Beetles That Look Like Ticks: Surprising Insect Mimicry Explained

Beetles and ticks may sometimes look similar, but they belong to different groups of insects. While beetles are part of the Coleoptera order, ticks are arachnids, related to spiders and mites.

Understanding the differences between these creatures is important to protect yourself from the potential dangers ticks may carry.

Some beetles may resemble ticks due to their size, shape, and coloration.

Beetles That Look Like Ticks
Clover mites. Source: TieuCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, one key difference helps with identification: beetles have wings and can fly, while ticks crawl and do not possess wings.

A closer look can help you distinguish between these insects, ensuring that you react appropriately.

It’s essential to be able to identify ticks since they are known for transmitting diseases like Lyme disease through their bites.

The blacklegged tick is a common disease-carrying species. To avoid tick bites, follow prevention measures like using insect repellent, wearing appropriate clothing, and checking your body after outdoor activities.

On the other hand, beetles play vital roles in ecosystems, such as decomposition and pollination, making them generally beneficial insects despite any resemblance to ticks.

Identifying Beetles That Look Like Ticks

Carpet Beetles

  • Size: Small, typically 1/16 to 1/8 inch long
  • Color: Black or brown with irregular patterns
  • Antennae: Club-shaped with 3 segments
  • Features: Oval-shaped, tiny hairs covering the body

Carpet beetles are common household insects that can be mistaken for ticks due to their size and shape. However, they are harmless and have distinct club-shaped antennae.

Varied Carpet Beetles

Weevils

  • Size: Small to medium, ranging from 1/8 to 3/8 inch long
  • Color: Mostly dark brown or black
  • Antennae: Elbowed with multiple segments
  • Features: Snout-like mouth, oval body, and hard wings

Weevils can also be confused with ticks due to their size and shape. Unlike ticks, their antennae are elbowed and they have a snout-like mouth.

Diaprepes Root Weevil

Clover Mites

  • Size: Extremely small, around 1/64 inch
  • Coloration: Reddish or dark brown
  • Legs: 8 legs with the first pair longer than the others
  • Features: Oval-shaped body, tiny

Clover mites are not actually beetles, but they are often mistaken for ticks due to their appearance. They are smaller than ticks and have a reddish or dark brown color.

Clover mite. Source: Astrobunus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Clover mite. Source: AstrobunusCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a summary table comparing the four look alikes

 TickCarpet BeetleWeevilClover Mite
Size2 to 27 mm1/16-1/8 inch1/8-3/8 inch1/64 inch
ColorationBrown/blackBlack/brownDark brownRed/brown
AntennaeNoneClub-shapedElbowedNone
FeaturesOval, flatOval, hairySnout-likeOval, tiny
Potential HarmYes (some)NoNoNo

Remember to pay attention to these characteristics when identifying beetles that look like ticks, as most of these insects are harmless and do not pose the same risks as ticks.

Tick and Beetle Habitats

Plants and Grasses

Ticks and beetles can be found in various habitats, including plants and grasses. Ticks prefer tall grasses and shrubs where they can climb to find a host. Some common plants where ticks reside include:

  • Tall grasses
  • Shrubs
  • Leaf piles

Beetles, such as the six-spotted tiger beetle, inhabit a variety of environments, including:

  • Forests
  • Meadows
  • Gardens

Home Infestations

Ticks and beetles may occasionally infest homes. For instance, ticks can be brought indoors by pets or humans, while beetles, such as wood-boring beetles, may invade homes in search of wood sources.

Common ways ticks and beetles can infest homes are:

  • Pets carrying ticks indoors
  • Firewood infested with beetles
  • Cracks and gaps in the home’s exterior

Wood boring beetle. Source: Frank Vassen from Brussels, Belgium, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Wood boring beetle. Source: Frank Vassen from Brussels, BelgiumCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tick season and climate change: Ticks are generally more active in warmer months, increasing the risk of encountering them during tick season.

As climate change progresses and temperatures rise, tick habitats may expand, and tick season may extend.

FeatureTicksBeetles
HabitatTall grasses, shrubs, leaf pilesForests, meadows, gardens
Home InfestationsBrought in by pets or humansWood sources, firewood, cracks in the exterior
SeasonWarmer months, impacted by climate changeYear-round, depending on species

Preventing Tick Bites and Beetle Infestations

Personal Protection Strategies

  • Wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks easily.
  • Use repellents containing DEET or picaridin.
    • Example: Apply a 20-30% DEET repellent on exposed skin.
  • Treat clothing with permethrin for added protection.
    • Pros: Long-lasting protection.
    • Cons: Toxic to aquatic life.

