The Essential Quick Guide to Diabolical Ironclad Beetles

Diabolical ironclad beetles are fascinating creatures with unique features that set them apart from other beetles. These resilient insects are known for their remarkable crush-resistant exoskeletons, allowing them to survive extreme conditions.

Native to the western coast of North America, diabolical ironclad beetles are mainly found under the bark of hardwood and coniferous trees link. Their armor-like exoskeletons have evolved from the forewings of their flying ancestors, contributing to their strength and durability.

Researchers have discovered that the shell of a diabolical ironclad beetle can withstand an astounding force of up to 149 Newtons link. This impressive ability offers valuable insights for engineers and scientists seeking to design tougher materials and stronger connections between different material types.

Diabolical Ironclad Beetle: An Overview

Classification and Species

The Diabolical Ironclad Beetle, also known as Phloeodes diabolicus, is a unique species of beetle. It belongs to the family Zopheridae within the order Coleoptera. Some key features of this beetle are:

  • Armor-like exoskeleton
  • Inability to fly
  • Exceptionally strong and crush-resistant

This beetle has a size of about 2 cm long, making it relatively small in comparison to other beetles.

Habitat and Lifespan

The Ironclad Beetle is native to North America, particularly in the West Coast regions. It is commonly found in desert regions and woodlands, such as pecan groves. The beetle has an impressive lifespan, sometimes reaching up to 8 years.

Here is a comparison table of key factors:

Factor Diabolical Ironclad Beetle
Classification Phloeodes diabolicus
Size 2 cm
Habitat Desert regions, woodlands
Lifespan Up to 8 years
Crush Resistance 39,000x its body weight

As you can see, the Diabolical Ironclad Beetle is both incredibly well-suited to its habitat and boasts an impressive range of features that make it a fascinating subject of study.

Incredible Durability and Strength

Exoskeleton Structure and Composition

The diabolical ironclad beetle is a unique insect with incredible durability and strength. Its exoskeleton, made predominantly of chitin and proteins, forms a protective armor that is twice as strong as other beetles.

The beetle’s wingcases, or elytra, are fused together, preventing it from flying but providing extra reinforcement. The exoskeleton also belongs to the family Zopheridae, known for their robust body armor.

Impact-Absorbing Structures and Joints

This beetle species features specialized impact-absorbing structures that join its exoskeletal sections together.

These microscopic structures help distribute pressure and provide resistance to crushing forces. Additionally, the rigid joints in the beetle’s exoskeleton resist bending, increasing its overall durability.

Resisting Crushing Forces

One of the most remarkable characteristics of the diabolical ironclad beetle is its ability to withstand crushing forces. The insect can endure compression of up to 39,000 times its body weight.

This seemingly invincible beetle can even survive being run over by a car. Its predator-proof armor offers invaluable protection, making it nearly indestructible.

Comparison Table: Diabolical Ironclad Beetle vs. Other Beetles

Feature Diabolical Ironclad Beetle Other Beetles
Exoskeleton Strength Twice as strong Regular strength
Elytra (Wingcases) Fused together, non-flying Separate, allowing flight
Impact-Absorbing Structures Present, increasing resistance Less developed
Crushing Force Resistance 39,000 times their body weight Lower resistance
Predation Predator-proof, nearly indestructible More vulnerable

Scientific Studies and Applications

Engineering and Material Sciences

The diabolical ironclad beetle is known for its impressive exoskeleton strength. Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, have found that these beetles can withstand compression up to 39,000 times their body weight. In material sciences, this discovery is being used to inspire better joints for engineering applications.

  • Pro: The beetle’s sutures provide mechanical interlocking and toughening.
  • Con: Further research is needed for practical applications.

Advancements in Construction and Transportation

Scientists are studying the beetle’s fracture-resistant exoskeleton to apply its properties in construction and vehicles. For example, its impact-absorbing features can help engineers design buildings and automobiles with increased durability and safety.

  • Pro: Increased safety in buildings and vehicles.
  • Con: More research required for effective implementation.
Feature Diabolical Ironclad Beetle Traditional Materials
Crush resistance High Moderate to Low
Elasticity Moderate Varies
Potential applications Buildings, vehicles Varies

Future Research and Developments

Due to its incredible strength, scientists and engineers foresee a range of potential applications for the diabolical ironclad beetle’s exoskeleton features:

  • Aircraft manufacturing
  • Transportation
  • Infrastructure
  • Personal protective gear

More research is necessary to effectively incorporate these features into our everyday lives. These advancements could help us build a safer and more durable future.

