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California Root Borer Beetle (Prionus californicus)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the California Root Borer Beetle



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Image Credit: Matthew P. from CA
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Image Credit: Ilona P. from Stayton, OR
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Image Credit: James O. from UT
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Image Credit: Ron R., Spearfish, SD
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Image Credit: James O. from UT
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Image Credit: Ilona P. from Stayton, OR
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Image Credit: Ilona P. from Stayton, OR
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Image Credit: Matthew P. from CA
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The hardy native California Root Borer Beetle calls more than just one state its home.



Updated: 01/26/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Like other beetles in the beetle genus Prionus, the California Root Borer resembles its relatives, especially its ?cousin? in the east, the Broad-necked Root Borer. Both have long, serrated antennae and 3 points on each side of the pronotum. California Root Borers are found west of the Mississippi River. Females have thinner antennae than males, who have more pronounced 'serrations'. This species has a reddish-brown coloring, but some individuals may appear black. Three, well-formed spikes project out of each side of its pronotum, the 'neck' area. Its elytra (wing coverings) have a fine texture to them, giving them a matte sheen when viewed in the daytime, but they are more active at night when males seek out females for mating. They are often seen walking around the ground in forested areas. They do not eat.

The larvae of this type of beetle live underground where they eat through, and into, the roots of a variety of deciduous trees, hence the common name. They have also been found eating roots from shrubs, vines and even rotting wood above ground. They may stay in this young phase of life for a few years before moving onto the pupa and then the adult form. Because of their diet, this type of beetle is considered a pest in orchards and vineyards where feeding activity can impact tree health and fruit harvest.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Cerambycidae
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          Genus: Prionus
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            Species: californicus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Prionus californicus
Other Name(s): Giant Root Borer Beetle
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 24mm to 57mm (0.94" to 2.24")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown, red, black
Descriptors: reddish brown, large, heavy, flying, three spikes, spines, long antennae
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 24mm and 57mm
Lo: 24mm
Md: 40.5mm
Hi: 57mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the California Root Borer Beetle may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the California Root Borer Beetle. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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