To enjoy the living world around us photographs often tell more than thousand words. You can find some beautiful photos of Vatesus beetles in the following. Enjoy and let's credit the photographers who have spent hours and hours to get such good shots. Many thanks for your efforts!!! If you have some nice images of Vatesus beetles too, and if you are willing to share them, please contact me.
For now enjoy...
Larval Vatesus specimen running in the same army ant emigration as the adult shown above. Larvae generally follow the emigrations at the very end, when almost all ants have passed already. Occasionally, like in this photo, one can also find them running among ant worker. Photo credit: Daniel Kronauer
Vatesus adult following a colony emigration of Eciton (probably E. hamatum). This image shows nicely the protective morphology of the beetles. In case of an ant attack beetles quickly escape and generally slip through the ant's mandibles. The head and the legs can also be fully retracted under the pronotum and elytra, offering no point of attack. Nicely you can also spot the wing vestiges beneath the elytra (see biology section for more info). This beautiful photo was taken by Alex Wild, check out his webpage for more amazing shots: www.alexanderwild.com
Vatesus adult following a colony emigration of Eciton (probably E. burchellii) in Peru. In colony emigrations the risk of being attacked is relatively low as ants are busy with carrying their young. When I disturbed an emigration while collecting myrmecophiles, ants got excited, stopped emigrating, and adult Vatesus quickly hide under leaves or in small cavities. It appears they might recognize the ants' alarm pheromones as their hiding reaction happened instantly. This beautiful picture was taken by Takashi Komatsu during a trip to Peru. For more great photos of myrmecophiles check out his blog.
Vatesus adult following a colony emigration of Eciton hamatum. This atmospheric photo was taken by Philipp Hönle during the 17th Ant Course 2018 in French Guyana (see course report here). Note that the beetle lifts its heavy body with its strong forelegs.
Don`t be fooled - two of the following images do not show Vatesus beetles, can you spot which ones? The two "foreigners" show feather-winged beetles which have convergently evolved a tear-dropped body shape as protective morphological adaptation (species Cephaloplectus mus).
Image credit: Carlos de la Rosa
Image credit: Carlos de la Rosa
Image credit: S. Pohl
Answer: right middle picture and left bottom picture are feather winged beetles
This photo blew me away when I saw it a couple of years ago. It shows what I think is Vatesus latitans Sharp 1876, which is the type of the genus. It is associated with the species Eciton quadriglume and is darker than its expected closest relatives V. clypeatus, V. goainus and V. gigas, the latter of which have a bright reddish color (see all other images on this page). In fact, it was the dark coloration that fascinated me most. Not only Vatesus, but also other guests of this emigration were much darker than the relatives I have studied in Costa Rica. In my opinion, the most likely explanation for this phenomenon is visual mimicry. The host ant you can see on the photo seems to be Eciton quadriglume. Little is known about the biology of this species - but apparently, this species (if the ID is correct) seems to emigrate during the day - which is an exception within the genus Eciton. This means guests are exposed to visual predators such as birds and lizards during daytime emigrations - a selection pressure which could well induce adaptations towards matching host coloration. There are only few specimens of V. latitans in museum collections and additional specimens of this species would greatly help my efforts to revise the genus - so if you have by any chance collected this dark Vatesus species or if you have seen it in a museum, please contact me. Felix Moll took this photo in the afternoon in a National Park close to Belo Horizonte, Brazil. It is worth reading his report (in German) about the excursion, which inlcudes more fascinating photos of army ant guests.
The following pictures show Vatesus beetles during host emigration at La Selva Biological Station. All pictures were taken by Sebastian Pohl. Note the Vatesus specimen following an emigration of Neivamyrmex giibbatus (left middle), which represents a yet undescribed species.
Vatesus adult in a laboratory nest with its rare host species Labidus spinoides. This is a new host record for Vatesus and it remains to be studied whether the collected specimens represent a yet undescribed species. The photo was taken by Philipp Hönle in Ecuador (Choco region).