Currently viewing the category: "Bess Beetles"
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Subject: stag beetle like with single forehead protrusion
Location: Chapel Hill, NC, central piedmont of Chapel Hill
March 17, 2016 11:46 am
Found this guy yesterday walking on some moss in a damp, shady area, about midday. 1 1/2 inches long, with a single hose-bib like protrusion on its forehead. It was slow and not aggressive. I have posted a short video of it at http://curiousneedleworks.com/2016/03/17/marching-beetle-for-march/, in case you would like to see it move.
If I could get a genus, that’d be enough to keep me happy. I’ve got it down to scarabaeoidea, but can’t tell beyond that. I think it might be a stag beetle.
Thanks for doing this!
Signature: Jessica

Bess Beetle

Bess Beetle

Dear Jessica,
Though it resembles a Stag Beetle, this Bess Beetle, Peg Beetle or Patent Leather Beetle in the family Passalidae  is a social beetle with a family structure in which both parents care for and communicate audibly with the grubs.  According to BugGuide:  “Adults reported to fly very seldom, however they are capable of flight, contrary to statements in some sources. Adults are found at lights on occasion. They may disperse by walking, but have been observed flying under lights (image), and they are sometimes taken in light traps (MacGown and MacGown, 1996). A nuptial flight has been observed in Mississippi, with a group of 12-15 individuals flying at dusk, and one pair even mating in flight (MacGown and MacGown, 1996).”

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Beetle
Location: South Carolina
September 28, 2015 11:36 am
I need to know what kind of beetle I found in the woods of South Carolina during September please. Will you figure it out?
Signature: Lucas Prickett

Passalid Beetle

Passalid Beetle

Dear Lucas,
This is a Bess Beetle or Passalid Beetle, a species that lives in rotted wood.  According to BugGuide, they have an “Unusual (for beetles) subsocial lifestyle. Adults and larvae live together in family groups in galleries excavated in rotting wood by adults. Adults care for larvae, and actively feed them prechewed food. Both adults and larvae stridulate, which is used for communication within the group. See Generic Guide to New World Scarab Beetles for more details.”

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Bess Beetle

Bess Beetle

Subject: Beetle Variant
Location: Reston, VA
October 14, 2014 11:27 am
Hello! I have enjoyed several of your posts helping to identify bugs. A friend of mine found this beetle in in October in her garden, Northern Virginia. She raises Monarchs and wants to find out if this one is one of the caterpillar hunters – or other threat to butterfly life. It does not appear to be a ‘hunter’ and nor does it seem to match the photos I saw of the plain ground beetles. Look at the gold/orange coloring on legs and antennae. It also doesn’t seem to have the extended head of a ‘big head ground beetle’. We would like to know what variety it is and if it is friend or foe to our butterfly friends. Thank you so much!
Signature: many thanks, L Phillips

Dear L. Phillips,
Tell your friend this Bess Beetle in the genus
Odontotaenius whose identity we verified on BugGuide, is no threat to the Monarchs.  Caterpillar Hunters like the Fiery Searcher are very different looking.  Members of the Bess Beetle Passalidae care for their young and they feed on rotting wood.  According to BugGuide:  “Lifestyle of this family is unique for beetles: live in small colonies where larvae are cared for by adults of both sexes. Long life cycle, apparently more than one year. Larvae eat a rotting wood pre-chewed by adults. (Some references state larvae eat feces of adults as well.) Larvae and adults also cannibalize injured larvae.  Adults reported to fly very seldom, however they are capable of flight, contrary to statements in some sources. Adults are found at lights on occasion. They may disperse by walking, but have been observed flying under lights (image), and they are sometimes taken in light traps (MacGown and MacGown, 1996). A nuptial flight has been observed in Mississippi, with a group of 12-15 individuals flying at dusk, and one pair even mating in flight (MacGown and MacGown, 1996). Mating is also observed in the tunnels ….  Both adults and larvae stridulate, and this is said to serve as communication between them. Adults also stridulate when picked up, and especially, blown on. Adults stridulate by rubbing abdomen against the wings. Larvae stridulate with reduced third pair of legs–these scratch against other legs.”  Our editorial staff spent many family holidays in Reston in the early 1970s.

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Subject: Costa Rican Beetle
Location: Chachagua, Costa Rica
January 2, 2014 12:02 pm
Hi!
I found this bug running pretty quickly on a cement path near our cabin in Chachagua, Costa Rica. I think i’ve seen it on your site before but i can’t seem to find it. I took this picture last August (mid rainy season). Thanks for your help!
Signature: Sam

Patent Leather Beetle

Patent Leather Beetle

Dear Sam,
We are really happy you sent in your photos of a Patent Leather Beetle, our candidate for the most parental beetles in the world.  They are also called Bess Beetles or Passalid Beetles, a reference to the family Passalidae to which they belong.   We need to finish cooking Squash Soup right now, so we are going to link to an old posting before we return and finish this posting.

Passalid Beetle

Passalid Beetle

I had been stumped on that for a while! Your website is great, even when I don’t need something identified it’s fun to skim through. Thanks so much!
Sam

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Large Black Scarab or Beetle Found – What Is It?!
Location: Raleigh, NC
June 27, 2013 2:27 pm
We found this just outside our garage yesterday. I think it might be dead because it hasn’t moved in the last 24 hours. I’ve never seen anything quite like this in size. I guess we really do grow ’em big here in the South. Anyone know what it might be?
Signature: Melanie

Bess Beetle

Bess Beetle

Dear Melanie,
This is a Bess Beetle or Patent Leather Beetle,
Odontotaenius disjunctus.  Bess Beetles have one of the most fascinating life cycles of any beetle.  According to BugGuide:  “Lifestyle of this family is unique for beetles: live in small colonies where larvae are cared for by adults of both sexes. Long life cycle, apparently more than one year. Larvae eat a rotting wood pre-chewed by adults. (Some references state larvae eat feces of adults as well.) Larvae and adults also cannibalize injured larvae. … Both adults and larvae stridulate, and this is said to serve as communication between them. Adults also stridulate when picked up, and especially, blown on. Adults stridulate by rubbing abdomen against the wings. Larvae stridulate with reduced third pair of legs–these scratch against other legs.”  Stridulation is a fancy word for the act of producing a squeaking sound, so Bess Beetles squeak.  Bess Beetles are not actually Scarabs, but they are classified along with Scarabs and Stag Beetles into the superfamily Scarabaeoidea.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Found In Mulch
Location: Eastern Virginia
March 27, 2013 7:32 pm
I found this guy in the pile of mulch I was overturning in Norfolk, VA. He was about the size of my thumb, and I’m not a very big person.
Signature: D’Ann

Bess Beetle

Bess Beetle

Hi D’Ann,
This is a Bess Beetle,
Odontotaenius disjunctus.  The Bess Beetle is also called “Bess Bug, Betsy Beetle or Bug, Patent Leather Beetle, Peg Beetle” according to BugGuide.  Bess Beetles are found in rotting logs and they are rather unique among beetles as they care for their young.  Here is the life style description from BugGuide:  “Lifestyle of this family is unique for beetles: live in small colonies where larvae are cared for by adults of both sexes. Long life cycle, apparently more than one year. Larvae eat a rotting wood pre-chewed by adults. (Some references state larvae eat feces of adults as well.) Larvae and adults also cannibalize injured larvae.”

Thank you very much!  More requests to follow as I continue to explore the local area.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination