A touch of Laboulbeniales

A recent post on BugGuide brought to my attention to a group of fungi known as Laboulbeniales that infect insects.  I knew I had seen these before, but I had never really paid them much attention.  Sorting through some Carabidae I had collected this summer, I noticed one of the strange growths on the elytron of a Clivina americana.  After posting an image of this beetle to BugGuide, I continued sorting the sample.  To my surprise, I found the fungal hyphae on a large number of specimens.  Once I had seen the first, they became fairly easy to spot (despite all the moth scales floating around in the alcohol).

I contacted the author of the Laboulbeniales post, Danny Haelewaters, now a doctoral student at the Farlow Herbarium, Harvard University.  He is studying Laboulbeniales fungi, so I’ll be sending the specimens to him for his research.

The Carabidae that appeared infected included Clivina americana, Perigona nigriceps, Elaphropus xanthopus, Acupalpus partiarius, Acupalpus indistinctus, Bradycellus rupestris, Stenolophus lecontei, and Stenolophus ochropezus.  There were also infected Homaeotarsus cf. bicolor (Staphylinidae) and Melanophthalma sp. (Latridiidae).

Below are images of some infected beetles (Homaeotarsus, Melanophthalma, Elaphropus xanthopus, and Stenolophus ochropezus):

HomaeotarsusMelanophthalma

Elaphropus xanthopusStenolophus ochropezus
UPDATE: Danny Haelewaters has informed me that the parasite on the Homaeotarsus is Corethromyces cryptobii, a new record for Kentucky.  Hopefully more to come.

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7 comments

  1. Jon Quist

    Interesting. I have noticed a similar fungus on a couple of specimens from my own collection. Any idea on how to identify this particular one?, assuming there are other funguses that grow on preserved specimens…

    p.s. I hope you don’t mind that I added you to my link list on my blog.

    • midwestbugs

      Jon, my impression is that these ectoparasitic Laboulbeniales have consistently short hyphae, as seen in my photos. If you’re seeing long filamentous fungal hyphae on specimens (which I’ve seen a few times), those would not be Laboulbeniales. Laboulbeniales won’t grow further after the insect has been killed.
      Hopefully Danny will be able to identify the species on my beetles. They tend to be very host specific, so with any luck there will be a number of species present. In his correspondence, he noted that only 4 to 10% of the estimated number of Laboulbeniales species have been described, so there seems to be great potential for the discovery of new species!

      I’ve added your blog to my link list as well. 🙂

      • Jon Quist

        It sounds like the latter if not undescribed, and neet! It fascinates me how people can be as enthusiastic about fungi as people like you and I are towards Beetles. I guess everything deserves a name 😉

      • Danny Haelewaters

        Hi there,
        I did not yet see this post about Laboulbeniales. I’ll try my best – it’s been very busy around here. I try to work on them next week.

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