The Ironclad Beetle is a fascinating creature, known for its incredibly strong exoskeleton that sets it apart from other beetles. Found primarily in the deserts of the southwestern United States, this small yet impressive insect exhibits unique characteristics that have caught the attention of both biologists and engineers alike.
Sporting a striking black and creamy white blotchy pattern, the Ironclad Beetle can grow up to 5/8 to 1 3/16 inches long, boasting an exoskeleton twice as strong as other species in its order. It is known for being virtually uncrushable, able to withstand immense pressure as a result of its unique shell structure. This adaptation serves as a vital survival mechanism, especially since the beetle cannot fly.
Interestingly, Ironclad Beetles are known to be long-lived, with some specimens recorded to have lifespans as long as 8 years. This tenacious species’ remarkable characteristics continue to intrigue researchers who study its biology and potential applications in various fields.
Ironclad Beetle Overview
Species and Basic Characteristics
The Ironclad beetle belongs to the family Zopheridae and the order Coleoptera. The most well-known species is the Diabolical Ironclad Beetle (Zopherus nodulosus haldemani). Some features of the Ironclad Beetle are:
- Black and creamy white blotchy color pattern
- Extremely hard exoskeleton
- Long-living compared to other beetles
There are 19 species within the genus Zopherus, all sharing similar characteristics. The Ironclad Beetle has a unique feature of having an exceptionally strong and rigid exoskeleton, which is twice as strong as that of other beetles (source).
Habitat and Distribution
Ironclad Beetles are found in Western North America, particularly in:
These beetles typically inhabit deserts, where they reside on trees such as oaks and junipers (source). Although they are flightless, Ironclad Beetles are known to have a long lifespan, sometimes reaching up to 8 years (source).
Physical Features and Adaptations
Exoskeleton and Its Structure
The Ironclad beetle, or Phloeodes diabolicus, is known for its extremely tough exoskeleton. This armor-like outer covering protects it from predators and extreme pressure, such as the weight of a car. The structure of the exoskeleton is a key element in its durability, as it is composed of two types of proteins that offer protection without sacrificing flexibility.
Elytra and Interlocking Mechanism
In place of wings, Ironclad beetles possess elytra, which are hardened forewings that act as protective shields for their vital organs. The elytra are unique in their interlocking mechanism, resembling a jigsaw puzzle. This joined structure distributes pressure evenly, ensuring the beetle can withstand extreme compression forces.
Ridges, Protrusions, and Joints
The exoskeleton features ridges and protrusions that contribute to the beetle’s strength and ability to resist damage. These surface structures add stability and reinforcement to the joint areas, keeping predators from easily accessing the beetle’s soft body.
|Feature||Ironclad Beetle||Other Beetles|
|Exoskeleton||Extremely hard and durable||Varying degrees of hardness|
|Elytra||Interlocking mechanism, no flight||Varying mechanisms, many can fly|
|Surface features||Ridges, protrusions, and reinforced joints||Less pronounced features|
- Ironclad beetles have a tough exoskeleton that protects it from predators and extreme pressure.
- Their elytra feature an interlocking mechanism that helps distribute pressure evenly across their body.
- Ridges, protrusions, and reinforced joints in the exoskeleton further enhance their ability to withstand force.
Life Cycle and Behavior
Reproduction and Development
The life cycle of the Ironclad Beetle consists of four stages: egg, larval, pupal, and adult. A beetle remains as an egg for 7 to 10 days before hatching into the larval stage1. The larvae develop in dead wood, often found in oak trees2. The pupal stage occurs in the cracks of the wood, and finally, the adult stage is reached.
Feeding Habits and Food Sources
Ironclad Beetles feed on a variety of sources, primarily lichens and fungi found in their habitat, which includes oak and pecan trees2.
The Ironclad Beetle has several survival strategies, including:
- Toughness: Their remarkably hard exoskeleton provides protection against predators and other external threats3.
- Playing dead: When threatened, they play dead, making them less appealing to predators4.
Exoskeleton vs. Other Beetles
|Ironclad Beetle||Other Beetles|
|Extremely hard exoskeleton3||Typically, less tough exoskeleton|
Their ability to withstand pressure and “come back to life” after being submerged in water has earned them the nickname “Lazarus bugs”4. This combination of toughness and playing dead allows the Ironclad Beetle to survive longer than most beetles, with a lifespan of up to 8 years3.
Ironclad Beetle’s Role in Science and Engineering
University of California, Irvine Research
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) have studied the diabolical ironclad beetle to uncover the secrets behind its nearly indestructible exoskeleton. They found that the beetle’s survival depends on:
- Unique exoskeleton design
- Impact-absorbing structures
This research has potential applications in materials science and engineering.
Impact-absorbing and Damage-resistant Materials
Among the unique features of the ironclad beetle’s exoskeleton are:
- Hardened cuticle
- Microscopic structures that join sections together
These features enable the beetle to withstand a significant amount of force, up to 39,000 times its body weight.
By understanding the design and composition of the beetle’s exoskeleton, scientists and engineers may be able to develop new materials with similar properties. For example, stronger and more durable materials could be used in:
- Aerospace industry
- Protective gear
|Material||Ironclad Beetle Exoskeleton||Traditional Engineering Materials|
|Composition||Chitin||Metal, plastic, etc.|
|Ability to Absorb High Impacts||High||Varies by material|
|Damage Resistance||High||Varies by material|
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 – Hairy Backed Pie Dish Beetle from Australia
Shiny spiky black bug
Location: Manjimup, Western Australia
January 11, 2011 7:36 am
Hi Mr. Bugman!
I found this black spiky beetle (?) in the Karri forest of Western Australia and I would like to know what it is! CAn you help me out?
We doubt that we will be able to fully answer your question before rushing off to work, but we will give you what we have found. This beetle is very similar to one we identified many years ago, so we searched the Australian beetles in our archive and found a posting entitled Pie Dish Beetle from 2006. We followed our own links to the Brisbane Insect Website and thought there are obvious similarities, there are also differences, notably the lack of spikes on the Brisbane examples. We are confident that we are on the right track, but the species and genus are uncertain. Additionally, the image from our archive is also different. Perhaps someone can provide a more exact response and we will continue to research as time permits.
We did find a Hairy Backed Pie Dish Beetle, Helea perforata, on FlickR, and that resembles our previous posting, but the spikes on your beetle are thicker.
Letter 2 – Hairy Backed Pie Dish Beetle from Australia
Subject: unkown bug
Location: Brigadoon Western Australia Perth
December 10, 2013 7:02 am
I don’t know much about entoemology and generally find the answers to my questions of what’s that bug from my family and friends. This time however I’ve not managed to find an answer and google hasn’t yielded any results. I would very much like to know what this is so I can stop traipsing the internet for an answer.
Signature: thankyo uvery much Chez
Many years ago, we received a similar image that we identified as a Pie Dish Beetle, but it took us five more years to identify it to the species level. We believe you have submitted an image of a Hairy Backed Pie Dish Beetle, Helea perforata.
There are many more images online now than there were when we first were asked to identify this unusual Darkling Beetle, and now you can find great images on Friends of Queens Park Bushland where it states: “Pie-dish beetles feed on dead and decaying plant material. Pie-dish beetles lay their eggs in moist soil during summer and autumn, usually under clumps of rotting plant material, under which adults often shelter. Females of some species can lay up to 1,000 eggs during their life spans. The rate of egg production appears to be related to temperature. So is the time of hatching, which ranges from seven to fourteen days after the eggs were laid.
After hatching, the larvae can be found in loose clusters on the top of moist soil, dispersing as they develop. When fully grown, they burrow deeper into wetter soil where they build a circular pupal chamber and change into pupae. One to three weeks later, the adults emerge. At first they are soft and light brown, but they harden after about a week and the body becomes dark brown or black, the colour depending on the species. Soon after emergence, mating occurs and eggs develop three or four weeks later. Adult pie-dish beetles can be relatively long-lived (up to a year).” Esperance Blog has an image of a mating pair of Hairy Backed Pie Dish Beetles. Your comprehensive views of the individual you encountered are an excellent addition to our photo archive.
Thats an awesome name for a beetle and makes sense, we’ve recently built a compost bin by the house for our food scraps so I look forward to seeing more of these curious creatures wandering around the general area.
Thankyou very much
Letter 3 – Tok-Tokkie from South Africa
Subject: What is this beetle
Geographic location of the bug: Graaf Reniet, South Africa
Time: 12:24 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Found this interesting beetle at the Valley of Desolation outside Graaf Reniet in South Africa. The thorax and abdomen are perfectly round and the legs are grey, not black. I have not been able to find it on the Internet.
How you want your letter signed: Andy Smith
This is a Darkling Beetle in the family Tenebrionidae, and we believe it is one of a group from South Africa known as Tok-Tokkies, and according to Urban Ministry Live and Unplugged: “It is called a tok-tokkie because it communicates with other beetles through tapping on the ground. It is a harmless, good-natured beetle.” You can find a similar looking Tok-Tokkie on FlickRiver, and similar looking individuals are pictured on iSpot where it is identified as a member of the genus Psammodes, and in this iSpot image, the gray legs you observed are quite evident.
Letter 4 – Pie Dish Beetle from Australia
Subject: Pie dish bugs?
Location: north west sydney, Australia.
April 6, 2016 4:07 am
We have been finding many of these in and around my home. Tonight this little guy was in my daughter’s bed. Are they pie dish bugs? And are they harmless?
We agree that this is a Pie Dish Beetle in the genus Pterohelaeus based on images posted to the Brisbane Insect site. According to the Australian Museum: “Adult pie-dish beetles forage on the ground at night, moving around quite quickly on long legs. Some species return to the same resting-place at dawn, often using mammal (mainly rabbit) burrows to shelter in. Other species are commonly found under pieces of wood, leaf litter, logs or stones. Some species in the genus Pterohelaeus are found under the loose bark of living and dead trees such as Eucalyptus. The adults are most active during the hottest months of the year. ” Pie Dish Beetles do not pose a threat to humans.
Letter 5 – White Legged Tok-Tokkie Beetle from South Africa
Subject: Toktokkie beetle?