Unique Features and Adaptations

Flightless and Predator Resilience

The diabolical ironclad beetle, usually found in the deserts of the southwest United States, is a flightless insect due to the change in their elytra (forewings) as they evolved from flying ancestors12. Their flightlessness enables them to have:

  • A more robust exoskeleton
  • Enhanced resistance to predators
  • Long lifespans, sometimes up to 8 years2

Other insects and even some mammals have difficulty preying on these beetles due to their incredible body armor3.

Body Armor and Protective Mechanisms

Ironclad beetles have an exceptionally strong exoskeleton, with their shell being twice as strong as other beetles2. Their survival is attributed to the following factors:

  • Jigsaw puzzle-like structure
  • Suture connections on their exoskeleton
  • Layered hardened cuticle4
Comparison Other Beetles Diabolical Ironclad Beetle
Shell Strength Regular strength Twice as strong2
Protection Lesser protection Incredibly crush-resistant1
Top Speed Faster, capable of flight Slower, flightless2

These adaptations make them able to withstand enormous amounts of pressure, even from being run over by a car3.

Mating and Reproduction

Diabolical ironclad beetles follow a reproduction process involving stages of larva, pupa, and a gooey substance that acts as glue for mating5. Some notable features of their reproduction include:

  • Eggs are laid on or near fungi, which serve as food for the early life stages5
  • The glue-like secretion helps in the display and connecting of the two beetles5
  • The separate composition of their exoskeleton does not affect mating5

Their tough exoskeleton provides the necessary defense for their vital organs and ensures the survival of the species4.

Footnotes

  1. https://als.lbl.gov/microstructures-explain-beetle-exoskeleton-strength/ 2
  2. https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2020/uncrushable-bugs-diabolical-ironclad-beetle-has-shell-twice-as-strong-as-other-beetles/ 2 3 4 5
  3. https://news.uci.edu/2020/10/21/uci-materials-scientists-discover-design-secrets-of-nearly-indestructible-insect/ 2
  4. https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2020/10/27/x-rays-reveal-architectural-clues-to-the-crush-resistance-of-diabolical-ironclad-beetles/ 2
  5. https://ag.purdue.edu/stories/ironclad-beetles-offer-a-lot-to-learn-for-engineers-and-entomologists/ 2 3 4

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 – Diabolical Ironclad Beetle, we presume

Subject: What is this beetle?
Location: San Diego county
September 16, 2013 6:49 pm
My sons call this a rock beetle but I don’t know what it is really called. Found in September in inland San Diego County. They find them in the grass, near rocks. They would also like to know what it eats.
Signature: Wants to impress my boys

Ironclad Beetle
Ironclad Beetle

Well, we will do our best to make you shine.  This is an Ironclad Beetle in the genus Phloeodes.  According to BugGuide, there are two species in California, Phloeodes plicatus and Phloeodes diabolicus, and the latter has the common name Diabolical Ironclad Beetle.  Most of the information is contained on the BugGuide information page for the Diabolical Ironclad Beetle where it states the habitat is “Woodlands, Found under loose bark of oak, cottonwood.”  There is no information provided on diet.  We turned to Charles Hogue’s Insects of the Los Angeles Basin where the author writes:  “This beetle derives its name from its extremely hard body wall, which may be difficult to pierce even with a sharp pin.  …  Adult Ironclads are fairly abundant locally under the loose bark of dead trees, especially oaks.  They are thought to feed on punky fungus-ridden wood.”  The Sam Wells Bug Page has some interesting information, including:  “Ironclad beetles are the tanks of the insect world. They are famous (or infamous) for walking away after being stepped on. There are even reports of species being run over by cars without apparent harm. To an entomologist, they are notorious for the challenge of getting an insect pin through their thick skin (cuticle). What usually happens is the first attempt bends the pin. The second attempt bruises the thumb and forefinger to the bone. And then with a combination of anger and grit (and with two hands gripping the shaft) the pin is forced through the reinforced exoskeleton. With luck it has gone through straight and without popping the legs off on the other side. Very often it doesn’t – as verified by any number of oddly pinned specimens stuck to the bottom of unit trays in the museums of the world.”  We imagine your sons refer to them as “rock beetles” because they are as tough as rocks.

