Currently viewing the category: "Bess Beetles"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

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

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Subject:  What beetle is this?  It hisses!
Geographic Location of the Bug:  Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
Date:  October 19, 2017
Time:  10:39:19 AM EDT
Hi Dan,
Found this beetle in my barn in S.M.L. Va. Very pretty, shinny, and if you pick it up it hisses. So kool. Would you please let me know what kind of beetle this is? Love your website, thanks for all you and staff do to educate everyone!
Thanks Hairy Mary

Bess Beetle

Dear Hairy Mary,
This is a Bess Beetle in the family Passalidae.  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. …  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.”  The hissing sound you heard was the stridulation.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  My New Friend
Location:  Holly Springs, MS
September 21, 2017 5:41 PM
Hi Daniel!
I was picking Magnolia tree seeds off the ground and made a new friend. LoL
Hope you’re having a great bug day!  Thank you for all you do. Your public adores your website!
Stephanie Berry
Aka previous bug queen

Bess Beetle

Dear Stephanie, AKA bug queen,
We love that you get a manicure and don your jewelry prior to doing yard work.  This awesome beetle is a Bess Beetle in the family Passalidae.  According to BugGuide:  “Unusual (for beetles) subsocial lifestyle. Adults and larvae live together in family groups in galleries excavated in rotting wood by adults. Adults care for larvae, and actively feed them prechewed food. Both adults and larvae stridulate, which is used for communication within the group.”

Bess Beetle

Thank you for getting back to me. I love you and your website. Critters of all kinds are special to me!
Have a great weekend, my fav bug man!
Steph

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: stag beetle like with single forehead protrusion
Location: Chapel Hill, NC, central piedmont of Chapel Hill
March 17, 2016 11:46 am
Found this guy yesterday walking on some moss in a damp, shady area, about midday. 1 1/2 inches long, with a single hose-bib like protrusion on its forehead. It was slow and not aggressive. I have posted a short video of it at http://curiousneedleworks.com/2016/03/17/marching-beetle-for-march/, in case you would like to see it move.
If I could get a genus, that’d be enough to keep me happy. I’ve got it down to scarabaeoidea, but can’t tell beyond that. I think it might be a stag beetle.
Thanks for doing this!
Signature: Jessica

Bess Beetle

Bess Beetle

Dear Jessica,
Though it resembles a Stag Beetle, this Bess Beetle, Peg Beetle or Patent Leather Beetle in the family Passalidae  is a social beetle with a family structure in which both parents care for and communicate audibly with the grubs.  According to BugGuide:  “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 (image), 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).”

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Beetle
Location: South Carolina
September 28, 2015 11:36 am
I need to know what kind of beetle I found in the woods of South Carolina during September please. Will you figure it out?
Signature: Lucas Prickett

Passalid Beetle

Passalid Beetle

Dear Lucas,
This is a Bess Beetle or Passalid Beetle, a species that lives in rotted wood.  According to BugGuide, they have an “Unusual (for beetles) subsocial lifestyle. Adults and larvae live together in family groups in galleries excavated in rotting wood by adults. Adults care for larvae, and actively feed them prechewed food. Both adults and larvae stridulate, which is used for communication within the group. See Generic Guide to New World Scarab Beetles for more details.”

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Bess Beetle

Bess Beetle

Subject: Beetle Variant
Location: Reston, VA
October 14, 2014 11:27 am
Hello! I have enjoyed several of your posts helping to identify bugs. A friend of mine found this beetle in in October in her garden, Northern Virginia. She raises Monarchs and wants to find out if this one is one of the caterpillar hunters – or other threat to butterfly life. It does not appear to be a ‘hunter’ and nor does it seem to match the photos I saw of the plain ground beetles. Look at the gold/orange coloring on legs and antennae. It also doesn’t seem to have the extended head of a ‘big head ground beetle’. We would like to know what variety it is and if it is friend or foe to our butterfly friends. Thank you so much!
Signature: many thanks, L Phillips

Dear L. Phillips,
Tell your friend this Bess Beetle in the genus
Odontotaenius whose identity we verified on BugGuide, is no threat to the Monarchs.  Caterpillar Hunters like the Fiery Searcher are very different looking.  Members of the Bess Beetle Passalidae care for their young and they feed on rotting wood.  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 (image), 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.”  Our editorial staff spent many family holidays in Reston in the early 1970s.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination