Subject:  Beetle
Geographic location of the bug:  Lampeter PA
Date: 06/13/2018
Time: 01:57 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What kind of beetle is this. It makes a hissing noise. It digs and buries itself in mulch.
How you want your letter signed:  Derek

Bess Beetles

Dear Derek,
These are Bess Beetles or Patent Leather Beetles,
Odontotaenius disjunctus, and they make sound by rubbing body parts together, a behavior known as stridulation.  Bess Beetles are among the most interesting Beetles in the world because of their unique care giving behavior toward their young.  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, 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.

Bess Beetle

Location: Lampeter, Pennsylvania

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