Here’s a comparison table of two popular tick repellents:

RepellentActive IngredientProtection TimeApplication
DEET20-30% DEET4-8 hoursSkin and clothes
Picaridin20% Picaridin8-12 hoursSkin and clothes

Pet Care and Prevention

  • Regularly check pets for ticks.
    • Example: Inspect their fur after outdoor activities.
  • Use tick prevention products for your pets.
    • Example: Flea and tick collars or topical treatments.
  • Consult your veterinarian about suitable products.

Carpet Beetle

General Home Maintenance

  • Mow your lawn regularly to prevent tick habitats.
  • Use tick traps if needed.
    • Pros: Reduces tick population.
    • Cons: Requires regular maintenance.

Keep your home free from beetles:

  • Seal cracks and gaps in your home’s exterior.
  • Store firewood and yard debris away from your home.
  • Install insect screens on windows and doors.

Common Tick Species and Associated Diseases

American Dog Tick

The American Dog Tick is known for transmitting Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Tularemia. It’s most active during late spring and summer.

Key features of American Dog Tick:

  • Distinct reddish-brown color
  • Larger than most other tick species
  • Found mainly in the eastern U.S.

Western Blacklegged Tick

The Western Blacklegged Tick carries Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis. This tick is predominantly found in the western U.S.

Key characteristics of Western Blacklegged Tick:

  • Dark brown or black color
  • Smaller than the American Dog Tick
  • Found in wooded and grassy habitats

Blacklegged Tick. Source: See sourceCC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Comparison table:

 American Dog TickWestern Blacklegged Tick
Primary diseases transmittedRocky Mountain spotted fever, TularemiaLyme disease, Anaplasmosis
ColorReddish-brownDark brown or black
SizeLargerSmaller
HabitatEastern U.S.Western U.S.

The diseases mentioned above, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, are among many tick-borne illnesses that can also include babesiosis, Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), and heartland virus.

Erythema migrans, a circular rash, is often an early sign of tick-borne infections like Lyme disease. Timely detection and treatment are crucial to avoid complications from these diseases.

Recognizing and Treating Tick Bites

Symptoms of Tick-Borne Diseases

Tick bites can lead to various diseases, with common symptoms including:

  • Fever/chills: All tickborne diseases can cause fever.
  • Aches and pains: Tickborne diseases can cause headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. People with Lyme disease may also have joint pain. 1

If you develop these symptoms within a few weeks of a tick bite, see your healthcare provider.

Proper Tick Removal Techniques

When removing a tick, follow these steps:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick.
  3. After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. 2

Here’s a comparison table to help distinguish between ticks and beetles:

CharacteristicTicksBeetles
Body ShapeOval and flatOval or elongated
Legs8 legs6 legs
Smooth or hard shellSmooth bodyHard exoskeleton

Remember to seek medical attention if you experience tick bite symptoms or need assistance with tick removal.

Blood Engorged Tick

Conclusion

Beetles and ticks, although sometimes visually similar, are distinct creatures. Beetles belong to the Coleoptera order, while ticks are arachnids.

Some beetles, due to their size and coloration, can be mistaken for ticks.

However, beetles have wings and can fly, unlike ticks. It’s crucial to differentiate between them, especially since ticks can transmit diseases like Lyme disease.

Beetles, on the other hand, serve beneficial roles in ecosystems. Key beetle species that resemble ticks include carpet beetles, weevils, and clover mites.

Proper identification ensures appropriate reactions and safeguards against potential health risks.

Footnotes

  1. CDC – Symptoms of Tickborne Illness
  2. CDC – Tick Bite: What to Do

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Bugs in the Cat Litter

I use World’s Best Cat Litter. It’s an organic product made from corn. I have bought bags before that contained these small, elongated, lighter brown, hard, beetle type bugs.

They don’t seem to be able to fly. I think they might develop into some sort of tiny moth, because I have seen the little (tiny!) moths in the litter enclosure, but nowhere else. I have tried freezing the bag before I use it in the litter box, but sometimes this does not work.

What are these bugs and how do I get rid of them? Are they harmful to my cat? Could they get into the rest of the house? Sorry I don’t have a picture.
Christa Moeller

Dear Christina,
Both meal moths and pantry beetles will infest stored corn. Neither will harm your cats, but they may invade stored grain products in your pantry.

Letter 2 – Dermestid Beetle Larva in Pasta

always in my carbs!!!
Location:  Buffalo, NY
August 4, 2010 7:59 pm
These disgusting creepy little bugs somehow ALWAYS get into any kind of carb I have in my cupboard-flour, pasta, sugar, etc, even if it’s stored in a container other than the one it came in, although glad containers seem to be working to keep them out.

