Do Click Beetles Bite? Debunking Myths and Facts

Click beetles are fascinating insects known for their unique clicking mechanism, which they use primarily as a defense to escape or startle potential predators. These beetles belong to the family Elateridae, and while they can be somewhat intimidating in appearance, many people wonder if they pose any threat to humans through biting.

In fact, click beetles are generally harmless to humans, as they do not bite or sting. Although they might have reddish, yellowish, or dark body coloration and can vary in size depending on the species, their main focus is on avoiding danger rather than inflicting harm. So, if you encounter a click beetle, rest assured that it poses no threat to you.

Click Beetles Overview

Identification and Features

Click beetles are insects belonging to the family Elateridae within the order Coleoptera. Some key features include:

  • Elongated, parallel-sided body
  • Shield-like pronotum behind the head
  • Backward projections on side corners of the pronotum
  • Somewhat flattened appearance

Their size and color vary by species, with some smaller species measuring about 1/4 inches long1.

Species and Distribution

Click beetles can be found in various regions across the United States and Canada. The Eyed Click Beetle is a well-known species that has striking appearance and can catch the attention of entomologists2. Another related family of beetles is the Eucnemidae, known as false click beetles3. They are similar in appearance to click beetles, and some species can even “click.”

Here’s a comparison table for click beetles and false click beetles (Eucnemidae):

Click Beetles (Elateridae) False Click Beetles (Eucnemidae)
Elongated, parallel-sided Similar body shape
Unique clicking mechanism Some species can “click”
Found across North America

In summary, click beetles are a distinctive group of insects within the order Coleoptera. They are identified by their elongated bodies, shield-like pronotum, and clicking ability. They can be found across the United States and Canada, and have close relatives in the Eucnemidae family.

Click Beetles Behavior and Biology

Life Cycle and Development

Click beetles undergo a complete metamorphosis, consisting of four stages: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults1. Their larvae, known as “wireworms,” are generally hard-bodied, brown, and cylindrical2. The life cycle duration varies depending on species and environmental conditions3.

  • Eggs: Tiny and white, laid in soil4
  • Larvae: Called “wireworms”5
  • Pupae: Transform in the soil6
  • Adults: Attain a hard shell and functional wings7

Diet and Predation

Click beetles are majorly omnivorous8. Wireworms feed on plant roots, while the adults consume nectar, pollen, and sometimes other insects9. A few examples of their potential prey include aphids and mites10. Their diet may vary across species11.

Nocturnal Activities

Being nocturnal creatures, click beetles are most active during the night12. Alaus oculatus, also known as the eastern eyed click beetle, is one such nocturnal species13. They use their bioluminescent properties to communicate and find potential mates14.

Bioluminescent Species

A few click beetles, like those belonging to the Alaus genus, exhibit bioluminescence15. For example, Alaus oculatus has two luminescent spots on the pronotum (thorax region) that look like eyes, giving them an illusion of being a larger predator16. Some of their bioluminescent features include:

  • Bright spots: Located on the thorax17
  • Bioluminescent organ: Emits greenish-blue light18
  • Purpose: Attracts mates, scares off predators19
Feature Non-Bioluminescent Species Bioluminescent Species
Habitat Any shady, moist area20 Forests, woodlands21
Biology Lacks light-emitting organs Possess light-emitting organs22
Nocturnal Activities Feeding, seeking mates23 Communicate using light signals24
Predator Defense Clicking mechanism25 Bioluminescence (intimidation)26

Do Click Beetles Bite

Interaction with Humans

Click beetles generally do not pose a significant threat to humans. They are not known for their biting behavior, as their mandibles are not strong enough to inflict pain on humans. In fact, their primary interaction with humans is when they are accidentally encountered, and they might use their clicking mechanism to momentarily startle people.

Potential Threats

Although click beetles are not harmful to humans, they can potentially cause some damage to various plants. The larvae of click beetles, called wireworms, feed on underground plant parts, such as roots and tubers. This feeding behavior can negatively impact the growth and health of the affected plants. However, this damage is usually minor and does not lead to severe consequences for humans.

