Bess Beetle

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.

Leave a Comment