I often find like skins or something in there too like they shed or something? In the pic those are medium-sized shells & it was desperately trying to crawl towards them. Thanx!
Kathie

Hi Kathie,
We are confident that your Beetle Larva is in the family Dermestidae, known as the Carpet Beetles.  The family contains the common Larder Beetle as well.  As a family, bugGuide indicates the larvae feed on: 

“dried organic material of high protein content (skin/flesh of dead animals, dandruff, feathers, hair, mantid egg cases, dried foods, wool/silk, etc.); a few spp. prey on wasp & bee larvae or spider eggs; most smaller species feed on pollen/nectar” and they are frequently found in dried pet food. 

Their fondness for grains at your place may indicate a species that has specific dietary preferences that differs from the family. 

We wonder if perhaps you have Novelsis aequalis, the closest visual match we can find on bugGuide, but alas, there is no information on the larval food preferences.  You may want to discard all stored foods and begin with a cleaned pantry.

Letter 3 – Chocolate Eating Bugs!

Hi,
I stumbled on your website during a search. I have a question concerning Chocolate. I have a co-worker that brings me Hershey Kisses every morning.

I don’t eat them right away, so, when I finally decided to eat a few, to my surprise, there were little brown gnat type bugs that had burrowed through the kiss!!!!!!!!!!!

One co-worker had the entire Hershey Kiss gone including the almond! It did leave the shell however! HELP. We just want to know what they are! Thanks!
Pamela

Hi Pamela,
Certain types of Pantry Beetles will eat chocolate, burrowing through the candy leaving the shell intact.

Letter 4 – Bookworm: Real or Myth???

Subject: Bookworm
Location: Anywhere there are books & moisture?
July 17, 2013 2:55 pm
I’ve looked up bookworm/book worm on this site, but found nothing. So, I just googled it, & found a few things.

These two links show an actual larvae worm, but it may or may not be an actual ”bookworm”:
http://thirtyonethirtyone.wordpress.com/2010/07/
http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-14108630-real-bookworm-bug-on-old-book-with-metal-clasp.php

this link shows bookworm damage, as well as mentions it actaually being beetle larvae, but dosn’t say what beetle.
http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/collections/design-archives/projects/conservationblog/bookworm
Also, looking up silverfish on WTB, I found that they tend to eat the glue in book bindings.
Is there an actual bookworm of a certian beetle larvae? Or is the ”bookworm” actually the silverfish by the damage it creates in books?
Signature: JanP

Stock Photo of "Bookworm"
Stock Photo of “Bookworm”

Dear JanP,
What a nice theoretical question you have posed for us.  Since you cited the sources for the photos you attached, and since one is clearly watermarked as an iStock Photo and since we are linking back to the site if anyone wants to download the image, we don’t think we will be slapped with any copyright infringement suits, so we believe we are safe to include the image. 

We are not entirely convinced the creature in the photo is an actual “Bookworm” but we do believe it is some moth larva.  We also believe it might have been a staged photo since the selective focus is so artfully done.  The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has a conservation page that states: 

“There are several types of insects that damage collection materials including books. The most common pests are roaches, silverfish, and various types of beetles. These insects eat the protein and starch components in books and other materials, and the feces of these and other types of insects can disfigure collection materials.” 

We suspect that when more natural materials, including starch bindings, were used in bookmaking, printed materials were more prone to insect damage than they are now. 

The beetles that are mentioned are most likely Carpet Beetles in the family Dermestidae (see BugGuide) which will damage many items in addition to books that are in museum collections.  We have numerous photos of the larvae of Carpet Beetles on our site, but we have never received an image of one in a book.

Letter 5 – Deathwatch Beetle with feathered antennae

Subject: Bug
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
May 4, 2016 7:31 pm
We began seeing these bugs two evenings ago. They seem to come out at abut 5 in the evening, on our kitchen ceiling. Fly/long hop around. Theyseem to be drawn my the light.

They are not as previlent when it gets dark outside.
They are very small about 1/8th inch or smaller. and have the feathered antenna(some of them).
Thanks for your help.
Pat Hogan
Signature: Patricia

Unknown Kitchen Beetle
Deathwatch Beetle

Dear Patricia,
We did open your image yesterday and we did a bit of unsuccessful research, and we decided to postpone posting until we did more research.  We still do not have an identity, so we are posting your request and tagging it unidentified. 

Because of its small size and the large numbers of individuals that are appearing in your kitchen, we are presuming this beetle is either a pantry pest or a wood boring species, and we hope that by posting the image, one of our readers will write in with an ID. 

Perhaps our new intern Bennett will try to tackle this challenge.  We are speculating that the individuals with the feathered antennae are males.

Update:  Thanks to a comment from Cesar Crash, we are able to update this posting of a Deathwatch Beetle, Ptilinus ruficornis, with a link to our own archives.  According to BugGuide, it feeds on: 

“Large, dry portions of dead wood of broad-leaved trees (beech, maple, oak, sycamore…)” and “common pest of woodwork in buildings most frequently encountered wood-feeding anobiid in ne. NA.”