In summary, click beetles are not known to bite humans or pose any significant threat. They are merely curious insects that prefer to interact with their environment rather than humans.

Click Beetles and Agriculture

Wireworms and Crop Damage

Click beetles belong to the family of beetles called Elateridae, and their larvae are known as wireworms. Wireworms are hard-bodied, brownish, and cylindrical, and they can cause significant damage to various crops. For example:

  • Wireworms attack crops like potatoes, corn, and wheat
  • They can feed on seeds, roots, and stem bases

The infestation of wireworms may lead to reduced crop yield or even complete crop failure in severe cases.

Pest Control Methods

Managing wireworms in agriculture involves a combination of techniques to control and prevent infestations. Some common methods include:

  • Clean cultivation: Regularly tilling and cultivating the soil to disrupt the wireworms’ habitat
  • Clean fallowing: Leaving fields fallow and weed-free to deprive wireworms of a food source
  • Insecticides: Using chemical treatments to control the pest population

However, each method has its pros and cons. For understanding differences, here’s a comparison table:

Method Pros Cons
Clean cultivation Disrupts wireworm habitat; Environment-friendly Time-consuming; Requires labor
Clean fallowing Reduces food source; Environment-friendly Decreased land productivity; Temporary solution
Insecticides Fast-acting; Effective control Chemical impact on environment; May harm beneficial insects

Besides these techniques, extension services and integrated pest management strategies may also be utilized to ensure a healthy, pest-free environment in gardens and crop fields.

Identifying and Preventing Infestations

Signs of Click Beetle Presence

Click beetles are elongated, parallel-sided insects that can be identified by backward projections on the side corners of the shield behind the head (pronotum).

  • Adults are usually brown to black in color, though some species have reddish tones.
  • They are somewhat flattened and can range in size depending on the species.
  • One key identifier is their “clicking” sound, which they use as a defense mechanism.

These beetles tend to prefer environments with moist conditions, making decaying logs and similar habitats attractive to them.

Preventive Measures

Proper identification and prevention can help reduce the likelihood of a click beetle infestation.

  • Keep moisture content low in your home or property to make it less attractive to click beetles.
  • Store firewood off the ground and away from your home, as they can be found in decaying wood.
  • Regularly inspect your home for potential entry points, sealing any cracks or holes.
  • Consult with a professional pest control company like Orkin for further advice on prevention and management.

In comparison to other beetles such as soldier beetles, scarab beetles, or blister beetles, click beetles are less likely to bite humans and are generally considered to be less of a threat. However, proper identification and prevention measures are still necessary to avoid any potential issues with these insects.

Footnotes

  1. Click Beetle/Wireworm – Texas A&M University 2

  2. click beetles – Alaus spp. – Entomology and Nematology Department 2

  3. Click Beetle / Wireworm – Texas A&M University 2

  4. Click Beetle Eggs

  5. Click Beetle / Wireworm

  6. Click Beetle Pupae

  7. Click Beetle Adult Phase

  8. Click Beetles Diet

  9. Click Beetles Feeding Habits

  10. Click Beetle Prey

  11. Species-based Variation in Diet

  12. Nocturnal Behavior of Click Beetles

  13. Alaus oculatus

  14. Bioluminescent Communication

  15. Bioluminescence in Click Beetles

  16. Eastern Eyed Click Beetle

  17. Bioluminescent spots

  18. Bioluminescent Organ

  19. Bioluminescence Purpose

  20. Habitat for Non-Bioluminescent Species

  21. Habitat for Bioluminescent Species

  22. Biology of Bioluminescent Species

  23. Nocturnal Activities of Non-Bioluminescent Species

  24. Nocturnal Activities of Bioluminescent Species

  25. Predator Defense Mechanism

  26. Bioluminescent Defense

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 – Click Beetle

 

Beetle? help
Playing possum but he’s some type of snap beetle..I think. Can you help? Located in Prescott Arizona.
Justine

Hi Justine,
We located this beautiful Click Beetle on BugGuide. It is in the genus Chalcolepidius.

