12 Black Beetles With Orange Head

Beetles, with their intricate behaviors and diverse habitats, are among the most fascinating insects on our planet.

A particular group that captures attention is those with the striking contrast of black bodies and orange heads—a coloration that often serves as a warning to predators and a signal to mates.

This article delves into the world of such beetles, examining species from the Cantharidae and Meloidae families, among others.

We will explore their classification, physical characteristics, life cycles, behaviors, diets, and the unique roles they play in their ecosystems.

Black Beetles With Orange Head
Master Blister Beetle

Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus spp.)

Family and Classification

The Burying Beetle, belonging to the genus Nicrophorus within the Silphidae family, is a fascinating group of beetles that play a pivotal role in the decomposition of animal remains.

This genus is known for its distinct behaviors and contributions to nutrient cycling in various ecosystems.

Physical Description

Nicrophorus beetles are easily recognizable by their striking coloration: they possess black bodies with vibrant orange or red markings that can vary in pattern among species.

In some species, these markings extend to the head or the pronotum, the shield-like structure that covers the thorax, giving the impression of an orange head.

This distinctive coloration not only serves as a warning to predators but also aids in species recognition during mating.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of the Burying Beetle is particularly notable for its parental care, which is rare among insects.

After finding a suitable carcass, the beetles prepare it as a food source for their larvae by burying it and removing its hair or feathers.

They then lay their eggs nearby, and once hatched, the larvae are fed by both parents, a unique behavior among beetles.

Burying Beetle with Phoretic Mites

Behavior

Burying Beetles are primarily nocturnal and are attracted to the scent of decaying animal matter, which they use as a resource for reproduction.

Their behavior is crucial for the ecosystem as they help decompose dead animals, thus recycling nutrients back into the soil.

Diet

These beetles are necrophagous, meaning their diet consists mainly of carrion. They have specialized mouthparts for consuming decomposing flesh, and in the process of feeding, they also prepare the carcass for their offspring.

Impact

Burying Beetles are generally not considered pests. In fact, they are beneficial to the environment as they help in the decomposition process. Their presence indicates a healthy ecosystem where nutrient recycling is actively taking place.

Management

Management of Burying Beetles typically involves conservation efforts rather than pest control. Their ecological role as decomposers is valuable, and thus, they are often protected, especially in regions where they are considered endangered.

Checkered Beetle (Cleridae family)

Family and Classification

The Checkered Beetle is a member of the Cleridae family, a group known for its diverse and often brightly colored species.

These beetles are found in various habitats around the world and are recognized for their contribution to the control of pest insect populations.

Physical Description

Checkered beetles are characterized by their ornate patterns, with some species displaying black bodies coupled with orange or red markings that may extend to the head area.

The intricate designs on their elytra (wing covers) give them their common name and make them one of the more visually striking beetle families.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of checkered beetles includes a complete metamorphosis with four distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The duration of each stage can vary widely depending on environmental conditions and species-specific traits.

Checkered Beetle

Behavior

These beetles are often observed on flowers, logs, or tree trunks, where they are active predators of other insects.

Some species are also known to consume pollen and can be found in various flowering plants, contributing to their pollination.

Diet

Checkered Beetles are predominantly predatory and play an important role in natural pest control by feeding on other insect species.

Some of their prey includes wood-boring beetles, making them allies in forest health management and in the protection of wooden structures.

Desert Blister Beetle (Lytta magister)

Family and Classification

Lytta magister, commonly referred to as the Desert Blister Beetle, is part of the Meloidae family.

This family is known for its members’ ability to produce cantharidin, a substance used in traditional medicine and as a defense mechanism against predators.

Physical Description

The Desert Blister Beetle is notable for its contrasting coloration, with a black body and a head that ranges from bright red to orange, giving it a distinct two-toned appearance.

The vibrant head and pronotum set against the dark elytra make it easily identifiable in its natural habitat.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of Lytta magister, like other blister beetles, includes a complete metamorphosis.

After mating, females lay eggs in the soil, and the emerging larvae go through several instars, some of which are hypermetamorphic, including a mobile triungulin stage that seeks out egg masses of grasshoppers to feed on before pupating and emerging as adults.

Master Blister Beetles

Behavior

Adult Desert Blister Beetles are often found in swarms, particularly in spring and early summer, and are commonly observed feeding on the flowers of desert plants.

They are diurnal, active during the day, and their conspicuous coloration serves as a warning to potential predators of their toxicity.

Diet

These beetles primarily feed on the foliage and flowers of plants, particularly those in the Asteraceae family. During their larval stage, they are known to be parasitic, feeding on the egg masses of grasshoppers.

Impact

While Lytta magister is not typically considered a significant agricultural pest, large swarms can cause damage to crops.

Additionally, the cantharidin they produce can be toxic to livestock, particularly horses, if the beetles are ingested with the fodder.

Management

Managing Desert Blister Beetles generally involves monitoring and, if necessary, controlling their populations in areas where they pose a risk to agriculture or livestock.

This can be done through mechanical means or by timing the cutting of hay to avoid peak beetle activity.

Black Firefly (Lucidota atra)

Family and Classification

Lucidota atra, known as the Black Firefly, belongs to the Lampyridae family. Unlike their bioluminescent relatives, these fireflies do not produce light and are often mistaken for other beetle species due to their dark coloration.

Physical Description

The Black Firefly is characterized by its entirely black, glossy exoskeleton.

While it does not have the typical orange head of other beetles discussed, it is sometimes included in discussions about black beetles due to its overall dark appearance and the contrast of its small, reddish head against its darker body.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of Lucidota atra includes a complete metamorphosis with egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. The larvae are typically found in the soil or under the bark of trees, where they hunt for small invertebrates.

Source: Ryan HodnettCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Behavior

Lucidota atra is nocturnal and is often found in wooded areas, meadows, and near streams. The adults are typically seen during the summer months and are not as conspicuous as their light-emitting relatives.

Diet

The larvae of Black Fireflies are predatory, feeding on soft-bodied invertebrates like snails and slugs. The diet of the adults is not well-documented, but they are believed to feed on nectar and pollen.

Common Eastern Firefly (Photinus pyralis)

Family and Classification

Photinus pyralis, commonly known as the Common Eastern Firefly or Lightning Bug, is a member of the Lampyridae family. This family is renowned for its nocturnal beetles that produce bioluminescence during twilight to attract mates or prey.

Physical Description

The Common Eastern Firefly is known for its light-emitting abdomen, but it does not typically have an orange head.

The adults have a soft, elongated body that is dark brown to black with a yellowish section behind the head, which can sometimes appear orange depending on the light.

The males are more often seen flying and flashing their light, while the females are usually perched on vegetation.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of Photinus pyralis includes a complete metamorphosis with four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

The larvae are predatory and live in the ground, feeding on worms and other soft-bodied invertebrates. The pupal stage occurs in the soil, and adults emerge to mate and lay eggs.

Source: Katja Schulz from Washington, D. C., USACC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Behavior

These fireflies are best known for their twilight courtship flights and flashes. Each species of firefly has a unique flashing pattern that helps males and females recognize each other. 

Photinus pyralis has a characteristic J-shaped flight pattern accompanied by a series of bright flashes.

Diet

The larvae are known to be carnivorous, feeding on snails, slugs, and other small invertebrates. Adults may not feed at all; however, some may consume nectar or pollen.

Impact

Photinus pyralis is not considered a pest. In fact, the larvae are beneficial as they help control populations of invertebrates that can be harmful to gardens.

The adults are enjoyed for their light shows and are an iconic part of summer evenings in many parts of North America.

Bombardier Beetle

Family and Classification (Carabidae family)

The Bombardier Beetle belongs to the Carabidae family, specifically within the tribes Brachinini, Paussini, Ozaenini, or Metriini.

These beetles are known for their unique defensive mechanism of ejecting a hot chemical spray.

Physical Description

Bombardier Beetles are characterized by their robust body shape and the ability to eject a volatile chemical spray from the tip of their abdomen as a defense against predators.

While they are generally black or dark brown, some species may have orange heads, such as the Brachinus species.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of the Bombardier Beetle also includes complete metamorphosis. The larvae are typically predatory and live in the soil or under bark, similar to many other ground beetles.

Bombardier Beetle

Behavior

These beetles are known for their impressive chemical defense systems.

When threatened, they mix chemicals from two separate chambers in their abdomen to create a hot, noxious spray, which is ejected with a popping sound and can be quite accurate over a short distance.

Diet

Bombardier Beetles are primarily carnivorous throughout their life stages, preying on other insects and helping to control their populations.