Letter 6 – Deathwatch Beetle with Pectinate Antennae

What the heck IS that ?!?!
Location: ontario, canada
June 25, 2011 8:03 pm
Hi there !
I have a stumper for you (or maybe not?).
Found this little guy on the inside of my kitchen window. Never saw a bug like him. I didn’t size him, but i have a feeling the weird things on his head will give him away.
Thanks so much for checking out my pic !
Betty Doerksen,
Ontario, Canada
Signature: bettythecanadianmenno

Deathwatch Beetle

Dear bettythecanadianmenno,
We wish your photo had more detail.  We don’t believe this is a False Click Beetle, and we haven’t a clue what else it might be.  Here is a photo of a False Click Beetle from the What’s Bugging You? website that is somewhat similar.  We have requested assistance from Eric Eaton.

Eric Eaton identifies the Deathwatch Beetle
Daniel:
No, this is a great image of a deathwatch beetle, specifically Ptilinus ruficornis:
http://bugguide.net/node/view/59669
Only males have the weird antennae.
Not a structural pest as far as I am aware.
Eric

Thank you so much ! I appreciate it. As you know, he was very tiny (just a few mm), so it was hard to take a clear enough macro pic.
Thanks again for identifying him !
Betty

Letter 7 – Bizarre Grub: Fungus Infestation, and edible as well!!!

Horrible large mealworm with two inch horns!
December 2, 2009
This one has me stumped! The picture is fairly detailed – hopefully you’ll know what it is. I spent a half hour looking everywhere and came up clueless. It came in a large box of tropical mixed greens from Florida.
Mike in CT
Florida, we think.

Unknown Grub
Unknown Grub

Wow Mike,
WE are seeking assistance on this creature.  It sure doesn’t look native.

Update
We quickly got two comments indicating that this is a Cordyceps fungus infection.

Letter 8 – Blue Rosalia

what d’ya think of this beauty?!
hello you buggers!
We’ve been out taking photos of insects here in the the Charente region of western France and came across this beautiful specimen of what we think is some kind of blue longhorn beetle, but wanna know fo’ sure! what do ya think it is?!

It was on the trunk of an ash tree….. can ya help us out? please? (ps this is the first time we’ve found your site and it’s brilliant!)
Cheers,
Max and Lippy

Hi Max and Lippy,
Thanks for the compliment. Your natty beetle is in fact a Longhorn Cerambycid, but we don’t know the European species. A quick google search revealed nothing. Thanks for sending the photo which may eventually get identified.

Ed. Note: A second email from Max and Lippy questioned the Blue Rosalia. We googled that and found this lovely Polish stamp from 1961. Looks like a positive ID for Rosalis alpina.

Letter 9 – Borer Beetle: genus Tragidion

Can you tell me what this one is?
I enjoy taking nature pictures and while I was in my winter oat field this weekend I saw this very golden beetle fly into the oats.
Lindsey

Hi Lindsey,
This is a Cerambycide Borer Beetle we did not recognize. We searched BugGuide and found a match with the genus Tragidion, possibly Tragidion armatum brevipenne. Other than an image match, we can’t find much information on the species. The coloration is perfect for Halloween.

Letter 10 – Borer: Clytus species

What’s this Bug ?
Landed on my hat in Eastern Ontario , Canada . Thanks in advance ,
Mike.

Hi Mike,
This is one of the Cerambycid Borers in the genus Clytus. There are two species, Clytus marginicollis and Clytus ruricola, and they look very similar. If this was a Who Wants to be a Millionaire question, we would gamble on Clytus ruricola.

Letter 11 – Borer Grub

What type of grub / larve is this?
May 17, 2010
A few nites ago I was splitting some logs I picked up a few years back from a clearing for the powerlines. I split this log and it basicallyshattered into a bunch of pieces. One of those peices contained a hollowed out tubular section. This is what initially caught my eye. I was curious and bent over to investigate.

It was at that point I looked down to my amazement that there was a grub/larve hidden in this wet rotted log. The grub was over 3 inches long and had a pair of pincers similar to a beak on a squid.

It burrowed a tube like hole throughout the length of the log. And probably was quite content until I came a long.
David in Mashpee, Massachusetts
Cape Cod Massachusetts

Bycid Grub

Hi David,
Your photo is not ideal for an exact identification, but we believe this is the Grub of one of the Longhorned Borers in the family Cerambycidae, and most likely a member of the subfamily Prioninae.  There is a nice photo for comparison purposes on BugGuide.

