What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Slinky black 6-legged bug
Location:  Portland, Oregon
September 22, 2010 5:35 am
Oh, Bugman,
I just discovered this site and I fervently want to know ”What is this bug?” It appeared in my kitchen yesterday, and I’ve never seen one like it in my life.
I’m not normally too bug-phobic, but this bug is so unusually slinky for a beetle-type bug, it just creeps me out. I’m truly tempted to bug carnage, but no. I guess I will release it, at least 10 blocks away…
Anyway, it’s solid and kind of velvety black, 6 legs, 1.25 inches long, with antennae. It looks mostly like a beetle, but it’s arched between the head and thorax, and the abdomen has two parts: rigid where it joins the thorax and then at the end very flexible — even slinky. So slinky, it’s just creepy!
I would love to learn what it is, if you can help. It was hard to get a good photo; hope these give you an idea.
Signature:  Kelly

Devil's Coach Horse

Kelly Self-Identifies Devil’s Coach Horse
Aha, Devils Coach Horse!
September 22, 2010 5:56 am
Daniel,
I just decided to click on each type of beetle, and found an exact match — interestingly from Troutdale, OR, from a month ago. I wonder if the DCHs just made it to Oregon, ’cause I have sure never seen one before.
I didn’t see the scorpion-like effect, but the name is apt. This bug has bad vibes. However, if it eats slugs and snails, I will not take it 10 blocks away — I will release it in my vegetable garden post haste!
Love, love, love your site!
Signature: Kelly

Dear Kelly,
We are happy to hear that you quickly self identified your Devil’s Coach Horse,
Ocypus olens, using our archive, and we are also happy to hear that you have considered getting along with this introduced species provided it stays in your garden and not your home.  Since the Devil’s Coach Horse was introduced to North America around 1930, we are not certain of the extent of its range, but BugGuide’s database indicates it is established in Oregon and California.  BugGuide does report three members in the genus, which expands the range even more, but we are not certain how to tell the species apart as they look so similar.

Daniel,
I should have clarified that my Ocypus olens was actually 5-legged, and the posted image shows the 2-leg side.
A happy ending (but not for the slugs): I released the Devil’s Coach Horse into the garden this morning, and she/he immediately ran for cover under a leaf. As another reader reported, this bug does seem light-averse. As skeeved out as I was at first by it, after living with it (safely contained) for a couple days, I found that familiarity bred tolerance. Just before I released it, I showed it to a friend who was as revolted as I had been initially. But I felt… almost… fondness?
I will check out your book. BTW, thanks to you I will never again crush a house centipede.
Cheers,
Kelly

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
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5 Responses to Devil's Coach Horse

  1. sarah says:

    Hi everyone my name is Sarah and those little bugs are called devils horse coach, they are not harmful and they will bite if cornered but they are very beniful to thé soil, they also eat snails and slugs and spiders.

  2. Lis says:

    Just saw a Devil’s Coach Horse in a classroom at Reed College! Creepy, it raised its tail like a scorpion at slight movement in its direction. Scuttled away quickly to not sure where. Read on wikipedia that they can have a very painful bite, not so nice indoors.

  3. Dee says:

    I just came online to try and discover what this odd bug was. It was scurrying along the carpet and I wouldn’t have seen it, if not for my cat’s stare. When I poked at it, it stopped and raised it’s abdomen and tail just like a scorpion, and froze. Very creepy. I’ve never seen a bug like this is my 30 years living north of Boston. I was working in the garden for the 1st time this spring and perhaps carried him inside, along with a deer tic. The Devil’s Coach I found is 15mm and jet black.

  4. Donna says:

    I live in Cheyenne, Wy and found one of these crawling in my hair, in the wee hours of the morning. Wasn’t sure what it was then, finally, brushed it out with my fingers. It fell on my pillow. Talk about creeped out! My cat didn’t even want it! After reading some information I know why, if they emit a stench, I wouldn’t want it either. Unfortunately, for this one it did not make it. Killed and down the drain it went. I know better next time… just like the assassin beetles, I will let them go now. Thanks for the identifier, it was a big help.

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