Texas Beetle Information

Return to Texas Entomology - Compiled by Mike Quinn

Big-eared Blister Beetle

Cissites auriculata (Champion, 1892)

Family Meloidae, Subfamily Nemognathinae, Tribe Horiini


Cissites auriculata (Champion, 1892)

Gladys Porter Zoo, Brownsville
Cameron County, Texas, June 12, 2008 
Danny Arriaga, Darlene Campbell


West and South Texas, Mexico south to Costa Rica. Bahamas & Puerto Rico. (Blackwelder 1944-1957, Champion 1889-1893, Lewis 2004) 

Only recently reported from the U.S. One specimen collected at Chisos Mountains Lodge, Chisos Basin, Big Bend National Park, Brewster County, Texas (Lewis 2004). Ed Riley, Associate Curator, Texas A&M University Insect Collection reports (pers. comm., June 2008) a prior record from Big Bend National Park as well as a record from Weslaco, Hidalgo County, Texas from 2003. John Abbott, Curator of Entomology, Texas Natural History Collections, reports (pers. comm., June 2008) having collected several Cissites auriculata at Big Bend Ranch State Park in the Trans-Pecos in 2005. There is a historical record from "South-western Arizona" (Champion 1889-1893, LeConte & Horn 1883). Now regularly reported from the lower Rio Grande Valley (Hidalgo and Cameron counties of southmost Texas).

Introduced into Hawaii in 1934 in an attempt to decrease the population of Xylocopa sonorina, the bee being sometimes considered a pest because it nests in the wood of buildings. (Barrows 1980, Bianchi 1962, Swezey 1939) It apparently no longer occurs in Hawaii (Barrows 1980).


Biology per Roubik (1989):

Meloids are perhaps the most widespread and diverse coleopteran bee parasites. All known triungulin larvae develop in the nests of bees. Adults often feed on leaves and flowers; the larvae feed on nectar and pollen, and most do so in the nests of bees. A toxic substance, cantharadin, is present in the adults, eggs, and larvae (Blum 1981). Such a chemical might deter a host bee from attacking this parasite. 

A tiny larva, or group of larvae, attaches to a foraging bee on the hairs, legs, or antennae and are subsequently transported back to the bee's nest (Bush-Pirkle 2000). Alternatively, adult female meloids locate the open nest of a bee and then deposit eggs near the burrow (Crowson 1981, Kistner 1982). Within the bee nest, the beetle larva molts through a series of successively more grub-like and sedentary larvae, as it feeds on pollen stores. (See blister beetle life cycle diagram, Univ. FL.) The resemblance between meloid larvae and those of bees helps to explain the fact that they are even fed by honeybee workers while in the nest (Bailey 1981).

The large meloid Cissites maculata is a parasite of one of the largest caprenter bees, Xylocopa frontalis (Hurd 1958, 1978). The slow moving adult beetles remain outside the xylocopine nests where the females mates and oviposits close to the nest entrance, leaving the triungulin larva to locate its host. Roubik (1989) reports observing an adult beetle enter bee nest galleries to search for cells where it was attacked and damaged by female X. frontalis.

Such meloids are likely to be relatively host specific (Linsley 1958), but larvae may nonetheless disperse to flowers to locate a potential host. Evidentially, all members of the pantropical meloid tribe Horninni parasitize Xylocopa (Selander, pers. obser.).

Host Info:

Xylocopa consists of about 469 species (Michener, 2000) in 31-51 subgenera, depending on the classification followed.
is distributed over most continents, predominantly in tropical and subtropical climates and occasionally in temperate areas (Hurd & Moure, 1963).

Texas Xylocopa Species:

Xylocopa californica - Range: Southwestern U.S.
Xylocopa mexicanorum -
Range: U.S. records restricted to South Texas and SE Arizona
Xylocopa micans
- Range: Southeastern U.S. to Tamaulipas, Mexico
Xylocopa tabaniformis - Range: Western U.S. south to South America
varipuncta - Valley Carpenter Bee - Range: California, Arizona and Baja California Mexico.
Xylocopa virginica -
Eastern Carpenter Bee - Range: Maine to Wisconsin and south to Florida and Texas

Photo of male and female large carpenter bees in El Paso, TX
Carpenter Bee info - Texas A&M University

Similar Species: 

Only one other species, Cissites maculata (Swederus, 1787) - Mexico to Argentina and Chile, Galapagos Islands, wide spread in Caribbean Islands. (Blackwelder 1944-1957) A common insect in Tropical South America (Champion 1889-1893)

Type Specimen: Horia auriculata Champion - Harvard, MCZ

Type Locality: San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico


Cissites auriculata (Champion, 1892) - Meloidae.com
Cissites maculata (Swederus, 1787) - Meloidae.com

Weblinks: Biology of the blister beetle family

Blister Beetles - Featured Creatures - Richard B. Selander & Thomas R. Fasulo, 2003.
Meloidae - University of California, at Riverside

Etymology: Cissites auriculata (Champion, 1892)

ciss, -o, =us (G). Ivy
auricul, -o (L). The auricle of the ear or heart

Biography: George Charles Champion (1851-1927) - Wikipedia


Arnett, R.H., Jr., M.C. Thomas, P.E. Skelley & J.H. Frank. (editors). 2002. American Beetles, Volume II: Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea. CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, FL. xvi + 443 pp. 

Bailey, L. 1981. Honey Bee Pathology. Academic Press, New York. 124 pp.