Letter 12 – Brazilian Leaf Miner Beetle

Help to ID
Please, help me to ID this bug.
Thank you
Danilo Rivas
Brasil

Hi Danilo,
We wrote to Eric Eaton to see if he could identify your beetle. Here is his reply: “Ok, it IS a beetle, but, believe it or not, a Chrysomelidae leaf beele! These particular types are leaf miners in the subfamily Hispinae. There must be several genera and hundreds of species in the tropics. Eric”

Letter 13 – Buprestid Beetle

Thanks so much for identifying my beetles. How about 1 more. See attached.
Vicki in CA

Hi Vicki,
We wish you provided a few more details. We wonder how large this beauty is. This is some species of Buprestid, the Metallic Wood Boring Beetles. We are also wondering if it was also found in Burbank. We hope Eric Eaton can provide us with information. Eric quickly wrote back:

“It is something in the genus Buprestis or Cypriacis (which was once lumped in Buprestis). My friend Rick Westcott, retired from the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, could tell you more. Individual specimens can be extremely variable in color, so that complicates matters. Eric”

Hi,
More info on the Buprestid Beetle. He/She was about 1″ long, and was found, as in picture, dead, on kitchen floor in Acton, CA which is rural area north of Burbank. Thanks for your help.
Vicki Holmes

Update: (12/29/2006)
Buprestid answer
The buprestid from Acton, California is Buprestis viridisuturalis Nicolay & Weiss. It is found in dead Fremont Cottonwoods. Thanks,
Ken Weiner
Natural Resource Specialist/ Park Ranger
Englebright & Martis Creek Lakes

Letter 14 – Buprestid Grub

hi there
i am in the middle of my bathroom reno and i ran into this creature……i hate bugs and ended up tearing all the drywall down to make sure there was no more hiding. i only found the one , looked as if it was trying to chew into the floor? it is tapered and has little jaws on the front. pics arent that great cause it is dark.

This is a beetle grub from the Family Buprestidae. They are Wood Boring Beetles and sometimes the grubs can live in milled lumber for many many years, emerging as adults long after something has been built. Eric Eaton adds:

“That flattened first thoracic segment is your clue. Cerambycids are known as roundheaded borers because in the larvae the first segment is not nearly as flattened. Your comment about them living in milled lumber applies to both beetle families”

Letter 15 – Burdock Beetle

This summer’s curiosity
I assume, after viewing your sight, that this is a Colorado Potato Beetle, but seek confirmation. This guy found his way to my arm and stopped to pose for photographs. I am a beetle lover and slowly becoming an entomological hobbyist (photographs in the wild, I don’t collect.) Fantastic site!
Geoffrey Bosmann

Hi Geoffrey,
You are correct. This is a Colorado Potato Beetle, Leptinotarsa decimlineata. It was originally native to mountain meadows in the Rocky Mountains, but widespread cultivation of potatoes has greatly increased its range as well as its status as a bonafide agricultural pest.

Correction from Eric Eaton: (10/18/2005)
Hey, the Colorado potato beetle is actually a related species, Leptinotarsa juncta (burdock beetle if I recall).

Letter 16 – Cochchafer

Please Help in IDing the Bug!
Would you be able to identify this bug for us? The bug is on the blinds inside our friends house in England. Thanks soooooo much.
Tyler Booth

Hi Tyler,
This is one of several species of European Scarabs known as Cockchafers.

Letter 17 – Death Feigning Beetle


I don’t think this went through the last time I sent it, if it did, I apologize. Do you have any idea what this is? I found it while wandering around Valley of Fire State Park, near Las Vegas.
Thanks!
Donna

Hi Donna,
This is a Death Feigning Beetle, Cryptoglossa verrucosa, though it is sometimes called an Ironclad Beetle.

Letter 18 – Death Feigning Beetle

Help with identification
My daughter Hanling took this photo of a beetle we saw while camping along the Colorado River south of Hoover dam this past April. We are hoping you would be able to help identify it.
Thank you
Norm Petredean

Hi Norm,
We thought this might be one of the Ironclad Beetles in the Darkling Family, but it didn’t quite look correct. We searched the Darkling Beetles on BugGuide and came up with a match. This is a Death Feigning Beetle, Cryptoglossa verrucosa, though it is sometimes called an Ironclad Beetle. The mottled coloration seems a bit odd.

Update (05/19/2006)
Hi there, Just wanted to let you know that you are indeed correct on the Cryptoglossa verrucosa picture posted on 5-15-06. It is a death feigning beetle or blue death feigning beetle but you mention that the mottled coloration is odd.

I was just going to add that this occurs when the beetle gets wet in anyway. If they get a drop or dew or something of the sort, that area will turn flat black in a blotch.

Or, if it gets totally wet via rain or a otherwise, the entire beetle will change in color from that light blue/gray to pure black, and stay this way for several hours to a few days. Just a FYI!
Adam

Letter 19 – Dermestid Beetle Larva

enquiry
Hi there,
i need your help to identify this bug i found in our kitchen. We have recently become infested with lots of them and need your help so that we can take care of the problem.

