what is this
I found this beetle in some chunks of wood. They had eaten holes into the wood and looks as though they finely chew the wood up into sawdust. They are very dark brown or black, very shiny, have pinchers in the front and attacked the stick that I had put in front of them. They are about 1′-1 – 1/14 inch long, very hard shell, looks like antenna on front of head, are segmented between the head and body. Attached are 2 photos of one of them. I have never seen them in my yard before. If you can tell me what they are I would appreciate it. Thank you.
C.L. Valentino

Hi C.L.,
We love when we get a photo of a Bess Beetle for identification, because they are such fascinating insects. Bess Beetles, Odontotaenius disjunctus, are also called Bess Bug, Betsy Beetle or Bug, Patent Leather Beetle, Peg Beetle and Horned Passalus. Here is what BugGuide has to say: “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 prechewed 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. Adults are found at lights on occasion, despite statements in several sources. They may disperse by walking, but have been seen in Durham, North Carolina, to open elytra and fly briefly under lights (pers. observation, P Coin). A nuptial flight has also been observed (MacGown and MacGown, 1996). Both adults and larvae make noises by stridulation, and this is said to serve as communication between them. Adults also stridulate when picked up, and especially, blown on. Stridulation mechanism of adults by rubbing abdomen against the wings. Larvae stridulate with reduced third pair of legs–these scratch against other legs. “

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