Do Click Beetles Fly? Uncovering the Truth about Their Abilities

Click beetles are insects belonging to the family Elateridae and are known for their unique clicking mechanism. This mechanism helps them escape from predators, and is also useful for righting themselves when they end up on their backs source.

When it comes to the question of whether click beetles can fly, the answer is yes. They have wings and are capable of flying, which aids them in finding food and suitable habitats. These beetles are often found on leaves and flowers, where they search for sustenance source.

These fascinating creatures not only have the ability to fly, but also exhibit other interesting behaviors and features that make them stand out in the world of insects. To summarize, click beetles are flying insects with a unique clicking mechanism that serves as both defense and assistance in navigation.

Click Beetles Overview

Family Elateridae

Click beetles belong to the family Elateridae, which is a diverse group of beetles known for their ability to snap and produce a clicking sound. They are often found in various habitats, such as forests, fields, and gardens.

Appearance

Click beetles have a unique appearance, with an elongated and somewhat flattened body. Their most notable feature is the pronotum, the shield-like portion between the head and wing covers, which is extended on each side and points to the rear1.

Color and Size

Click beetles come in a variety of colors and sizes. Most species are drab brown, black, or gray, with some having interesting patterns2. Smaller species are about 1/4 inch long, while others can reach up to 2-1/2 inches3.

Clicking Sound

The clicking mechanism of click beetles is used for multiple purposes. Primarily, it serves as a defense mechanism to escape or startle potential predators4. Additionally, it helps the beetle “right” itself when it gets turned onto its back5. The sound is produced when the beetle snaps its body, generating a loud click.

Features Summary

  • Belong to the Elateridae family
  • Elongated and somewhat flattened body
  • Drab colors, but some with interesting patterns
  • Range in size, from 1/4 inch to 2-1/2 inches

Biology and Behavior

Lifecycle

Click beetles undergo a complete metamorphosis, which includes four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The larvae, known as wireworms, are typically found in the soil and measure about ½ to 2½ inches long. They have three pairs of tiny true legs behind the head and a flattened, ornamented shield-like segment on the tail end of the body. The lifecycle of a click beetle can vary depending on the species and environmental factors.

Nocturnal Habits

Click beetles are primarily nocturnal creatures. Most of their activities, such as feeding and mating, occur during the night. Being nocturnal helps these beetles to evade predators and avoid exposure to extreme daytime temperatures.

Diet

The diet of click beetles can vary depending on the stage of their lifecycle:

  • Larvae (wireworms):
    • Feed on roots and stem bases of plants, occasionally causing damage to crops.
    • Some species of click beetle larvae are known to be predatory and feed on other insect larvae.
  • Adults:
    • Feed mostly on nectar and pollen from flowers.
    • Some species, like the eyed click beetle, are known to prey on longhorn beetle grubs.
Comparison Larvae (wireworms) Adults
Habitat Soil Flowers, decaying logs
Diet Roots, stem bases, insect larvae Nectar, pollen, longhorn beetle grubs

In conclusion, understanding the biology and behavior of click beetles helps entomologists and others in the science field to study their impact on ecosystems and devise control methods when necessary.

Ecological Impact and Management

Infestations in Agricultural Crops

Click beetles are known for their ability to fly and their wireworm larvae can cause significant damage to a variety of crops (*). Some examples:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Potato
  • Onion
  • Carrot

These wireworms typically create tunnels by feeding on crops, affecting crop productivity and quality.

Environment and Food Sources

Click beetles inhabit a wide range of environments, thriving in moist areas with abundant food sources such as:

  • Decaying leaves
  • Grass
  • Pollen
  • Aphids

They also feed on bioluminescent fungi which gives them a distinguishing glow.

Prey and Predator Relationships

As part of the complex ecosystem, click beetles experience several predator and prey relationships. A list of these relationships:

  • Predators: Birds, small mammals, spiders.
  • Prey: Aphids, small insects, seeds.

Management strategies are essential for controlling these pests and their ecological impact. There are various methods, such as chemical control with insecticides, as well as biological control using beneficial insects. For example, some parasitoid wasps attack wireworms.