They are found near our cats food in the kitchen and under the cooker as there are lots of cracks. i have found them where cats hair & dust is the most gathered, can you help?
thanks
Jimmy (UK)

Hi Jimmy,
You have a type of Dermestid Beetle Larva that include many Pantry or Larder Beetles and Carpet Beetles. The larvae can be infesting the cat food as well as eating the cat hair that accumulates in dark corners.

Letter 20 – Dermestid Beetle Larva

What is this?
Can you please help me identify this bug. They are found on the walls in my home. They crawl very fast and are very tiny. I took a picture next to a dime.
Thanks for any help
Jon Lindberg

Hi Jon,
You have a Dermestid Beetle larva which include household pests like carpet beetles and larder beetles.

Letter 21 – Dynastes tityus

Thanks for a great site!
Hey Bugdude!
After unsuccessfully searching Google images and several websites to identify this beefy dude (painful over a modem…), you came to my rescue. I believe this may be either a Unicorn or a Hercules beetle?

Found him legs up on my roof in rural northwest SC. Love your website, and since I’m from CA and am not familiar with the local fauna, will now refer back to it frequently to find out whether the buggies get to listen to me jabber at them or feel the wrath of my vengeful heel (The latter may be preferred over the former, since most seem to flee after the first “Hello, Mr. Insert-generic-bug-name-here.”

Word gets around these rural small towns rather quickly…). Your tips on what these insects eat and their preferred habitats make it easier for me to relocate them to the proper environs if necessary.
Thanks mucho,
-Mike

Hi Mike,
We have heard this guy called both the Hercules Beetle and the Unicorn Beetle, but to be safe, we could go scientific and call it Dynastes tityus. We sympathize with your modem searching, but imagine trying to upload What’s That Bug? on dial-up. That is our excuse for answering so slowly when we have 100’s of letters.

Letter 22 – European Chafer

Strange Bug
Hi There, Since a few days we are invaded by thousand of bugs like this in the garden. We tried to identify them, but no chance. They show up only in the evening when the temperature cools down.

Are they pests? Do they eat potatoes or tomatoes plants? Or cherry, plum, apple or peach trees? How we get rid of them is impossible to stay in evening outside in the garden.
Adrian

Hi Adrian,
We weren’t familiar with your species of Scarab, one of the Chafers, so we wrote to Eric Eaton. He thinks you might have a situation. Here is his response:

“This is some other kind of scarab. Try searching European Chafer and see if that might be a match. If so, the submitter might want to contact their state Agricultural Dept. as the insect is a relatively recent introduction and we need to know how it is spreading.” So Adrian, contact the experts.

Ed. Note: This letter just arrived.
(08/11/2005) Reaction to “European Chafer (06/27/2005) Strange Bug”
Hi, The chafer pictured at the post “European Chafer (06/27/2005) Strange Bug” looks to me like a common cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha), or Meikever (may chafer) as they are called in Dutch.

These fellows are quite noisy in flight, and come out of the ground after being a larva for 3 years. For more info, see http://www.kendall-bioresearch.co.uk/chafer.htm
greetings,
Arthur

Letter 23 – Brazilian Blister Beetle

orange bug with blacks splotches and giant clampers
September 20, 2009
We walked outside and saw this on the ground. Please advise!
Jennifer
Sao jose dos campos, Brazil

Unknown Brazilian Beetle
Brazilian Blister Beetle

Hi Jennifer,
We vowed this would be our last posting for the moment since we need to go to the market.  We anticipate that an exact identification may take us some time, so we are just posting your unidentified beetle in the hopes a reader can provide the answer before we return to attempt an identification. 

Though it resembles a Stag Beetle, the antennae are wrong.  We also don’t believe this is a Longhorned Borer, since again the antennae seem wrong.  We are hard pressed at the moment to even place this interesting specimen into a family classification.  Our first guess is perhaps some species of Ground Beetle in the family Carabidae.

Eric Eaton provides identification
September 21, 2009
Hi, Daniel:
Yes, it is, believe it or not, a blister beetle, family Meloidae.  More specifically, it is Cissites auriculata.  Lots of images pop up in a Google search for that genus.
Eric

Thanks for the response Eric.  A web search immediately brought up a posting on BugGuide from Texas with an comment that the common name is the Large Eared Blister Beetle.  There is also a page on the Texas Beetle Information website.

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

41 thoughts on “Beetles That Look Like Ticks: Surprising Insect Mimicry Explained”

  1. I’m not completely sure, but it looks like the grub may have been parasitized by a fungus in the Cordyceps genus. The “horns” would then be the fruiting bodies dispensing millions of spores. Super neat. There is a great clip of David Attenburough talking about this amazing fungus on You Tube.

