July 26, 2009
I’m wondering if you can help me identify this. It was probably a little over an inch long. It was in my driveway, I live in Southern New Jersey not too far from the coast.
Congratulations on being selected Bug of the Month for August 2009, though your letter will not be posted live until August 1. This is an Eyed Elater, Alaus oculatus, a large distinctive species of Click Beetle. Click Beetles get their name from their ability, when they find themselves on their back, to snap their body at the joint, propelling themselves into the air sometimes for quite a distance, and flipping around to land on their feet. According to BugGuide, the Eyed Elater is found in “Eastern and central North America–widespread. South Dakota east to Quebec, south to Texas, Florida.” BugGuide also indicates that “Adults may take some nectar and plant juices. Larvae are predatory, eating grubs of wood-boring beetles like cerambycids (longhorns)” and “Eggs are laid in soil. Larvae predators of beetle larvae in decaying wood, especially hardwoods. Pupation is in unlined cell underground or in rotting wood. Adults come to lights.” The eyespots of the Eyed Elater act as a protection against predators like birds which may think the beetle is actually a snake. We have been getting numerous requests for the identification of Eyed Elaters this summer.