I was leaving the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma after a great morning of photographing wildlife. As I drove near the entrance, I noticed my friend and fellow photographer Charles Vann parked along the side of the road. I pulled over to say hello and see what he was up to.

Charles told me he had just spotted a very large beetle. Being the bug lover that I am, I was keen to get a look at it. Charles led me over to the beetle and I instantly went into photographer mode.

This beetle was a real beauty! It had a black body about 1.5 inches long with numerous cross stripes of white formed by dense growths of white hairs. It also had long black antennae. Its legs were black and very prominent. I captured a few photos, including a side view highlighting its stripes and coloring. I also took a top-down shot looking directly on the beetle’s back.

Cottonwood Borer Beetle Side View

Cottonwood Borer Beetle Side View

Cottonwood Borer Beetle Top View

Cottonwood Borer Beetle Top View

After talking with Charles and doing some research, I determined this was a Cottonwood Borer beetle. These large beetles are native to this region and get their name from the cottonwood trees they rely on. The larvae bore into dead cottonwood trees and feed on the wood. As adults, they mate and lay eggs for the next generation.

I feel very fortunate to have encountered this impressive beetle. As a wildlife photographer, moments like these remind me to always be observant. You never know when you’ll have the chance to photograph an interesting insect or animal. I’m grateful to Charles for spotting it and allowing me the opportunity to photograph the Cottonwood Borer. Discoveries like this one are what make time in nature so rewarding.

Steve Creek, Wildlife Photographer

Are cottonwood borers harmful?

Cottonwood borers, also known as the cottonwood borer beetle (Plectrodera scalator), are a species of longhorn beetle found in the United States. Here is what the search results reveal about their potential harm:

Harm to Humans: Cottonwood borers are not dangerous to humans, and their bites are not life-threatening.

Damage to Trees: The larvae of cottonwood borers can cause damage to trees, especially young ones. They may hollow out or partially sever young trees, which can weaken their structure. Shoots damaged by adult feeding can turn black, shrivel up, and die.

Impact on Mature Trees: Infested mature trees are usually not seriously injured by cottonwood borers.
However, the larvae can structurally weaken young trees and potentially kill them by girdling.

Natural Predators: Cottonwood borers have few natural parasites and predators, as most of their life cycle is spent below ground level in the tree.

In summary, while cottonwood borers can cause damage to trees, especially young ones, they are not harmful to humans. Mature trees are typically not seriously injured by these beetles.

Equipment Used:

  • Camera: Canon EOS R5
  • Lens: Canon RF 100-500 mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM

Technical Details: First Photo

  • Location: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)
  • Date and Time Taken: July 23, 2023 (09:41A. M.)
  • Program: Manual
  • Aperture: f7.1
  • Shutter speed: 1/800
  • ISO: 2000 (Auto)
  • Exp. Comp.: 0
  • Focal Length: 500 mm

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