The eyed click beetle, also known as the eyed elater, is a fascinating insect commonly found in the eastern part of the United States. These beetles are easily recognizable by their prominent oval eye spots on the thorax, which help deter predators by mimicking the appearance of large eyes.
These beetles inhabit deciduous forests, where their larvae develop within decaying logs and prey on longhorn beetle grubs source. Adult beetles can reach up to 1¾ inches in length and are known for their unique ability to “click.” This clicking behavior, caused by snapping their thoracic segments together, allows them to flip their bodies in the air when placed on their backs, often startling potential predators.
Eyed Click Beetle Overview
The eyed click beetle, scientifically known as Alaus oculatus, is a large click beetle. These distinct insects have two large black spots on their heads that resemble eyes, but their real eyes are actually much smaller and are positioned behind the antennae [^1^]. The eyed click beetle is also referred to by its other common name, the eyed elater.
Eyed click beetles belong to the family Elateridae within the order Coleoptera. This family consists of a variety of click beetle species. Here are some characteristics of the family Elateridae:
- Known for “clicking” or “snapping”
- Over 1,000 species in North America
- Unique thoracic snapping mechanism
Comparison Table: Eyed Click Beetle vs. Other Click Beetles
|Feature||Eyed Click Beetle (Alaus oculatus)||Other Click Beetles|
|Size||Up to 1-½ inches or more||Varies|
|Color||Mottled gray with black “eye” spots||Drab; varies by species|
|Common Names||Eyed click beetle, eyed elater||Click beetle, snapping beetle|
Note: Eyed click beetle sizes, colors, and other features may vary among individuals, but the comparison table highlights some general distinctions.
Examples of the click beetle’s unique ability include their snapping thoracic segments (prothorax and mesothorax) to “click” and flip their bodies when they find themselves on their backs [^2^]. This self-righting mechanism is a noteworthy characteristic of the Elateridae family.
The eastern eyed click beetle, specifically, inhabits the eastern part of the United States, living in deciduous forests where larvae grow in decaying logs and prey on longhorn beetle grubs [^3^].
Physical Characteristics and Behavior
Pronotum and Thorax
The eyed click beetle has an elongated and parallel-sided body. A key feature is the pronotum, a shield-like structure found behind the head. This beetle also has backward projecting corners on its pronotum. Its thorax has an interesting flipping mechanism that helps the beetle right itself when upside down.
The eyed click beetle gets its name from the eye spots on its pronotum. These eyespots serve to deter predators due to their intimidating appearance. However, the true eyes of this beetle are much smaller and located behind the antennae.
The flipping mechanism is unique to click beetles. They use this mechanism to snap their bodies with an audible click, propelling them into the air. This helps them correct their position when they are upside down, resembling the motion of a tiddly wink.
Features of the Eyed Click Beetle:
- Elongated, parallel-sided body
- Pronotum with backward projecting corners
- Audible click used for flipping
- Intimidating eye spots on pronotum
- Unique flipping mechanism
Comparison Table of Pronotum in Various Beetles:
|Beetle Type||Pronotum Features||Function|
|Eyed Click Beetle||Shield-like, eye spots||Intimidate predators, protect head|
|Longhorn Beetle||Cylindrical, elongated||Support long antennae|
|Ground Beetle||Rounded, smooth surface||Camouflage and streamlined body shape|
By understanding these key physical characteristics and behaviors, you can better recognize and appreciate the unique qualities of the eyed click beetle.
Habitat and Range
Eastern Eyed Click Beetle
The Eastern Eyed Click Beetle, also known as the eyed elater, is a fascinating insect found mainly in the eastern parts of the United States. They thrive in environments like deciduous forests and mixed forests and woodlands.
Some features of their preferred habitat include:
- Presence of decaying logs
- Longhorn beetle grubs as a food source for larvae
- Adequate hiding spots for adults
Adult Eastern Eyed Click Beetles have an impressive adaptation: large, eye-like spots on their pronotum, which deter predators. Their real eyes are significantly smaller, located behind their antennae.
