Currently viewing the category: "Bess Beetles"
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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.

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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.

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Jerusalem Beetle
Location: Lyndhurst, NJ
July 6, 2011 8:47 pm
I was visiting a friend a friend one night, and I almost made unnecessary carnage out of this little creature.
We promptly moved it out of harms way, and had a little photo shoot with it. I think I identified it correctly as a Jerusalem beetle or patent-leateher beetle.
I didn’t see to many photos of this beetle around the site so I wanted your input.
Thanks
Signature: Christina McGrath

Bess Beetle

Hi Christina,
You have correctly identified this as a Patent Leather Beetle, but we were not familiar with the name Jerusalem Beetle and we are curious where you found that name.  Beetles in the family Passalidae have many other common names including Bess Beetle, Betsy Beetle, Peg Beetle, Horn Beetle and Bess Bug.  These are fascinating creatures and they have the distinction of being one of the few beetles that actually care for their young.  Other beetles that are known to care for their young are Dung Beetles and Burying Beetles, though Bess Beetles have a more pronounced family bond and they actually appear to communicate audibly with one another.

When I was searching to identify it on the web, it brought me to this wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent-leather_beetle I was not sure if it was accurate (as wikipedia is not a reliable source) that is why I submitted this to your site, which I adore by the way! Not a fan of touching bugs, but I love to look at them!
Thank You for your help!!!

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

black widow with bess beetle
Location: Garner/Raleigh NC
April 28, 2011 6:49 am
Greetings! I don’t often have anything to post, but here’s some shots I took this morning of a black widow spider that lives in a crack in the brick mortar outside the front door of where I work in Garner, NC. I noticed the web some time ago, but couldn’t tell what was in there until it came out to ’web up’ this rather large meal of what I believe to be a Bess beetle. Sure do hope it doesn’t decide to come inside!
I apologize that the one pic of the front came out so blurry, but I had to put the camera down on the ground to take it & couldn’t see the screen. I included it anyway to possibly help identify age, as I know the spots on the back mean it is younger.
Really enjoy checking out your site, and have had many chuckles over some of your replies to those ’challenged’ posters who don’t quite get the spirit of your site. Rock on!
Signature: thank God for macro lens

Black Widow Eats Bess Beetle

Dear tGfml,
We are really impressed with this incredible Food Chain documentation.  We agree that the prey is a Bess Beetle, one of the few insects that actually has family values where adults care for and feed larvae.  Both adults and larvae are capable of making sounds by stridulation and it is believe that the sounds are a form of communication.  BugGuide has a very informative page devoted to this family of interesting beetles.  When the Black Widow matures, she will lose all of her red spots and only the red hourglass marking under her abdomen will remain on her otherwise glossy black surface, making her a strikingly distinctive creature.  Black Widows are shy, hiding by day, though they can often be found in the open in their webs once darkness falls.  Though they are not aggressive spiders, readers should treat Black Widows with respect as their neurotoxic venom is quite potent.  Again, BugGuide has a marvelous information page on Widow spiders.

Black Widow eats Bess Beetle

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Passalidae with a hip hairdo
Location: Arlington, Texas, heavily wooded area
March 25, 2011 7:23 pm
I used your website to id this as a bess bug, but I’m wondering what the little red bumps are around its horn? Parasites? They didn’t appear to be moving, but it was running about so it was hard to tell.
Signature: Moo

Bess Beetle with Mites

Hi Moo,
We get very excited when we learn that submitters to our site have been able to make a difficult identification using our site.  Those are Mites on the Bess Beetle.  We are uncertain if they are parasitic or if they are using the Bess Beetle for transportation purposes, an action known as phoresy.  If we knew that Bess Beetles flew, we would suspect Phoretic Mites, but it appears the elytra of the Bess Beetle might be fused.  This needs research.  According to Fossweb Teachers Bess Beetle page:
They all have hard, shell-like forewings, or elytra, from which their name is derived. In Greek, koleos means “sheath,”and ptera means “wing.” This unique structure functions as a tough protector of the beetle’s delicate hind wings and soft abdomen. When the beetle decides to fly, the hind wings unfold and do their job. At rest they tuck themselves back under the hard elytra. The site also discusses the Mites thus:  “Mites. Eating fungus that grows on decaying wood, providing care for larvae, communicating through sounds—these are all fascinating features of bess beetles. But they have another interesting feature—they have coevolved with at least one kind of mite. Mites are commonly found hitchhiking on the body of the bess beetle. Some of these mites are found only on bess beetles, suggesting a relationship that has evolved along with the organisms. It’s not clear that the beetles benefit from the mite, but because of their exoskeleton, they aren’t harmed in any way. It may be that the mites live on secretions given off by the beetle, or they may just find protection from the beetle while they share the decaying wood. The mites are not known to damage the beetles, don’t bite or harm students, and do not leave the classroom habitat basins. Should mites get on a student’s hand, they are easily brushed off.”

Nice! I’m completely in love with these beetles, so glad to know it wasn’t being eaten or anything. :)
Thanks

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination