Rove beetles, belonging to the Staphylinidae family, are a large and diverse group of insects with around 4,000 species in North America alone.
These beetles are known for their peculiar appearance, characterized by their elongated bodies, short wing covers, and scorpion-like posture when threatened or disturbed .
They can be found in various habitats, such as soil surfaces, under rocks, and near compost piles .
Surprisingly, rove beetles play an essential role as predators in the ecosystem.
They target various insect pests, such as maggots, caterpillars, grubs, aphids, mealybugs, and mites .
With such an appetite for agricultural pests, rove beetles are generally considered helpful organisms rather than a danger.
Rove Beetles Overview
Rove beetles are part of the insect group and belong to the Staphylinidae family. They fall under the Coleoptera order, which is the largest of all beetle orders.
With over 4000 species in North America alone, rove beetles are diverse and widespread.
These predatory beetles have some unique features:
- Elongated bodies
- Shortened elytra (wing covers)
- Abdominal segments exposed
In appearance, rove beetles vary in size from ¼ to 1 inch and can be shiny brown or black.
They are often found scurrying on the soil surface in various habitats and can be confused with small scorpions due to their habit of raising their tails when disturbed.
Some species of rove beetles focus on consuming pests in their larval stages, such as maggots and caterpillars, while others target adult insects like aphids and mealybugs.
In fact, a pair of adult rove beetles can eat up to 1200 root maggot eggs in a single day. However, they can be cannibalistic when food supplies are low.
It’s important to note that while rove beetles may appear fierce, they are not considered dangerous to humans.
They might bite if handled, but their primary focus is on consuming harmful insects. Therefore, they serve as a beneficial aspect of integrated pest management.
Rove beetles not only possess fascinating features but also contribute positively to the environment by controlling pests.
With an extensive variety of species, these small but effective predators prove to be valuable allies in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.
Adults and Larvae
Rove beetles undergo a complete metamorphosis, developing from eggs through larval stages before becoming adults.
Adult rove beetles are distinctive from larvae due to their more developed features.
- Adults: Adults have elongated bodies and visible mandibles, while their abdomens are exposed.
- Larvae: They are typically more compact in appearance, though mandibles can be present.
Color and Size
Rove beetles exhibit a range of colors, primarily brown or black. Their sizes can also vary, depending on the species:
- Small species: around ¼ inch in length
- Large species: up to 1 inch in length
Wings and Flight
Rove beetles are capable of flight. One key distinguishing feature is their shortened elytra or wing covers, which expose their abdominal segments when not in flight.
- When flying, they spread their wings beneath the elytra.
- When not flying, they often hold their wings folded beneath the elytra.
|Brown or black
|Similar to adults
|¼ to 1 inch in length
|Smaller than adults
|Visible and developed
|Present but smaller
Habitat and Behavior
Diet and Predation
Rove beetles are found on the soil surface in various habitats, such as gardens and forests.
They are predatory creatures and play a crucial role in controlling pests. Their diet primarily consists of:
- Small insects
As biological control agents, they help protect crops and vegetation from infestations by preying on harmful insects.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
The rove beetle reproduction process involves the following stages:
Adults lay eggs in the soil or leaf litter. After hatching, larvae feed on pests before entering the pupal stage. These beetles can live up to 4 years, featuring overlapping generations.
Rove beetles display high adaptability in different environments:
Apart from their predatory behavior, some rove beetle species also feed on decaying organic matter, fungi, and pollen.
Their environmental adaptability makes them versatile and beneficial insects for agriculture.
|Predatory, control pests
|Omnivorous, less control on pests
|Short wing covers
|Possess pincers (cerci)
|Abundant in various habitats
|Prefer moist, dark areas
Key Features of Rove Beetles:
- Predatory behavior
- Short wing covers
- Abdomen curled upwards when running or disturbed
- Over 1,200 species found in California
Characteristics of Rove Beetles:
- Slender, elongate body
- Shiny brown or black in color
- Length: ¼-1 inch
- Often confused with earwigs
Are Rove Beetles Dangerous? Rove Beetles and Human Interaction
Encounters in Homes
Rove beetles, found in various environments such as North America, might make their way into homes.