In comparison to other click beetles, the Eastern Eyed Click Beetle is quite large, with some adults reaching up to 1¾ inches in length. This species also has a unique ability to “click” when trying to escape predators or right themselves after being overturned. They achieve this by snapping their bodies, sending them into the air like a small, impressive insect acrobat.
|Characteristic||Eastern Eyed Click Beetle||Other Click Beetles|
|Size||1¾ inches||Smaller, around 1/4 inches|
|Habitat||Deciduous/mixed forests and woodlands||Varies|
|Color||Dark with large eye-like spots||Mostly brown to black|
To summarize, the Eastern Eyed Click Beetle primarily inhabits deciduous forests and mixed woodland areas where decaying logs and longhorn beetle grubs are abundant. These environments provide the needed resources for both their larval and adult stages.
Eggs and Larvae
Eyed Click Beetle females lay their eggs in decaying logs and stumps. The larvae, also known as wireworms, grow within the decaying logs and feed on longhorn beetle grubs. They possess characteristics such as:
- Brownish color
- ½ to 2-½ inch in length
- Cylindrical shape
- Three pairs of tiny true legs behind the head
Pupation and Adult Stage
After completing the larvae stage, the insects pupate and transform into adult Eyed Click Beetles. The adults have the following features:
- Length of up to 1¾ inches
- Large eyespots on the pronotum
- Mottled gray wing covers
- Capable of “clicking” when placed on their backs
Adult Eyed Click Beetles live in deciduous forests, where they continue the life cycle by laying eggs in decayed logs and stumps. Their large eyespots on the thorax help deter predators, while their real eyes are smaller and positioned behind the antennae.
Pros of Eyed Click Beetles:
- Help control longhorn beetle grubs
- A part of the natural ecosystem
Cons of Eyed Click Beetles:
- May be attracted to lights at night
Diet and Predators
Wireworms and Other Prey
Eyed click beetles, also known as eyed elaters, primarily feed on:
- Longhorn beetle grubs
- Other arthropods
Their larvae, called wireworms, have a different diet which includes:
- Other arthropods
Wireworms can also cause damage to crops such as alfalfa and cotton by feeding on their roots and seeds.
Eyed click beetles have several natural enemies such as:
They can defend themselves against these predators using their eyespots, which are large fake eyes on their thorax. The eyespots can startle or deter potential predators.
|Prey of Eyed Click Beetles||Prey of Wireworms||Natural Enemies of Eyed Click Beetles|
|Longhorn beetle grubs||Earthworms||Birds|
|(roots of some plants)||Spiders|
Note: In some cases, wireworms can pose a threat to beneficial species like:
- Other animal species
This can lead to an imbalance in the ecosystem, causing harm to other species.
Human Interaction and Management
As Pests and Infestations
Click beetles, specifically the eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus), are generally not considered pests. However, their larvae, known as wireworms, can cause damage to various crops. Wireworms are found in the soil, feeding on plant roots and seeds. This negatively affects crop growth in areas with high infestations.
Entomologists play a crucial role in studying and managing click beetle populations. They research the beetle’s life cycle, habits, and impact on the environment. With this knowledge, entomologists advise on effective pest control methods, protecting both crops and the eco-balance.
Pest Control Methods
There are several ways to control click beetle infestations, including cultural and chemical methods.
- Clean cultivation: Regularly tilling the soil to expose wireworms, which are then consumed by birds and other predators.
- Clean fallowing: Leaving the soil bare and well-cultivated between planting seasons to reduce the population of wireworms.
- Insecticides: Some chemicals are effective against wireworms but should be used with caution, as they can harm non-target organisms and the environment.