Barrows, E.M. 1980. Robbing of Exotic Plants by Introduced Carpenter and Honey Bees in Hawaii, with Comparative Notes Biotropica, 12(1): 23-29.

Bianchi, F.A. 1962. Notes on the biology of Cissites auriculata (Champion) (Coleoptera: Meloidae). Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society, 18(1): 111-119.

Blackwelder, R. E. 1944-1957. Checklist of the Coleopterous Insects of Mexico, Central America, The West Indies, and South America, Parts 1-6. United States National Museum, Bulletin 185. Washington, D.C. xii + 1492 pp.

Blum, M.S. 1981. Chemical defenses in arthropods. Academic Press, New York. 562 pp.

Borror, D.J. 1960. Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms. National Press Books, Palo Alto. v + 134 pp.

Bush-Pirkle, M. 2000. "Spanish Fly” Beetles Use Sex and Subterfuge to Infiltrate Bee’s Nests: Researchers document the first case of parasitic insects cooperating to mimic the appearance, and perhaps scent, of their female hosts. College of Science & Engineering Alumni Newsletter. San Francisco State University.

Champion, G.C. 1889-1893. Insecta. Coleoptera. Heteromera (part). In: F.D. Godman & O. Salvin (editors). Biologia Centrali-Americana: or, contributions to the knowledge of the fauna and flora of Mexico and Central America. Taylor & Francis, London. 4(2): x + 494 pp. Tab 17, pg 371, pg 372.

Crowson, R.A. 1981. The Biology of the Coleoptera. Academic Press, London. xii + 802 pp.

Dillon, L.S. 1952. The Meloidae (Coleoptera) of Texas. American Midland Naturalist, 48(2): 330-420.

Enns, W.R. 1958. Distribution Records of Two American Species of Cissites (Coleoptera-Meloidae). Coleopterists Bulletin 12: 61-64.

Frankie, G.W. & S.B. Vinson. 1977. Scent marking of passion flowers in Texas by females of Xylocopa virginica texana (Hymenoptera: Xylocopidae).  Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 50: 613-625.

Frankie, G.W., S.B. Vinson & A. Lewis. 1979. Territorial behavior in male Xylocopa micans (Hymenoptera: Anthophoridae).  Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 52: 313-323.

Gahan, C.J. 1908. Notes on the coleopterous genera Horia, Fab., and Cissites, Latr., and a list of the described species. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (8)2: 199-204.

Guérin-Méneville, F.E. 1823. Cissite. Cissites. Pp. 164-165 In: Dictionnaire classique d'histoire naturelle. Vol. 4. Rey et Gravier, Paris.

Hurd, P.D. Jr. 1958. Observations on the nesting habits of some new world carpenter bees with remarks on their importance in the problem of species formation. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 51: 365-375.

Hurd, P.D. Jr. 1978a.  An annotated catalog of the carpenter bees (Genus Xylocopa Latreille) of the Western Hemisphere.  Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington. v + 106 pp.

Hurd, P.D. Jr. 1978b.  Bamboo-nesting carpenter bees (genus Xylocopa Latreille) of the subgenus Stenoxylocopa Hurd and Moure.  Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 51(4): 746-764.

Hurd, P.D. Jr, J.S. Moure. 1963. A classification of the large carpenter bees (Xylocopini). University of California Publication Entomology 29: 1-365.

Kistner, D.H. 1982. The socials insects' bestiary. Pp. 1-244 In: H.R. Hermann (ed.) Social Insects. Vol. III. Academic Press, New York.

LeConte, J.L. and G.H. Horn. 1883. Classification of the Coleoptera of North America. Prepared for the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 26: i-xxxvii + 1-567. (pg 417)

Lewis, A.E. 2004. A United States Record for the Genus Cissites Latreille (Coleoptera: Meloidae: Zonitini). The Coleopterists Bulletin, 58(4): 635-636.

Linsley, E.G. 1958. The ecology of solitary bees. Hilgardia 27: 543-599.

Michener, C.D. 1979. Biogeography of the bees. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 66: 277-347.

Michener, C.D. 2000. The bees of the world. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 913 pp.

Pinto, J.D. & M.A. Bologna. 1999. The New World genera of Meloidae (Coleoptera): a key and synopsis. Journal of Natural History 33: 569-620.

Porter, C.C. 1981. Ecological Notes on Lower Rio Grande Valley Xylocopa (Hymenoptera: Anthophoridae). The Florida Entomologist, 64(1) : 175-182

Roubik, D.W. 1989. Ecology and Natural History of Tropical Bees. Cambridge University Press, New York. x + 514 pp.

Sakagami, S.F. & S. Laroca. 1971. Relative abundance phenology and flower visits of apid bees in eastern Parana southern Brazil (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Kontyu Sapporo. 39: 217-230.

Selander, R.B. 1991. On the nomenclature and classification of the Meloidae (Coleoptera). 5(2): 65-94.

Selander, R.B. & J.K. Bouseman. 1960. Meloid beetles (Coleoptera) of the West Indies. Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum 111: 197-226.

Swezey, O.H., 1939. Recent records of the introduction of beneficial insects into the Hawaiian islands. Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society, 10: 349-352.

Van Dyke, E.C. 1953. The Coleoptera of the Galapagos Islands. California Academy of Sciences 181 pp.

08 Mar 2011  © Mike Quinn / entomike@gmail.com / Texas Entomology / Texas Beetle Information