Monday, June 22, 2015

Eyed-Click Beetle

Eyed Click Beetles (Alaus oculatus)
are some of the craziest looking beetles in the insect world. They are very large at nearly 2 inches in length.  The salt & pepper markings set them apart from other insects, not to mention those large "eyes." The false eyes make them look so intimidating, or funny depending upon your point of view. The first time I ever spotted one of these it gave me a start, I'd never seen anything like it. I scooped it into a jar to show my nephew that was going to be visiting later in the day. I retrieved the jar to show him and discovered the beetle had died! I opened the lid and peered in at the beetle, it was at this exact moment this little faker decided to come back to life. When he flipped his body straight up, narrowly missing my nose which was still in the opening of the jar....I almost had cardiac arrest! Needless to say I screamed, nearly dropped the jar, which in turn made my nephew scream. Then we both had a good laugh at my expense.

This was my first introduction to this beetle. I let the little trouble maker go, deciding I wanted nothing more to do with a beetle that could practically scare me out of my britches.

 My brother-in-law captured one shortly after my heart pounding experience that he had found at the farm. He grabbed it with his hands and discovered that they can give a painful pinch when they feel threatened. Apparently being grabbed by a giant alien causes them to feel sufficiently threatened to give a bite. He said it drew blood and hurt for quite some time. Lesson learned......don't grab with bare hands. So if the eyes don't scare u, the back flip will. If that doesn't work they will nip you if mishandled.

There are many different species of click beetles, and many do not have these distinctive eye spots. In fact most are drab in color like this brown specimen found in my garden hiding on the petal of a purple coneflower. 

There are approximately 800 species of click beetles in North American. All click beetles have a special mechanism on their lower body that allows them to flip themselves over if they find themselves belly up. Flipping over on your back is an effective way to play dead which may deter predators. Once the potential danger has passed they flip themselves back over and away they go about their business.

 Look for the eyed click beetle near decaying wood. They use this as hiding places. The adult females will deposit eggs in the soil near decaying wood. The eggs hatch and the larvae will crawl underneath the bark of rotting wood or burrow into the soft pithy part of old timber. The larvae of click beetles are called wireworms. They get their common name wireworm from their elongated shape and hard exoskeleton. They feed on the grubs of other beetle species. Wireworms may take up to 10 years, depending upon species to complete their lifecycle into adult beetle. 

Many species of wireworms feed on plants, including some crop species, but those of the eyed click beetle are strictly meat eaters and feed  on many harmful wood boring beetle larvae. Since eyed click beetles take two to five years to complete their life cycle, depending upon temperatures and other factors, this gives them much time to consume tons of beetle larvae. These insects are considered highly beneficial to foresters and gardeners. Adults they may take some nectar from plants but don't seem to require much in the way of food. 

1 comment:

  1. This will get me looking for one now. Even the smaller species can give you a nip.