Pros and Cons of Pest Control Methods:
|Clean Cultivation||– Non-chemical||– Labor-intensive|
|– Environmentally friendly||– May not eliminate all wireworms|
|Clean Fallowing||– Reduces wireworm population over time||– Takes time and land must be left bare between seasons|
|– Can improve overall soil health|
|Insecticides||– Can be highly effective||– Harmful to non-target organisms and the environment|
|– Quick results||– Chemical resistance can develop, reducing effectiveness|
By combining different methods, click beetle populations can be managed effectively, protecting both crops and the ecosystem at large.
Fun Facts and Additional Information
Harmless to Humans and Pets
The eyed click beetle is harmless to humans and pets. They might look intimidating because of their size and large eye spots, but these are just for scaring away predators. In fact, they can’t bite or sting.
Missouri State Insects
Missouri has an abundance of these beetles, and they are commonly found in the eastern part of the country. They reside in the decaying logs of deciduous forests, preying on longhorn beetle grubs.
Other Common Names
Eyed click beetles are also known by other common names, such as:
- Eyed Elater
- Eastern Eyed Click Beetle
- Alaus oculatus (scientific name)
These beetles belong to the order Coleoptera and are characterized by their unique features:
- Large eye spots on the thorax
- Capable of flipping themselves over
- Attracted to lights at night
Comparison: Eyed Click Beetle vs. False Click Beetle
|Feature||Eyed Click Beetle||False Click Beetle|
|Size||1¾ inches long||Similar size|
|Eye spots||Pronotum with large eyespots||No large eyespots on pronotum|
|Clicking||Can produce a clicking sound||Some species can also click|
|Harmful||Harmless to humans and pets||Harmless to humans and pets|
In summary, the eyed click beetle is an interesting and harmless insect found across eastern North America. Its unique characteristics, such as the large eye spots and ability to flip over, make it a fascinating addition to the world of beetles.
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 – Big Eyed Click Beetle or Eyed Elator
We have a 7th grade science project due Monday (05-09-05). We have this insect we would like to use in the project, but don’t have any idea what it is. Can you identify it?
This is one of the Click Beetles known as the Eyed Elator or Big Eyed Click Beetle, Alaus oculatus. Adults eat little and larva attack roots and small creatures in the soil. Click Beetles are so called because if they are turned on their backs, they quickly flex their body making a clicking sound and flipping in the air to right themselves.
Thank you so much for your help. Gotta finish that bug project. Love your website!
Letter 2 – Eyed Elaters Mating
HI Bug People!
I was so thrilled when I ran into these 2 while trimming the tree in our front yard. I live in Central Texas, and after trimming the branch they were on, I set it on another bush to allow them to finish thier bizness–a few days later, we found one on the back deck. When I tried to touch it, it snapped up, and flipped itself over in its defense–Marvalous creatures and beautiful too! Can you tell me about them? Thanks!
Minutes later: I didnt see the Eyed Elator on your site before I sent off my query–Im glad I got to share the pic anyway, but dont worry about the ID–I got it! Thanks so much for your great site!
Your image is a nice addition to our Love Among the Bugs page.
Letter 3 – Mating Eyed Elaters
Also, just having ran across the adult side of your web site, here’s some more filthy porn for you.
We have a problem with calling your image “filthy porn” since procreation is generally viewed as a redeeming and necessary state of life. You on the other hand might be guilty of voyeurism. At any rate, your image is stunning. We don’t really think of our Bug Love pages as containing adult content, though in the insect and arthropod world, participants are all adults. Please provide us with a location to assist in the identification of your Hemipterans from a previous email.
Letter 4 – Mating Eyed Elaters
I found the bug on the right floating in my pool, thought it was dead, put it on the deck to look at later. The second bug came hovering around, obviously looking for the first. We thought it was a hummingbird at first, it flies with the body down, wings flapping and antennae out straight, just like a hummingbird. It found the first, positioned and proceeded to take care of business, the first one apparently very much alive. I didn’t time the interlude, but it was more than fifteen minutes, when I returned they were both gone. They are about 2 inches long( not including antennae) and 1/2 inch wide, soft, mothlike wings, but the ‘head’ area looked hard like a beetle –I didn’t actually touch it. Any thoughts? Thanks
You were correct about these lovlies being beetles. They are Eyed Elaters, a type of Click Beetle. The eyes are markings that act as a type of startle mimicry, with the beetles deceiving potential predators into thinking that they are a larger, fiercer creature than they are in reality.
