably find other species of rove beetles if you look in a compost heap, or in the litter on any forest floor. However, Phloeonomus sp. lives in Protea heads. Because he flies so widely, and because he knows Proteas so well, he is going to teach us some of the secrets of the Protea family. He does not mind not having a first name: one day someone will give him a name. That does not mean that he cannot teach us a lot of interesting things. Phloeonomus will present interesting projects which you can do with your friends, sometimes with the help of your parents or teachers. In fact, I think Phloeonomus hopes that if he teaches you about proteas and the animals which live in proteas, perhaps you will become interested in ecology and taxonomy. And then, perhaps one day you will give him his species name!

Here are some of Phloeonmus's friends and enemies.

Chirdica sp - Drawing: John Rainbird

Chirdica sp. A bug (Hemiptera)

Platysoma capense - Drawing: John Rainbird

Platysoma capense. A beetle who eats the other beetles in the flowerheads

Phyconomus tricolor - Drawing: John Rainbird

Protea Flower Beetle Phyconomus tricolor who prefers the Common Sugarbush Protea repens

Phyconomus sp - Drawing: John Rainbird

A Protea Flower Beetle Phyconomus sp. who prefers the Black-beard Sugarbush Protea lepidocarpodendron and feeds on pollen and nectar

Diaplochelus longipes - Drawing: John RainbirdDiaplochelus longipes Protea Monkey Beetle which feeds on pollen and nectar, and may occur in large numbers in some flowerheads where they congregate to have feeding orgies.


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