These frighteningly large beetles were found on a willow tree in south Doña Ana County, New Mexico. It began with a small spray of sap glistening like hardened sugar on the ground, and progressed to a full-scale river of draining life.
There is no information on the web about these beetles, which are a dull green and tan on the top and dark with glints of iridescent blue on their heads and undersides. The wing case, technically elytra, are tan, and cover the green body. Once disturbed, the beetles take flight and seem like scary invaders in the television series Falling Skies or Gibson’s game-changing Neuromancer. These references are appropriate because the beetles are spooky: They seem to know when one of their own has been crushed, moving immediately to “anywhere else.” And crushing them is no mean feat, because their hard shells can withstand several hard assaults with rocks and shoes.
On tree branches they are relentless, opening holes through which sap seeps, draining the life from the tree. In the heat, the sap ferments to a tell-tale sickly sweetness. Sap continues to seep even after the beetles have moved on to do their damage elsewhere.
Consistent, twice-a-day, hard-stream hosing convinces some to move on. A small number fall to the ground and can be eradicated. But even though fewer and fewer return, much damage has already been done. With access to research, it is difficult to know whether the tree will live. Perhaps pruning of the damaged portions in the fall, when the cuts can heal, will promote a return to health.
Although these beetles look a lot like Figeater Beetles, they are not. Figeaters have weak jaws and their diet is restricted to soft fruit. There is some speculation that Figeaters might have cross-bred with June Beetles in Texas. The significant visual difference between these beetles and June Beetles is the size and shape of the tan elytra. June Beetles are tan along the rims, while these beetles are tan all the way up to just behind their heads (see photo).
Investigation is continuing into the identification of these predatory green machines.