Letter 5 – Eyed Elator
Attached, photo of an “eyed” black and white beetle on the bark of an Arizona Ash tree, spotted (as it were) in Austin, TX on June 12, 2004. Perhaps an Eastern Eyed click beetle, Alaus oculatus?
Thanks for the great site, and service.
The Eyed Elator is surely a handsome Click Beetle. The scientific name is Alaus zuniatus (we aren’t positive on the spelling of the species name), found in the southwest. Thanks so much for the photo Jim. Keep sending us beauties.
Letter 6 – Eyed Elator
Beetle with EYES!
Hi Daniel, We have many different beetles on our land. The one we saw today (photo attached) is by far the most interesting. The body is around 3cm long. Do you have a good online source recommendation to ID future beetles that we find? (Besides your fab site, of course!)
Hi Again Sandra,
We are still trying to get a positive species identification on your green horsefly. Your beetle is an Eyed Elator, Alaus oculatus. These are members of the Click Beetle family Elateridae. According to Dillon and Dillon: “If, by accident or through human agency, one of these beetles finds itself upon its back, it has a very singular method of righting itself. The body is bent upward on a loose hinge between the pro- and mesothorax. Then, with a sudden snap, it bends itself in the opposite direction with such force that the whole insect is tossed several inches into the air, turning over and over as it goes. Occasionally several trials are necessary, but it is amazing how frequently the insect will land upon its feet the first time.” The “eyes” are not true eyes, but in fact markings which might startle birds or other predators into thinking the beetle was larger or fiercer than it actually is. The larvae are called wireworms. Adults are usually found beneath the bark of dead pine trees and are common in the southern states. Though we do much online searching for identification, we don’t really have a beetle site we visit.
Thanks for the fast response. Wish I’d know about the flipping part. Not to be cruel to beetles, but I’d have loved to see it! I’m sure there will be another time. Maybe I can catch it on film. I knew they weren’t real eyes! I don’t think it would stop our chickens from picking on it. They are young & into everything as they have just started free ranging. Unfortunately, the diversity of insects we see at the barn is diminishing the larger the hens get. At least we only have 7 of them, they can’t eat everything!
Letter 7 – Eyed Elater
Bug ID Request
Mini Binky found this on our deck and we were wondering what kind of bug it is. We live in North East Pennsylvania, Regards,
While we have no idea who or what Mini Binky is, we do know that this is an Eyed Elater.
Letter 8 – Eyed Elater
Eyed elater pics
Found this on the steps outside my apartment in Austin, TX. Being 50, it’s not often I see a critter I’ve never seen before. Have a brand new 90mm macro lens for my digital Nikon, so took the opportunity to snap these for sake of my young nephews. Found the name on your site and thought you might have use for a couple of nice photos of this beautiful creature.
One of the commonest compliments we receive is on the quality of the photographs we post. We owe that all to our readership. We are very happy to see that you have mastered that new lens and are happy to post the Eyed Elater image.
Letter 9 – Eyed Elater
In all my 50 years I have never seen a big eye bug this big
I was wondering if you knew what type of bug this was. It was on my screen and when I got close to it it flew to the ground. I live in Central Florida. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
This is an Eyed Elater, one of the Click Beetles. The “eyes” are not real, but eyespots used to scare predators.
Letter 10 – Eyed Elater, not Blind Click Beetle
What bug is this?