Letter 2 – Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

April 15, 2011
Last Friday, Daniel noticed this Diabolical Ironclad Beetle,
Phloeodes diabolicus, nestled into a crevice in the asphalt paving of the street along side the Mt. Washington WTB? offices.  It seems the beetle was attempting to cross the road.  With most insects, this might be a dicey proposition since getting run over by a car would mean squishing, however, the Diabolical Ironclad Beetle has a very hard exoskeleton.  It would most likely survive being run over by a vehicle.  The Diabolical Ironclad Beetle played dead during the photo shoot, and it was eventually released in the garden among the logs.  See BugGuide for more photos of Diabolical Ironclad Beetles.

As an aside, we will be out of the office for several days, and no new identification requests will be answered during our absence.  We can say with some confidence that any emails that arrive between April 20 and April 26 might not get a response.  However, we will be preparing daily automatic postings in our absence.

Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

Letter 3 – Desert Ironclad Beetle

Subject: WHAT IS THIS BUG?
Location: ARIZONA
May 3, 2013 9:25 pm
STRANGE BUG MY FB FRIEND SEEN IN ARIZONA?
Signature: DAN

Desert Ironclad Beetle
Desert Ironclad Beetle

Hi DAN,
This is a Desert Ironclad Beetle,
Asbolus verrucosus, one of the Darkling Beetles.  More information and images of Desert Ironclad Beetles can be found on BugGuide.

Letter 4 – Diabolical Ironclad Beetle


While walking briskly throught the canyon today, we noticed this Ironclad Beetle, Phloedes diabolicus, ambling across our path. Our first inclination was to move it out of harm’s way so an oblivious hiker or a malicious entomophobe wouldn’t step on it and crush it, despite its name which alludes to the extremely hard body. On second thought, we turned around, scooped up the beetle and returned home to our digital camera to take some photos. After the photo session, we returned the beetle to the canyon. Adult Phloedes diabolicus beetles grow to about an inch in length. They are found under the bark of dead trees, especially oaks, and are thought to feed on fungus ridden wood. A similar species, Phloedes pustolosus is a dull grayish black with the bases and apices of the elytra whitish. Phloedes diabolicus is entirely black.

Letter 5 – Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

Phloeodes diabolicum- diabolical ironclad beetle
Hi,
I found this wandering around in the men’s restroom at work. I found a picture on your website and thought you might want to see this one. I found it in Placentia, California.
Enjoy,
Eddie

Hi Eddie,
Thanks for sending in your wonderful photo of this fascinating Darkling Beetle. They are known as Ironclad Beetles since the exoskeleton is nearly impenetrable.

Letter 6 – Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

a bug of course
Hi.
I was picking up my children’s playroom, and from the edge of the carpet – crammed between the wall & carpet – I grabbed what i thought was a clump of lint, thread, something like that. To my horror it was not lint! What is this thing? It’s “shell” is hard, and textured. On each end it has what could be mistaken for eyes; however, it pulls it’s head inside it’s “shell” to hide; along with pulling its antennae in, and pulls it’s legs all in tightly to it’s sides. Then it “plays dead”, i guess. It’s moving all over the place now (well, inside the little container it’s in), but as soon as i pick up the container, it does that all over again, and goes dormant for quite a while before coming back “out” again. We live in SAN DIEGO COUNTY, CA. Our house is at the bottom of several small hills. We’ve had dozens of weird insects/bugs; and spiders have become the norm. We’ve also had lots of snakes, including rattlers. (don’t know if that’s relevant or not) Thanks,
Joanne
San Diego

Hi Joanne,
This is a Diabolical Ironclad Beetle, Phloeodes diabolicum, and your description is quite accurate. Despite the ominous name, the Diabolical Ironclad Beetle is not a threat to your household. Adults are often found under bark and eat fungus

Letter 7 – Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

Black Beetle found in Los Angeles
July 8, 2010
My daughter and I saw this little guy crawling along in Descanso Gardens. As soon as we were close he stood still and we stared at him for a good long while. Once we moved on he happily kept on walking. He was not smooth and appeared to have little ridges along his back. He was not shiny but a dull black.
However you want 🙂
Los Angeles, CA

Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

Your beetle is a Diabolical Ironclad Beetle, Phloeodes diabolicus, and you can find additional information on BugGuide.  BugGuide indicates it is found in California in “Woodlands, Found under loose bark of oak, cottonwood.”

