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Cottonwood Borer Beetle (Plectrodera scalator)


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



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Image Credit: Rob W. from Sand Springs, OK
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The threat to Cottonwood, Poplar, and Willow tree populations by the Cottonwood Borer is black-and-white.



Updated: 01/26/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Cottonwood Borer is part of the Long-Horned Beetle family. It has extremely long antennae that grow to lengths beyond its own body. The beetle has a white face with black antennae. Its body is a creamy white or ivory color with two rows of black blocks on each wing covering. The pronotum (neck area) is also white and has large black spiky ovals on it. It stands among some of the largest beetles in North America. Cottonwood Borers live near river banks and prefer wooded areas with poplar, willow and cottonwood trees.

This species makes its way through the summer months eating trees. Adults slowly work their way up to the branches, chewing and destroying them until they ultimately reach the leaves. Given time, these boring beetles can infest forests, sometimes eliminating neighborhood blocks of their tree cover. The female adult Cottonwood Borer chews holes into the base of the targeted trees and lays her eggs in them. The larvae hatch and destroy trees by chewing the inside wood into sawdust and pulp. They also chew on the fragile root system underground until the tree can no longer gather nutrients or water from the soil. Over the years, affected trees become dry and weak, falling over at ground level.




Known Diet of the Cottonwood-Borer



wood, poplar


General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Harmful insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Pest insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Cerambycidae
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          Genus: Plectrodera
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            Species: scalator
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Plectrodera scalator
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 25mm to 40mm (0.98" to 1.57")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; yellow; white
Descriptors: marbled, spots, squares, patches, flying, harmful, tree pest
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 25mm and 40mm
Lo: 25mm
Md: 32.5mm
Hi: 40mm
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 Cottonwood 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 Cottonwood Borer Beetle. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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