Common Asparagus Beetle (Crioceris asparagi)

Family and Classification

The Common Asparagus Beetle is a member of the family Chrysomelidae, which is a large family of leaf beetles.

This beetle is specifically adapted to feed on asparagus plants and is considered a pest in asparagus cultivation.

Physical Description

The adult Common Asparagus Beetle has an elongated body that is typically blue-black with six cream-colored spots on its elytra (wing covers).

The head is not orange but rather matches the dark color of the body.

However, the pronotum, which is the area immediately behind the head, is often red or orange, which may give the impression of an orange head from a distance.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of the Common Asparagus Beetle includes a complete metamorphosis with distinct egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages.

Females lay eggs on asparagus spears, and the larvae feed on the plants before dropping to the soil to pupate.

Behavior

These beetles are typically found on asparagus plants, where they feed and lay their eggs.

They can cause significant damage to asparagus crops, particularly during the larval stage when they feed voraciously on the foliage and develop spears.

Diet

Both larvae and adults feed on asparagus plants. Larvae chew on the spears and foliage, while adults prefer tender shoots and leaves.

Impact

The Common Asparagus Beetle can cause considerable damage to asparagus crops by defoliating plants and scarring spears, making them unmarketable. They are a significant pest for commercial asparagus growers.

Management

Management of the Common Asparagus Beetle typically involves monitoring the asparagus plants for signs of damage and the presence of beetles or larvae.

Cultural practices, such as removing old plant debris where beetles overwinter, can help reduce populations.

Chemical controls are also available but should be used judiciously to avoid harming beneficial insects and the environment.

Zeugophora (Subgenus Pedrillia)

Family and Classification

Zeugophora, specifically the subgenus Pedrillia, is part of the family Chrysomelidae. These leaf beetles are less well-known than other members of their family and have a more subtle impact on their ecosystems.

Physical Description

Zeugophora species are small, elongated beetles.

They are typically green or yellow in color with black markings, and while they do not have orange heads, some species may have orange or reddish hues on their bodies.

Their coloration tends to blend in with the foliage they inhabit.

Lifecycle

Like many leaf beetles, Zeugophora species undergo complete metamorphosis. The females lay eggs on the host plants, and the larvae feed on the leaves before pupating, often in the soil or in leaf litter.

Source: Udo SchmidtCC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Behavior

These beetles are often found on or near their host plants. They are not typically considered pests and have a relatively inconspicuous presence in their habitats.

Diet

Zeugophora beetles are phytophagous, meaning they feed on plant material. They are often associated with specific host plants, which can vary among species within the genus.

Pittosporum Beetle (Cteniopus sulphureus)

Family and Classification

The Pittosporum Beetle, Cteniopus sulphureus, is part of the family Tenebrionidae, commonly known as darkling beetles.

This species is named after the plant genus Pittosporum, although it is not exclusively associated with these plants.

Physical Description

The Pittosporum Beetle is typically yellow or orange with black markings, rather than having a black body with an orange head.

The contrast between the black markings and the lighter body color can be striking, and while they do not fit the “black body with orange head” description perfectly, they are often included in discussions about coloration due to their distinctive appearance.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of the Pittosporum Beetle includes a complete metamorphosis with egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages.

The larvae develop in the soil, feeding on organic matter, before emerging as adults.

Source: John Tann from Sydney, AustraliaCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Behavior

These beetles are often found in dry, open habitats and are known for their ability to withstand harsh conditions. They are active during the day and are often seen basking in the sun.

Diet

Pittosporum Beetles are herbivorous, feeding on a variety of plant materials. Despite their common name, they are not limited to Pittosporum plants and will feed on a range of other plant species as well.

Asphaera lustrans

Family and Classification

Asphaera lustrans is a member of the Chrysomelidae family, which is a diverse group of leaf beetles.

This particular species is known for its distinctive, iridescent appearance and is found in Central and South America.

Physical Description

Asphaera lustrans beetles have orange heads; and they are noted for their shiny, often metallic-looking exoskeletons that can reflect a spectrum of colors, including blues, greens, and reds.

The bright and lustrous quality of their shell makes them one of the more visually striking members of their family.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of Asphaera lustrans follows the complete metamorphosis pattern typical of leaf beetles, with egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages.