Thank you in advance for taking a look at this bug. We found this bug in the base of our tree. The tree is at least 70 years old. What do you think? Thank you so very much,
This looks to us to be a Blind Elater, Alaus myops, also called the Blind Click Beetle or Small Eyed Click Beetle. We generally get many images of the closely related Eyed Elater, Alaus oculatus, in the summer. According to BugGuide, the Blind Elater is: “Similar to the more popularly known A. oculatus, but smaller, especially, narrower, and the eyespots on the pronotum much smaller. More mottled, less glossy black. Elytra finely striated (coarse striations in oculatus). Flies earlier in year (spring) than A. myops (summer).” The larvae of the Blind Elater preys on wood boring beetle grubs in pine trees.
The click beetle appears to me to be the “regular” eyed-elater. They can pass the winter as adults. The specimen shown has sawdust on it which compromises its markings a bit, but in my experience the “blind elater” has very vague rings around the eyespots, whereas this one has very bold rings.
Letter 11 – Sap Feeders: Hackberry Emperor Butterfly, Green June Beetles and Eyed Elater
Why do these two creatures hang out with each other; GREEN JUNE BEETLES AND EMPEROR BUTTERFLY ?
August 23, 2009
I have seen in the past several weeks of August both the green june beetle and the emporer (hackberry Monarch) Butterfly hanging out with other in groups on several of our trees. Why are these two insects drawn to each other? What are they doing?
Also there is a third beetle that I have never seen before either. What is it? It is large and scary looking but seems to not be welcomed by the green junebug and butterlflies but still tries to hang out in the area that they are. I saw only the one new beetle at 6:30 in the evening.
These insects are all feeding on sap that is oozing from the tree. Perhaps the tree was injured or perhaps there are boring insects that are causing sap to ooze. Emperor Butterflies in the genus Asterocampa as well as many other butterflies do not strictly take nectar from flowers. According to BugGuide, the Hackberry Emperor, Asterocampa celtis: “Adults take sap, fluids from dung, carrion, etc. Like the Tawny Emperor, very fond of taking sweat from humans.“ Regarding the Green June Beetle, Cotinis nitida, BugGuide indicates adults eat: “Pollen; ripening fruits, especially peaches; and the fruit and leaves of many shrubs.” Your unidentified beetle is an Eyed Elater, Alaus oculatus, and BugGuide indicates: “Adults may take some nectar and plant juices.” Your photos document an interesting gathering of insects at a shared food source and it is wonderful since sap is not indicated as a food for either the June Beetle or the Eyed Elater.
Letter 12 – Mating Eyed Elaters
Indiana Black Beetle Unidentified
July 10, 2010
My friend was camping in Indiana on July 10th and this black bug mating with another of its kind strolled up on the picnic blanket. Just wondering what it was since i’ve never seen anything like it. Thanks for all your help!
Indiana – in July
These are mating Eyed Elaters, a species of Click Beetle.
Letter 13 – Mating Eyed Elaters
Subject: Bug mimicry at its finest
Location: Old Rag Mountain, Sperryville VA
July 7, 2012 11:45 am
This bug (it’s not photoshopped I swear) obviously survived by confusing predators with its coloration but I have no idea what kind of insect it is.
Signature: Curious in VA
Dear Curious in VA,
These are mating Eyed Elaters, a species of Click Beetle. You are astute to notice that the false eyes a good deterrent to predators who might mistake the Eyed Elaters for a threat.
Letter 14 – Eyed Elater found while chopping wood
Location: jackson,, mississippi 39212
January 24, 2013 5:52 pm
While I was chopping wood I. Found the strangest insect.
Signature: Abraham White
You didn’t clarify if you found this Eyed Elater among the wood, or if it was found upon splitting wood. We needed to research something about the larval stage of the Eyed Elater, Alaus oculatus, the largest North American Click Beetle, and this is what we learned on BugGuide: “Larvae are predatory, eating grubs of wood-boring beetles like cerambycids (longhorns).” BugGuide then provides this information on the life cycle: “Eggs are laid in soil. Larvae predators of beetle larvae in decaying wood, especially hardwoods. Pupation is in unlined cell underground or in rotting wood.” That would indicate that you would only find the Beetles among rotting wood, and not viable fire wood. When Click Beetles wind up on their backs, like in your second photo, they are able to flex their bodies, producing an audible click, and the snapping action propels the Click Beetle into the air, often righting itself when it lands.
