Currently viewing the category: "Clown Beetles"

Subject:  flat black beetle w large jaws
Geographic location of the bug:  Northeastern Washington State, USA
Date: 08/27/2021
Time: 09:23 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Anyone know what this beetle is? Very strange because it is so flat. With the big jaws, I would guess it might be some kind of underbark tree eater, but I’ve never seen one like this and can’t find it in any bug book or online. Invasive species? It is about the size of the tip of my pinkie. Was on the garage door in the backyard. There are various trees around: large ponderosa pines, Chinese elms, crabapple, mock orange bushes, lilacs, wisteria vines, fruit trees, poplar, cottonwood, mountain ash, birch, ash, and maples. Was found in late July. Weather has been record hot in the upper 90s-110 F and very dry and smoky from wildfires. It also had a tiny stowaway on its back (parasite?). Weird.
How you want your letter signed:  Jen Childress

Clown Beetle

Dear Jen,
Thanks so much for including a lateral view so our readership can see how flat a Clown Beetle really is.  We believe your Clown Beetle is in the genus
Hololepta.  Your habitat suspicions are confirmed on BugGuide where it states:  “Members of the nominate subgenus under bark of decaying hardwoods; members of the subgenus Iliotona in rotting vegetation incl. cactus, agave, and palms.”

Clown Beetle

Subject: Little green beetle
Location: South Australia
January 24, 2017 10:51 pm
Hi Bugman,
My name is Brooke. Today I found the cutest little beetle and after hours of failed research I couldn’t find the name! Please, do you know what bug this is?!
Signature: Curiouser and curiouser

Clown Beetle

Dear Brooke,
Because of the general shape of the beetle, and especially the shape of the antennae, we are quite confident this is a Scarab Beetle in the family Scarabaeidae, but alas, we did not find any matching images on the Brisbane Insect website.  Perhaps one of our readers will have more luck than we have had with a species identification for you.

Clown Beetle

Correction:  Clown Beetle, NOT Scarab Beetle
Thanks to two readers who provided comments with corrections, we now know that this is a Clown Beetle in the genus Saprinus.  According to the Australian Museum site:  “Histerids are usually shiny black or metallic-green beetles with introverted heads. Carrion-feeding forms generally hide under a corpse during the daylight, and only become active at night when they enter the maggot-infested part of the corpse to capture and devour maggots. Like other beetles inhabiting carrion, they have fast larval development with only two larval stages.  Beetles of the genus Saprinus are among the first beetles to arrive at carrion. The adults feed on both the larvae and pupae of all species of blowfly, although they have a preference for fresh pupae. The adults lay their eggs in the corpse, and the larvae feed on blowfly pupae when they emerge.”  The Atlas of Living Australia has supporting imagery and a nice range map.

Subject: Thin black insect with pinchers
Location: London Ontario Canada
May 10, 2016 6:42 pm
HI there, found this little guy in my hallway. He can tuck all his limbs in to be protected too. The pinchers appear to be at the front or head of the insect. Thanks for your help.
Signature: Does not matter.

Clown Beetle

Clown Beetle

This unusual beetle is a Clown Beetle in the genus Hololepta.

Thanks a lot for your help. I have never seen these where I lived before.
Jason

Subject: Infested Beetle
Location: grand rapids michigan
May 15, 2015 11:21 pm
I found this beetle on a log after dark. Its about the size of an index fingernail and just about as flat as one. The thing that I found really interesting is that its belly is covered with what appear to be aphids. At first I thought they were eggs or offspring but they really look like aphids, and they don’t resemble their host whatsoever. It doesn’t move much and seems content to just sit there… Hopefully you find this as interesting as I do.
Signature: dave

Clown Beetle

Clown Beetle

Dear Dave,
This very distinctive Beetle is a Clown Beetle, probably in the genus
Hololepta, and it is carrying Phoretic Mites, Neolobogynium americana, that use the mobility of the beetle to be transported from location to location to gain access to food.

Clown Beetle (ventral view) with Phoretic Mites

Clown Beetle (ventral view) with Phoretic Mites

Subject: Unknown stump decayer!!
Location: Wellington, CO
September 22, 2012 10:54 pm
While investing our cottonwood stump, we pulled off some of the bark and found this little fellow!! Details, 3 mm in length, 2 mm in width, 1 mm when flat against the trunk!!
I’ve been through the Bug Guide but still have not found it.
I will be out collection some for taking additional photos with a ruler to ensure measurements.
I do have additional full size photos if required.
Signature: Fish Seal

Clown Beetle

Dear Fish Seal,
The size and resolution on two of the images you submitted were so small as to be useless for identification purposes.  Thankfully you did submit one closeup image.  Our email program can accept large files which enables us to crop and to provide the highest web resolution possible for our readership.  Images that have been reduced in size prior to submission often result in inferior quality once we have posted them.  This is a Clown Beetle in the family Histeridae, and according to BugGuide, depending upon the species, their habitat includes:  “dung, carrion, decomposing fungi, under bark, in ant nests, forest litter, flood debris, treeholes, bird nests, mammal/reptile burrows, at sap flows, under wrack on beaches, and on sandy beaches.”  The closest match we were able to find on BugGuide is
Platylomalus aequalis.  BugGuide indicates that the habitat is:  “Found under bark. Dillon and Dillon(1) state that it is most common under the bark and logs of poplar and cottonwood.”  That is consistent with your sighting. 

Beetle with babies
Location: Hudson Valley NY
November 8, 2011 3:49 pm
Found this during the freak October snowstorm. This was during a power outage so I had to light it with a flashlight, otherwise I would have had better pictures.
What is it? Have never seen one before. It was a beautiful glossy black.
Signature: Bugged in NY

Clown Beetle with Mites

Dear Bugged in NY,
Your letter probably deserves much more research than we have the time for right now, so we will be brief.  These are not baby beetles.  They are Mites, and we suspect they are phoretic Mites that are using the beetle as a means of transportation to get from one food source to another.  The beetle is a Clown Beetle in the genus
Hololepta.  You can view BugGuide for additional information on Clown Beetles.  Earlier this year, we received another image of a Clown Beetle with Phoretic Mitesand the Mites were identified as  “Neolobogynium americana (family Diplogyniidae). Adults are phoretic on Hololepta beetles.”

Clown Beetle with Phoretic Mites