Rove Beetle Characteristics:
- Shiny brown or black
- ¼ – 1 inch in length
- Elongate and short-winged
- Scorpion-like appearance when disturbed
- Predatory insects
Prevention and Removal
To prevent rove beetles from entering your home, use pest management strategies such as:
- Sealing gaps around windows and doors
- Removing dead animals or pests
- Keeping garden plants and trees well-maintained
- Environmentally friendly
- Protects beneficial insects
- May require more effort or time
Potential Health Risks
When crushed on the skin, this toxin can cause dermatitis linearis, resulting in blisters and burns. However, these cases are rare.
|Rove Beetle Species
|Paederin, dermatitis linearis
Note: False warnings on social media may exaggerate the danger of rove beetles, comparing them to scorpions or wasps.
In reality, most species pose little to no threat to humans.
Differentiating Related Insects
June Bugs and Japanese Beetles
- June Bugs primarily feed on decaying matter and pose minimal threat to humans.
- Japanese Beetles can cause damage to plants and may be considered pests.
Both of these beetles differ from rove beetles, which are general predators, feeding on small insects and thus are beneficial to the environment.
Lady Beetles and Scarab Beetles
- Lady Beetles are beneficial insects that prey on aphids and scale insects.
- Scarab Beetles vary in habits, with some species being pests, while others help in decomposition.
Neither of these groups share the same appearance as rove beetles and are easily distinguished.
Earwigs and Stenus Beetles
Earwigs and Stenus Beetles might be confused with rove beetles due to some similarities in appearance. However, important differences are:
|Soil or plant life
|Soil or water edges
|Soil or plant life
|Short wing covers
By understanding the differences among these insects, one can appreciate the beneficial roles that rove beetles play in our ecosystem.
Rove beetles are a large and diverse group of insects that belong to the family Staphylinidae, which includes over 60,000 species worldwide.
They are not dangerous to humans or animals, but some species may have defensive secretions that can cause skin irritation, blistering, or inflammation.
Rove beetles can be identified by their elongated and slender bodies, short wing covers, and flexible abdomens.
They are mostly active at night, and can be found in various habitats, such as soil, leaf litter, dung, carrion, and fungi.
They are beneficial insects, as they feed on other pests, such as aphids, mites, maggots, and slugs.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about rove beetles. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Creechie Bug: Paederus Rove Beetle Warning for Bangkok Thailand
strange bug in bangkok?
August 8, 2010 4:59 am
This was a warning posted on facebook about a ”new” poisonous insect in Bangkok, Thailand. However I find this suspicious, considering there is no reference or name of species given.
I’m wondering if this is a real threat.
this was the warning attached with the picture:
”this bug has reached Bangkok city. You cannot kill it with bug spray or pesticides! and do not smash it! apparently, if u kill it by squashing this bug, the juice within its self is going to call for back up! which will result in more of these bugs coming to your area where you killed the bug…
How to kill? get a tape or duck tape and rap the bug in it. Wait until it dies of lack of oxygen. Sounds cruel but you really do not want to get the toxins of this bug on your skin! (they don’t need to bite, just to sit on your skin and that is enough to do damage!)
When it touches your skin just wipe it off right away and wash your hands and body parts that u know the bug touched. if u scratch it will spread like a wild fire on a dried grass land. ”
We don’t really want to contribute to any internet hysteria, but the images from Facebook you forwarded to us are real, and not limited to Bangkok.
We first learned of the Creechie Bug, the name locals from Cameroon West Africa use for a group of Rove Beetles in the genus Paederus, when we received a photo of the insect and the resulting contact dermatitis back in 2008.
Missionaries in Cameroon sent us that account and we verified the information. We have received several letters from Sub-Saharan Africa, but we have also gotten reports from Asia.
In 2009 we received a letter from Singapore, and one of the images in the photo-collage that is circulating on Facebook was attached to that letter, so What’s That Bug? has already published content from your attachment.
WTB? has also received images of Paederus Rove Beetles from Arizona and West Virginia, which led us to research the genus on BugGuide which provides this information: “Paederus species contain a toxic chemical (pederin) in their hemolymph which causes contact dermatitis in humans, usually as a result of slapping the beetle and crushing it against exposed skin. The affected area becomes red, swollen, and itchy, causing the skin to peel when scratched. Outbreaks of Paederus dermatitis have occurred in Africa, Asia, and South America. Historically, extracts of Paederus beetles have been used by the Chinese since at least the year 739 in the medicinal treatment of boils, nasal polyps, and ringworm.”
Some of the information contained in the Facebook warning is relevant. You should not handle the Creechie Bug or Paederus Rove Beetle or you may experience contact dermatitis like the examples in the photos.
We do not recommend attempting to wrap them in duct tape as that would require handling. Just avoid the insects, though that is not possible if one crawls into bed while you are sleeping, an occurrence that is responsible for some of the accounts of resulting contact dermatitis.
The claim of recruits being attracted by squashed Creechie Bugs might also have some limited credibility since insects are attracted by pheromones, but that claim is probably an exaggeration.
We will reiterate that we do not want to contribute to internet hysteria so we hope that verifiable information will educate the public regarding a possible unfortunate encounter with a Paederus Rove Beetle.
As BugGuide indicates, there are outbreaks of reports of the contact dermatitis in Africa, Asia and South America that probably coincide with intermittent population explosions of the beetles.
It is also worth noting that a person does not need to avoid Bangkok because of the warning, and that staying away from Bangkok will not necessarily protect a person from possible contact with a Paederus Rove Beetle since they also occur in Africa, other parts of Asia and South America.
One is not even immune from attack by remaining in the comfort of one’s home in North America, since BugGuide reports data of sightings of Paederus Rove Beetles in numerous states, and it is fair to assume that it might also be encountered in other places in North America.
We would advise anyone who is unfortunate enough to become afflicted with contact dermatitis after an encounter with a Paederus Rove Beetle to seek prompt professional treatment.
Letter 2 – African Rove Beetle: AKA Creechie Bug or Acid Bug
What’s this bug?
Do you have any further information on this bug? It is known in Angola as an Acid Bug and apparently, it does something similar to the Bombardier Beetle and can cause some burns if you squash one on your skin. Sorry for the poor quality on the photo. Thanks & Regards
In January 2007, we received a letter regarding this genus of Rove Beetles from Camaroon. It is known as the Creechie Bug in Camaroon, but we also like Acid Bug from Angola.
It is in the genus Paederus, and we found a website with images and information on the Contact Dermatitis it can cause.
Letter 3 – Creechie Bug: Rove Beetle from Cameroon
Just wanted to send in a picture of a Paederus Rove Beetle. We are missionaries living in Cameroon West Africa and these little critters attack us at the end of every rainy season.
I also included a picture of the burn that these guys can inflict on someone, usually while they sleep. We have been so curious about them since our move here four years ago.
We have done much research to find out what they are, but the only name we had for them was what the local people called them – the creechie bug. It wasn’t until we looked at your website and found pictures of the devils coachhorse that we got an idea that it was a beetle at all.
We thought it was some kind of ant. The coloring is different than the devils coach horse, but the body shape was so similar we started doing a search on Cameroon Rove beetle and that is how we found our answer.
We absoluely LOVE your site. It is in our favorites and we pull it up once a day to see your new postings.
We thought you might be able to post this under your rove beetle section as I am sure other people out there would love to know what this insect is. Thanks for all your work!
Well, we didn’t know anything about the Paederus Rove Beetle, so we had to google it. Sure enough, we found a site with photos of both the red and black beetles and the dermatitis it causes. Thanks for sending in your fascinating letter. We love the name Creechie.
Letter 4 – Contact Dermatitis in Panama: Might this be from a Bicho de Fuego???
I was urinated on by a type of beetle.
March 27, 2010
I recently returned from a three month stay in Panama, where just a few days before my departure, I was peed on in my sleep by a type of beetle that the locals called “chinea” (sp?).
The urine left a large purplish-black blister on my arm, that with the help of hydro-cortisone cream, has been steadily healing. A biologist friend of mine consulted a Panamanian doctor friend and concluded that the beetle is of the stinking variety.
Any more specific info? I’d love to be able to really get to know the bug that has left me, if only a little, emotionally and physically scarred! 🙂
Muchos gracias y adios! Katie
Santa Catalina, Veraguas Province, Panama
First we need to come clean and admit that our response is total speculation based on circumstantial evidence. Since there is no actual photo of the culprit, nothing is certain. With that stated, there is a genus of Rove Beetles, Paederus, that has a worldwide distribution.