Letter 8 – Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

Hard black bug – SoCal
Location: southern California (greater L.A. area)
March 17, 2011 6:59 pm
What’s that bug? It’s an all black beetle of some kind, with an extremely hard shell. Seen mostly at night here in southern California, but not exclusively. When disturbed it retracts its legs and sits like a motionless bark flake or pebble for long periods – hard as a rock.
Signature: bugging me

Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

This appears to be a Diabolical Ironclad Beetle, Phloeodes diabolicus, or a closely related species.  Ironclad Beetles are so named because they have extremely hard exoskeletons, as your email indicates.  We are not certain why this species has earned the modifier “Diabolical” though.  That might take a bit of research when we have more time.  You can read more about the Diabolical Ironclad Beetle on BugGuide.

Letter 9 – Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

Subject:  What kind of beetle?
Geographic location of the bug:  Southern California
Date: 04/28/2019
Time: 12:37 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This bug used to be prominent years ago. This is the first time I have seen it since. But I do not know what kind of beetle it is. Photo was taken outside on my house.
How you want your letter signed:  Laurie

Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

Dear Laurie,
This is a Diabolical Ironclad Beetle.  According to BugGuide, the habitat is “Woodlands, Found under loose bark of oak, cottonwood.”

Dear Daniel,
Wow, that is cool.  Thank you so much for letting me know.
Sincerely,
Laurie

Letter 10 – Diabolical Ironclad Beetle avoids becoming Unnecessary Carnage

Indestructible Beetle?
Location:  Fresno, California
August 15, 2010 6:03 pm
Hello-
I have been finding damaged leaves on the ornamental plants around my home recently. Last night I found this beetle on the wall and thought maybe he could be the culprit? But when I tried to squish the bugger, I found it was like trying to squish a piece of concrete! The beetle shrugged it off, unharmed. I was impressed. Now I am curious to know what this very cool little juggernaut is. Thanks.
Ryan

Ironclad Beetle

Hi Ryan,
Let’s start by setting the record straight.  This Diabolical Ironclad Beetle,
Phloeodes diabolicus (see BugGuide), was not damaging the leaves on your ornamental plants.  They feed on fungus riddled wood, not leaves.  Thankfully, as its name implies, the Diabolical Ironclad Beetle has an exoskeleton that is very hard and difficult to penetrate or it may have become unnecessary carnage when you tried to squish it.  Collectors are unable to push pins through the exoskeleton for mounting purposes without first drilling a hole.  We hope that in the future you will refrain from squishing creatures that you don’t understand.

Letter 11 – Diabolical Ironclad Beetle found identified in Mount Washington

Subject:  My bug post
Geographic location of the bug:  Mt. Washington
Date: 01/07/2020
Time: 08:40 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I have identified my bug and it is the Diabolical Ironclad Beetle. I also found your answer about it to another person. Good info thanks.
How you want your letter signed:  Jessica

Diabolical Ironclad Beetle

Dear Jessica,
You are absolutely correct with your identification of this Diabolical Ironclad Beetle,
Phloeodes diabolicus, a species that derives its common name because of its nearly impenetrable exoskeleton.  It seems you and Daniel are neighbors in Mount Washington, and it is nice to know that our local hippy chicks haven’t been totally supplanted by newer residents.

Authors

    by
  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

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12 thoughts on “The Essential Quick Guide to Diabolical Ironclad Beetles”

  1. My daughter brought one home, but we don’t know what it eats. Appears to go for the mushroom. Sure would like to know what else. Not sure how hard it is to find lichen covered tree bark. Please give us ideas if you have any. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Recently found one in the restored coastal sagescrub/chaparral habitat of Baldwin Hills in Los Angeles in wood chip mulch near a young oak tree

    Reply
  3. We have many iron clad beetles on the cenral coast. Oak woodlads and chapperal. In Prunedale ca an hollister ca we see them.

    Reply
  4. We just found one in the sand we live in Woodward, Oklahoma in the northwest part of the state. We have no trees it’s just flat plains here.

    Reply

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