Control Method Pros Cons
Insecticides Effective short-term solution May harm beneficial insects, possible resistance development
Biological Control Environmentally friendly Might require time to establish, may vary in efficacy

Careful identification and monitoring are essential to implement appropriate control measures and mitigate the impact of click beetles and their wireworm larvae on agricultural crops and ecosystems.

Identification and Control

Identification Methods

To identify click beetles, look for their color and clicking sound. Most click beetles have the following features:

  • Shiny and hard-bodied
  • Slender
  • Usually brownish
  • Capable of producing a clicking sound

Their behavior is also indicative of their presence, as they typically land on their backs and use their clicking mechanism to ‘right’ themselves by snapping two body parts together and flipping into the air.

Insecticide Treatments

Click beetles may require insecticide treatments if they become a pest. Some insecticides that can be used include:

  • Pyrethroids
  • Organophosphates
  • Carbamates

Pros:

  • Effective at eliminating beetles
  • Fast-acting

Cons:

  • May harm non-target organisms
  • Can contribute to pesticide resistance

Non-Chemical Control Methods

Click beetles can also be managed using non-chemical methods, such as:

  • Cultural control: Picking beetles off by hand or using a vacuum to remove them from plants.
  • Biological control: Introducing natural predators, like parasitic wasps, to help control beetle populations.
  • Trapping: Using sticky traps or pheromone traps to capture beetles.

When choosing a control method, consider the following comparison table:

Method Pro Con
Insecticide Treatments Effective and fast-acting May harm non-target organisms
Non-Chemical Control Environmentally friendly; versatile Less quick and may require more effort

In conclusion, identifying click beetles can be done through their colors, clicking sound, and behavior. Treatment options include insecticides or non-chemical control methods such as cultural, biological, or trapping techniques. Each method has its pros and cons, so it’s essential to consider the context and goals when choosing an appropriate control plan.

Footnotes

  1. Missouri Department of Conservation

  2. MDC Teacher Portal

  3. Texas A&M University

  4. Home and Garden IPM from Cooperative Extension

  5. Home and Garden IPM from Cooperative Extension

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 – Arboreal Click Beetle with Feathered Antennae found in Mount Washington, Los Angeles

 

1 June 2009, 7:44 PM
Four years ago on 9 July 2005, we discovered an unusual beetle in a spider web. We supposed it to be an Elaterid or Click Beetle, but it had feathered antennae. Eventually Eric Eaton contacted an expert, Dr. Art Evans, identified it as a Euthysanius species. This was Dr. Art Evans conclusion at the time: “The following excerpt is from our upcoming field guide for CA beetle s: At least five species of Euthysanius are found in California. The males of Euthysanius lautus (15.0-19.0 mm) (Plate 111) are reddish-brown with grooved elytra and feathery, 12-segmented antennae . They are found under the bark of pines (Pinus) and are attracted to lights throughout southern California. Adult females (up to 35.0 mm) (Plate 112) have very short elytra and lack flight wings, exposing most of the abdominal segments. They are found crawling over the ground.” Well, this afternoon, we found another specimen on our screen door.

Click Beetle

We took several images of the Click Beetle to post. When the Click Beetle is on its back, it snaps back to an upright position, but only propelling about an inch or two into the air.

Click Beetle

The beetle is about an inch long. We are also quite impressed with the mandibles on this specimen. Though it didn’t do any damage, it tried to discourage us from handling it by biting. BugGuide identifies the genus as Arboreal Click Beetles.

Click Beetle

Letter 2 – Possibly Click Beetle with Feathered Antennae from Grenada

 

Subject: Black Insect
Location: Grenada, Caribbean
January 20, 2016 5:42 pm
Saw this bug in my room one night, was wondering what it was with its curious antennae.
Signature: donnwestt

Click Beetle, we believe
Click Beetle, we believe

Dear donnwestt,
We believe this is a Click Beetle in the family Elateridae, and though we can link to similar looking individuals with feathered antennae from other countries like this Click Beetle from Uganda or this Click Beetle from Los Angeles, we have not been able to locate any similar looking individuals from the Caribbean or South America.  We would not rule out that it might be a Feather Horned Beetle in the family Callirhipidae like this individual pictured on ShutterAsia.  We will attempt to do more research on your beetle including getting an opinion from Eric Eaton.

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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