Do Box Elder Beetles Use Sex Toys?

My five-year-old son is big on bug hunts.  When I ask him what he wants to do, it’s nearly always a bug hunt and I’m always happy to oblige.  A few weeks ago, we discovered a parking lot which serves as home to hundreds of box elder beetles.  Considered a pest by many, their bright red markings, red eyes and easy catchability made them a favorite quarry for my budding entomologist.  But this weekend, I noticed something rather…odd.

the sweeter the pushin'?

I didn’t think much of it until I saw these guys just a few feet away:

Two box elder couples share an intimate moment.

As you might understand, these guys got a little camera shy once I moved in to capture the moment, so I apologize for the blurriness of the photos.  But what I’d like for you to notice is the black seed that all three female box elder beetles seem to be using as some sort of sex furniture.  I thought maybe they were eating them– box elder beetles do have long proboscises and are known to eat box elder seeds– but I was mean and took the one away from the pair in the first photo and could find no tell-tale bore holes.  I found a third instance, but by the time I got the camera out, they had stepped away from the sex furniture so as not to implicate themselves in the box elder community scandal.  I plan on returning to the parking lot over the next week in an attempt to validate my theory.  This is some Ph.D level research here.

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