We found an online posting on the US National Library of Medicine website that indicates “Epidemic outbreak of dermatitis caused by Paederus signaticornis Sharp (Coleoptera: staphylinidae) observed in José Domingo de Obaldía Hospital, David, Panama” in January 1982, so the genus is found in Panama.
The Medical and Veterinary Entomology website has information, including: “Rove beetles in the genus Paederus contain pederin (C25H45O9N), a toxin more potent than that of Latrodectus [Black Widow] spider venom, and the most complex nonproteinaceous insect defensive secretion known. Pederin is synthesized by endosymbiotic gram-negative bacteria (Pseudomonas species) occurring in female Paederus species.
The beetles, which are mostly 7 to 13 mm long, are found in North, Central, and South America; Europe; Africa; Asia; and Australasia. Unlike most rove beetles that are dull-colored, many Paederus species have an orange pronotum and orange basal segments of the abdomen, which contrast sharply with the often blue or green metallic elytra and brown or black coloration of the rest of the body.
This color pattern may be a form of warning (aposematic) coloration, but a defensive function for pederin has not been demonstrated. … Species in South American countries are known by various names, such as bicho de fuego, pito, potó, podó, and trepa-moleque.”
Thanks for the info! If when I return to Panama am able to get a photograph/more info, I will surely send you an update!
Letter 5 – Australian Rove Beetle
Since sending my request for help in identifying a black bodied -orange headed beetle, I have found it as a “Rove beetle” – As yet I have been unable to find the particular type but at least now I have something to go on! Please ignore my request of yesterday …
I’m sure you have plenty of things to do. I came across this guy attached, in the garden next door (Toowoomba Australia). it is about 15-18mm long – I have hunted around the web trying to find it but so far with no joy:-( – Maybe you know it? Most appreciative of any help…..
You are correct that this is a Rove Beetle. It will take us some research to give you a species, but there are so many physically similar species that might be impossible.
Australian Rove Beetle
the rove beetle you have an image of on your website, the one with the bright orange head, is Creophilus erythrocephalus (Fabricius). I am revising that genus of rove beetles. Cheers,
University of Illinois at Chicago
Zoology, Division of Insects
The Field Museum
Letter 6 – Angry Rove Beetle in a Zip Lock Bag!!!
Subject: what bug is this?
January 2, 2014 12:33 am
Saw this thing flying around my house. It landed on my couch. I trapped it in a zip lock bag. Seems aggressive…
We hope you let this Rove Beetle free after taking the digital image. You would most likely be angry if you found yourself in a Zip Lock Bag, and you might even act out aggressively. That said, this is a Rove Beetle, and they are truly fascinating beetles.
Their flight wings are folded and hidden beneath the small elytra, which means the Rove Beetles are softer bodied than most beetles that have elytra or wing covers which are hard and which cover the entirety of the abdomen.
Rove Beetles might be a threat to small arthropods and land molluscs, however, they pose no danger to humans as they do not possess any venom. They do have scent glands in the abdomen and they often posture with the tail bent over the head in a position reminiscent of the threat pose of a stinging Scorpion.
Letter 7 – Brown and Gold Rove Beetle
May 20, 2014 5:14 pm
I’ve been interested in bugs for as long as I can remember.
I love observing and learning about them, my favorite is the Hummingbird Moth.
I own an IPad Mini so these pictures aren’t as clear as i’d like them to be, but i hope it’s clear enough for the identification of the insect.
Though it does not resemble a typical member of the Beetle order Coleoptera, this Brown and Gold Rove Beetle is a beetle nonetheless.
Letter 8 – Brown and Gold Rove Beetle
Subject: Earwig? Rove Beetle?
February 12, 2017 4:17 pm
I need help identifying this bug. Found in Richmond Virginia on 2/12/17 on a warm afternoon. Usually I can find the bug through the internet, but not this time.
You really didn’t need much help. Most people don’t even recognize Rove Beetles as Beetles. We believe this is either a Gold and Brown Rove Beetle, Ontholestes cingulatus, or a closely related species. We really like the Ozark Bill A Thousand Acres of Silphiums page.