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  2. My guess, and it’s only that, is that yeah, it’s a native species [Scarabidae, perhaps] with a parasitic fungal growth coming out of it, in the manner of Cordyceps. The ‘tusk-like] growths would be fruiting bodies, meaning a mushroom.

    If this is the case, the insect would be not only edible, but a pharmacological powerhouse. There is a body of lore about the positive attributes of tea made from dried Cordyceps sinensis, which parasitizes certain caterpillars.

    The key detail missing from the original post: was the organism active or moribund? If the former, that would be confusing.

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  3. Can the litter contain bedbugs. I have bedbugs. Could it be the litter. I don’t travel. I changed to the worlds best cat litter 6 mos ago.

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  4. Theyre visually,almost microscopic is how they’re able to live between pagesof closed books. Kinda transparent and silver in color, long and the slither around in pages.

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  5. The PetSmart that I buy from DID NOT KNOW ANYTHING about the little bugs in the Worlds Best Cat Litter that I had just opened and put into my litter box, as I took it in to show them the hundreds crawling around in the litter and box sides! The manager just opened a new bag to check it and replaced my bag. I then realized that litter being made from corn could cause bugs.

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  6. Thank you for your response. The exterminator found them in wood that we had brought in to dry out. The wood was on the fireplace hearth. We thought they might also be cedar beetles.

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  7. Same! i just ate a hershey kiss and bugs were in it! i ate 3!! I’m honestly disgusted but i want to know will it harm me?

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  8. Hi everyone, I think I am having the same problem but, it has just reached epidemic problems. I see some bugs in my cat litter is changed & cleaned weekly and cleaned daily. I also use one of the best cats litters to. Mine is a clay litter. But all of a sudden around end of summer early fall I have bugs little black ones that either leap of fly and they flock around my cat food. the cats and I can’t stand them any more. I have even cleaned my food pantry out. How to do we eliminate these little bugs and how did we get infested with them. Are they in the cat food and litter from the source we obtain them at. We buy local and get delivery sometimes? If any one can help let me know and please post an answer. I am in Southern California and I am going to call my vet now to see what they say. I am thingking I will have to set off some kind of insect killing fogger in my home and start with new food and litter. I mean I even thoughmanybe something craweled under my garden windows and died and these buys were from that even though there is no smell. I will post what my vet says to do. Thank you

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  9. Hi everyone, I just got off the phone with my vet’s office regarding these little cat littler bugs and food bugs are the same.

    I have tried everything and way to clean and disinfec safetly to rid my home of theses little bug so now I am going to use a fogger spray you can set up in any and all rooms and set off at same time. I will get one that deals with animal and meal pantry pest. I know we will have to leave the house for some many hours (this includes your pets and instruceitons will tell you how to care for your food and didhes before setting off fogger. I will also make sure my cats are clean and have there collars or drops on. (my house cats get to walk outside daily, (weather permitting) on a leash and harness. This way Iwill get this problem resolved before Chritmas get togethers. My vets office said they have had no complaints or surge in this type in the area and not aware of any out break of anything. So I will check the local homeware store for spray but also check petsmart too to see what they have and or advise. I wish I know more because I want to learn from this experience to share with other pets owners regarding this Litter bugs or pet food / pantry food bugs. By the way the pantry bugs do serarch out your and all types of grains from crakers,
    corn, all grains, etc. bread crumbles and I have had them invade all airtight containers, (those spendy ones from BB&beyond) Mason jars etc. And Dont forgeet your flour too! out it goes and mark new bag and place in a container. Same with your sugars too. Sorry I have to check my zip loc bags as these buys will crawl inside boxes to lay eggs, Like in your flour! and you must eleminat all bugs , shells and worms or you will get reinvested. Another tip, check your accustic ceiling look there they seem to like acoustic. Thats why I got rid of mine and second tip. If you have any wood cabinets, carts, tip them over after you empty them out and clean all these areas too you will be surprized what you find under there, I will also vac and clean under my fridge and stove and have done my trash compactor too!!! Hope this helps, There must be something we can mix that is natural in the cat litter to stop them naturally. Merry Christmas, Y’All I will keep checking posts to see if we can get a name for this pest. and how to rid our home and pets from it. I know I check the outside of boxes and bags beofre I buy to look for webs or bug casings.

    Reply
    • I was recently at a PetsMart & the bags of sWheat litter was nasty! Dead bugs & what looked like bird poop on it. I told a worker but this is not the 1st time I’ve seen this. I was not about to touch it.

      Reply
  10. Hi everyone, I just got off the phone with my vet’s office regarding these little cat littler bugs and food bugs are the same.