Letter 2 – Click Beetle

 

Dear Bugman:
What is it? What does it do? Seen at ca. 6000 feet in central Arizona on 7/10/07 It flies (rather spectacularly).
Paul Kinslow,
Scottsdale, AZ

Hi Paul,
This beauty is a Click Beetle in the genus Chalcolepidius.

Letter 3 – Click Beetle

 

Never have seen one of these before
This guy flew right at me as I was sitting on my back porch and instinct lead him to hit the ground. He is nearly two inches long and was not able to fly after the impact but he jumped like a Mexican jumping bean. Even on his back, he would pop up into the air nearly a foot high. No wings were being used, apparently just some weird internal mechanism. The picture is a little blurry, I apologize. I was trying to take it as fast as possible before it jumped on me. Hopefully you can identify this amazingly armored insect. He is hard as a rock and a series of swats from the swatter did nothing but make him jump more. I know you don’t approve of such actions, but he really gave me the creeps. I live in Collinsville, IL and there are cornfields nearby the area. Thank you for your time.
Kris

Hi Kris,
Both your photo and your written description leave little doubt that this is a Click Beetle in the family Elateridae, but exact species, genus or even subfamily will be nearly impossible to determine based on a photograph. Click Beetles have the ability to flex at the junction of the thorax and abdomen with enough pressure to snap the beetle into the air so it will land on its feet if it began in a seemingly helpless position on its back. This action produces an audible click, hence the name Click Beetle.

Letter 4 – Click Beetle

 

Beetle Identification
Location:  Prescott, Arizona
August 20, 2010 1:28 pm
Dear Sir (or Madam):
We were hiking in Prescott,Arizona and saw several of these beetles on the bark of Alligator Junipers/Pines.
Would you be able to identify them for me? I found similar looking beetles that were solid black, but none with the yellow-stripped sides.
Thank you for your consideration.
Jeff Ross

Click Beetle

Hi Jeff,
We do not know why
Chalcolepidius apachianus, which we identified on BugGuide, does not have the common name Apache Click Beetle.  Bugguide has no information on the species, but indicates it has been photographed in Arizona and Utah.  Since there is not much information to be found online for the beautiful Chalcolepidius apachianus, we will propose a second name:  Skunk Stripe Click Beetle.

Click Beetle

Letter 5 – Click Beetle

 

Subject: Is this a cockroach?
Location: upstate new york
July 12, 2014 8:05 pm
I’ve been up close and personal with different breeds of roaches, but i don’t know what this one is? I don’t believe it is a roach! It squishes way to easily, almost turning into a powder. Please help! I have found 4 or 5 in my house!
Signature: Jenna

Click Beetle
Click Beetle

Hi Jenna,
You are correct that this is not a Cockroach.  It is a Click Beetle in the family Elateridae.

Letter 6 – Click Beetle

 

Subject: New insect on our land in Patagonian Chile
Location: Aisen, Patagonian Chile
January 28, 2015 12:55 pm
This bug appeared on our ,and today and are wondering what it is. We live in Aisen, Patagonian Chile.
Signature: Paul Coleman

Click Beetle
Click Beetle

Dear Paul,
This is a gorgeous Click Beetle in the family Elateridae, a group characterized by the ability of snapping the thoracic and abdominal body segments against a surface should an unfortunate Click Beetle find itself on its back.  The action produces an audible click and allow the beetle to flip in the air, righting itself.  Your individual looks very similar to the species
 Semiotus luteipennis which is featured on a stamp from Chile on the Insects on Stamps website.  It is also pictured on Coleoptera Neotropical and on  Living Jewels.

Click Beetle
Click Beetle

Letter 7 – Click Beetle

 

Subject:  What bug is this
Geographic location of the bug:  Newport News Virginia
Date: 06/13/2018
Time: 08:07 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Seen this bug outside, my friend said it was a roach but I don’t think it is
How you want your letter signed:  Jordan hammond

Click Beetle

Dear Jordan,
Your friend is mistaken.  This is a Click Beetle in the family Elateridae.  Click Beetles have gotten their common name because they are able to snap their bodies if they find themselves on their backs, and the snapping propels them into the air so that they land on their feet, producing a clicking sound during the action.

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.

  • 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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