Letter 15 – Eyed Elater: One Unforgetable Beetle
Subject: Spectacle bug
Location: Baltimore Maryland, woods
May 12, 2014 8:13 pm
Saw this on a tree trunk in Robert E Lee park in Baltimore Md today. The park is really a fairly large woods with a stream and lake close by.
Signature: Joe Halloran
In our opinion, the Eyed Elater, a large Click Beetle that you have submitted, is an unforgettable beetle that the average North American has a good chance of encountering at least once in a lifetime. The false eyespots are an effective defense mechanism by making the harmless Eyed Elater look larger and quite fierce to a bird or other predator.
Letter 16 – Eyed Elater
Subject: What is this
Geographic location of the bug: Winston Salem NC
Time: 03:43 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Please tell me what big this is
How you want your letter signed: Nancy Tuttle
We are very excited that your query is allowing us to post our first image of an Eyed Elater this year. The Eyed Elater is a species of Click Beetle, a family that includes many members that are able to right themselves if they find themselves on their backs by snapping the body and propelling the insect into the air, inevitably landing on its feet while producing an audible clicking sound. The false eyes provide excellent protective mimicry by discouraging predators who might sense a larger creature with large eyes that might try eating the predator.
Letter 17 – Eyed Elater
Subject: Bug with cool “fake” eyes
Geographic location of the bug: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Time: 11:21 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Dear Bugman,
This bug has been hanging out on the drop ceiling in my office going on two days now. From a distance I assumed it would be a roach, but was pleasantly surprised on closer inspection. This bug is about 5 cm long.
How you want your letter signed: Curious Veterinarian
Dear Curious Veterinarian,
The Eyed Elater, the largest Click Beetle in North America, has very effective protective mimicry. The false eyespots on the Eyed Elater are thought to deter predators like birds that will pass up a nutritious meal after perceiving that it might be a predator like a snake rather than a tasty morsel.
Letter 18 – Eyed Elater
Subject: Flying bug
Geographic location of the bug: New Milford, CT
Time: 01:10 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: This big guy flew into me as I was walking by and clung to my shirt. I brushed him off and I may have killed him!
How you want your letter signed: Jackie
The Eyed Elater is harmless. It is the largest Click Beetle in North America.
Letter 19 – Eyed Elater
Subject: Unknown bug
Geographic location of the bug: South Carolina
Time: 05:40 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Found this bug in our house today. What is it?
How you want your letter signed: Leta Wellman
This is an Eyed Elater, the largest Click Beetle in North America. Is is harmless, and it poses no threat to your home.
Letter 20 – Eyed Elater
Subject: What kind of bug is this??
Geographic location of the bug: North New Jersey
Time: 06:59 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi. This bug was found on my daughters chair at a park we were at. They started screaming. I know why once I saw it.
How you want your letter signed: K
This distinctive beetle is an Eyed Elater, the largest North American Click Beetle. It is considered harmless to humans, and its large false eyespots will deter a large predator into thinking the Eyed Elater might be a much larger threat.
Letter 21 – Eyed Elater
Subject: Please ID Insect
Geographic location of the bug: Powell, Ohio
Time: 09:21 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found this on my hat On June 1. I’m on 3 acres of mixed woods – maple, black and honey locust, black walnut, lots of dead ash, some sassafras. Can you identify this for me? Thanks!
How you want your letter signed: I have no idea what you mean by that. My name is Molly.
This magnificent Click Beetle is called an Eyed Elater. What appear to be big, black eyes are actually markings on the thorax called eyespots and they are thought to fool predators into thinking the Eyed Elater is a large predator.
Letter 22 – Eyed Elater
Subject: What is it
Geographic location of the bug: NE Florida
Time: 02:12 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Found this outside
How you want your letter signed: Atch
This memorable insect is an Eyed Elater, one of the largest Click Beetles in North America.