    I have tried everything and way to clean and disinfec safetly to rid my home of theses little bug so now I am going to use a fogger spray you can set up in any and all rooms and set off at same time. I will get one that deals with animal and meal pantry pest. I know we will have to leave the house for some many hours (this includes your pets and instruceitons will tell you how to care for your food and didhes before setting off fogger. I will also make sure my cats are clean and have there collars or drops on. (my house cats get to walk outside daily, (weather permitting) on a leash and harness. This way Iwill get this problem resolved before Chritmas get togethers. My vets office said they have had no complaints or surge in this type in the area and not aware of any out break of anything. So I will check the local homeware store for spray but also check petsmart too to see what they have and or advise. I wish I know more because I want to learn from this experience to share with other pets owners regarding this Litter bugs or pet food / pantry food bugs. By the way the pantry bugs do serarch out your and all types of grains from crakers,
    corn, all grains, etc. bread crumbles and I have had them invade all airtight containers, (those spendy ones from BB&beyond) Mason jars etc. And Dont forgeet your flour too! out it goes and mark new bag and place in a container. Same with your sugars too. Sorry I have to check my zip loc bags as these buys will crawl inside boxes to lay eggs, Like in your flour! and you must eleminat all bugs , shells and worms or you will get reinvested. Another tip, check your accustic ceiling look there they seem to like acoustic. Thats why I got rid of mine and second tip. If you have any wood cabinets, carts, tip them over after you empty them out and clean all these areas too you will be surprized what you find under there, I will also vac and clean under my fridge and stove and have done my trash compactor too!!! Hope this helps, There must be something we can mix that is natural in the cat litter to stop them naturally. Merry Christmas, Y’All I will keep checking posts to see if we can get a name for this pest. and how to rid our home and pets from it. I know I check the outside of boxes and bags beofre I buy to look for webs or bug casings.

    Reply
  11. I’ve sold and handled thousands of old books and I’ve only seen worm holes a few times. They are quite distinctive but must be pretty rare. Michigan’s climate limits some bugs from a long life.

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  12. I have been using Worlds Best cat litter for several years. I sometimes find tiny little bugs the size of a rice kernel or smaller in the laundry room where the litter box is. They are a very light tan color and disintegrate easily. I haven’t seen them in the litter but wonder if they could be little eggs from the corn that makes up the litter. Any suggestions as to what they are?

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  13. I just bought World’s Best Cat Litter from Walmart.com. All 3 bags are infested with small black bugs. They crawled out of the bag and are now in several places in our bathroom. I have thrown everything away, and cleaned with vinegar and water. I put Young Living Citronella along three baseboards where the cats Do NOT Go. Many oils are bad for cats—and I’m a huge fan of these oils! Only ones we use. They help humans and other animals, but cats are super sensitive! But a toxic digger was just not an option for us! Too soon to tell. Have put all our flour, etc. in the freezer. I am so disappointed because I trusted this brand!

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  14. We just started using corn litter (about 3-3 weeks ago), thinking we were being “eco-friendly”; but now we have and infestation of
    a “smoke” which is alive (little bugs flying),and it is killing some house plants. We’ll have to discard the corn litter, and go back to clay litter for now.

    Reply
  15. We just started using corn litter (about 3-3 weeks ago), thinking we were being “eco-friendly”; but now we have and infestation of
    a “smoke” which is alive (little bugs flying),and it is killing some house plants. We’ll have to discard the corn litter, and go back to clay litter for now.

    Reply
  16. Since I’m noticing a running theme here, insect droppings are generally so minute in quantity that they won’t be enough to be harmful. If I had a heavily infested piece of food I’d sooner throw it out, just like I would if I found an insect leg in that chocolate, but it ought to be perfectly safe. The basic food safety rule still always applies, of course: if in doubt, throw it out.

    It’s likely that you’ve eaten the bugs themselves. Insects themselves are generally safe to eat — if anything, they’re quite nutritious. There are very few varieties of bugs that are poisonous to humans, and most of them are only poisonous in “that’s way too many goddamned beetles” quantities. Like, buying-a-box-of-Screechin’-Beetles quantities: http://www.amazingsuperpowers.com/2008/04/noisy-cereal/ + http://www.amazingsuperpowers.com/hc/04142008/

    You are likely to eat a few thousand bug fragments per year in most of your food as it is. No-see-ums and other fruit flies are big culprits, but even things like bug parts might roll into processed foods.

    Yes, it’s disgusting. No, it’s unavoidable. =)

    The USFDA even explicitly permits bugs in your food, provided it’s not in excess of 60 insect fragments per 100 grams… though these fragments are usually too small to see except under magnification. A fully intact leg of a cockroach is definitely something that should be eliminated during quality control, and you have every right to complain if you find one. But a tiny crunchy bit of exoskeleton the size of the point of a pin, you might never even notice.

    Long story short: don’t worry about it. It’s gross, but that’s about it.

    Reply

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