The larvae feed on plant leaves, and adults are often found on the foliage of their host plants.

Source: xpdaCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Behavior

These beetles are primarily diurnal and are often observed feeding and mating on the upper surfaces of leaves in sunny areas.

Their bright coloration is believed to be aposematic, serving as a warning to potential predators of their unpalatability or toxicity.

Diet

Asphaera lustrans, like other leaf beetles, feeds on plant material. They are typically associated with specific host plants, which can vary among the different species within the genus.

Soldier Beetles (Cantharidae family)

Family and Classification

Soldier beetles belong to the Cantharidae family and are beneficial insects commonly found in gardens and fields.

They are known for their soft bodies and the leather-like texture of their wing covers.

Physical Description

Many soldier beetles have black elytra with orange or red heads and thoraxes, giving them a striking appearance.

The contrast between the black wing covers and the brightly colored head and thorax is often what makes them noticeable in their environments.

Lifecycle

The lifecycle of soldier beetles includes complete metamorphosis with egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. The larvae are typically found in soil or leaf litter, where they prey on other insects.

Mating Soldier Beetles

Behavior

Soldier beetles are often found on flowers, where they feed on nectar, pollen, and sometimes other insects.

They are active during the day and are particularly noticeable in late summer, when they are most abundant.

Diet

Adult soldier beetles primarily feed on nectar and pollen, but they will also eat aphids and other soft-bodied insects, making them beneficial for natural pest control.

The larvae are predatory and feed on eggs and larvae of other insects in the soil.

Blister Beetles (Meloidae family)

Family and Classification

Blister beetles are part of the Meloidae family, which includes species that are known for their ability to produce a blistering agent called cantharidin.

This substance is used for defense and can cause skin irritation in humans and animals.

Physical Description

Some species of blister beetles have black bodies with orange heads.

The head and pronotum (the area directly behind the head) can be brightly colored, which contrasts with their darker elytra.

This coloration serves as a warning to predators of their chemical defense.

Lifecycle

Blister beetles undergo complete metamorphosis, with hypermetamorphic larvae that go through several distinct stages, including a mobile triungulin stage that often parasitizes bee nests, feeding on bee eggs and food stores.

Master Blister Beetles

Behavior

Blister beetles are often found in fields, gardens, and meadows, especially during the summer months.

They are known for their gregarious behavior during mating and can be found in large numbers on host plants.

Diet

Adult blister beetles feed on plant material, including leaves and flowers. They can be found on a wide variety of plants, and some species are known to cause damage to crops.

Impact

Blister beetles can be pests in agricultural settings, particularly because they can damage crops and because cantharidin is toxic to livestock.

Contamination of hay with blister beetles can be a serious issue for horse owners.

Management

Managing blister beetle populations involves monitoring for their presence, especially during key times of the year when they are most active.

Mechanical removal and careful timing of harvests can help reduce the risk of contamination in hay.

Chemical controls are available but should be used with caution due to the potential impact on non-target species

Conclusion

In conclusion, the diverse array of beetles with black bodies and orange heads, such as those from the Cantharidae and Meloidae families, play various roles in their ecosystems.

While some, like the Common Asparagus Beetle, are considered pests due to their impact on agriculture, others, including Soldier Beetles and certain Blister Beetles, are beneficial for their predatory behavior and pollination assistance.

Each species has unique characteristics and life cycles that contribute to the rich tapestry of biodiversity.

Management practices for these beetles are largely dependent on their ecological impact and the balance between their roles as beneficial insects and potential pests.

Understanding these beetles’ behaviors and life histories is crucial for their conservation and for maintaining the health of our natural environments.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Tanbark Borer

What is this?
I am finding these in my garage. The only place I can think that they are coming from is some fire wood I have stacked in there from over the winter. I didn’t really use the wood stove all that much and most of the wood is still there that I put there at the start of last summer (2004). If these are coming from the wood why did they not come out last summer?
Steve

Hi Steve,
We contacted Eric Eaton to share his thoughts on your Borer Beetle. Here is his response: “Decent image of what might be the Tanbark Borer, Phymatodes testaceous. Certainly something in that genus. The tanbark borer is supposedly common in eastern North America, but is also found in Europe and northern Africa! Adults vary from 8-17 mm. Larvae bore in the wood of dead and dying hardwoods, and also pine.”

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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