Geographic location of the bug: Pretoria, South Africa
Time: 08:49 AM EDT
I spotted this beetle in the bush in Pretoria, South Africa, and would like to identify it.
The only similar ones I could compare it to in my insect book are not from this region.
How you want your letter signed: Helene Vermeulen
We agree with your identification. This sure looks like a White Legged Tok-Tokkie Beetle, Dichtha incantatoris. According to Beetles in the Bush: ” A number of particularly large species that go by the common name ‘tok-tokkies’ make their homes in the dry Namib desert and surrounding bushveld.” Pretoria is very close to the sighting posted on iNaturalist. CalPhotos has an individual from Botswana pictured. The species is also pictured on iSpot and Encyclopedia of Life. We are uncertain why you believe it is not found in your region.
Letter 6 – Ironclad Beetle
Please identify the beetle in the image
Hi, first off, great site! I appreciate your efforts. Three of us hiking near Hamilton Pool, outside of Austin, Texas found this beetle. It was rather big and had distinctive black and white colors. I have tried searching on the internet and your site but could not identify the beetle. Please help out and tell us what we saw? Was it rare? We’d never seen anything like it before. Thanks!
Nice photo of an Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus nodulosus.
Letter 7 – Pie Dish Beetle from Australia
Subject: Please help me name this beetle
Location: Sydney Australia
February 19, 2016 5:37 am
This beetle flew through my bedroom window at night.
Kind of heavy, strong grasp, black with interesting pattern – yet flat border around its oval body.
Stayed for awhile, and flew away again..
I’m just very interested in knowing.
Signature: Tyler leigh
This is one of the Pie Dish Beetles, an unusual group of genera belonging to the Darkling Beetle family Tenebrionidae. According to Australian Museum: “The pie-dish beetles’ common name refers to their general pie-dish shape and broad body flanges (rims) around the edges of their thickened, hardened, fore wings (elytra) and the front part of the thorax or second body segment (prothorax). These flanges can often be quite large.” The site also states: “Adult pie-dish beetles forage on the ground at night, moving around quite quickly on long legs. Some species return to the same resting-place at dawn, often using mammal (mainly rabbit) burrows to shelter in. Other species are commonly found under pieces of wood, leaf litter, logs or stones. Some species in the genus Pterohelaeus are found under the loose bark of living and dead trees such as Eucalyptus. The adults are most active during the hottest months of the year. The pie-dish beetles’ flattened body form with expanded flanges may have been an evolutionary adaptation for living for living under the loose bark of Eucalyptus. In the more recently evolved species, the flanges are even more exaggerated, serving to deter predators and possibly to play a minor role in water collection.” More images can be found on Brisbane Insects.
Letter 8 – Ironclad Beetle from Costa Rica
Bug from Honduras
January 31, 2010
We found this pretty bug on the wall of our home today, and wondered if you could identify it for us.
Thanks so much!
Trish in Honduras
Gracias, Lempira Honduras
This beauty is an Ironclad Beetle in the genus Zopherus. We found a photo on Flickr that might be Zopherus jansoni, but the identification is not conclusive. That photo which was taken in Costa Rica looks very similar to your individual. We also located online pdf documents that describe Zopherus mexicanus, Zopherus jansoni, Zopherus costaricensis and Zopherus laevicollis, though we are not prepared to positively your Ironclad Beetle to the species level with these descriptions. That would probably take an expert.
Letter 9 – Bug of the Month October 2013: Desert Ironclad Beetle
Subject: SW Utah Bug
Location: Southwestern Utah
September 29, 2013 8:10 pm
I ran across two bugs today while hiking in Southwestern Utah. One light blue one and one green one. I have never seen these before and would like to know what they are.
Signature: Linda H.
Your blue beetle is a Desert Ironclad Beetle, Asbolus verrucosus, and since it is the end of the month and time for us to feature a new Bug of the Month for October, we have selected your submission. The color of the beetle is nicely contrasted by the red color of the rocks and substrate depicted in your photograph. There is a comment posted to BugGuide from a person who has raised Desert Ironclad Beetles in captivity and claims to have several individuals that lived more than ten years. The BirdAndHike Wildlife Around Las Vegas website states: “Desert Ironclad Beetles (Asbolus verrucosus) are medium-sized, fast moving beetles of the desert. These beetles eat plant debris on the desert floor, and apparently make good pets that live more than 10 years.” Another common name is Blue Death Feigning Beetle, and according to Bugs in Cyberspace, that name refers to: “their tendency to play dead when bothered, combined with a powder blue colored coating they excrete on themselves to protect them from the sun.” Your green insect is a Stink Bug in the family Pentatomidae.
Letter 10 – Camouflaged Namibian Insect looks like Mouldy Beetle
Subject: 3 Namibian Insects
November 18, 2015 9:44 am
But of course Daniel.
The small beetle-like insect was walking on the sandy-dusty ground of the Anderson Campsite at Waterberg/Namibia. The ground colour was black and the body was all covered with sand. My idea is, that this “shabby” appearance is perhaps a way to camouflage itself.
After the research I did today, I now think it could be a Mouldy Beetle (Eurychora sp). In the video I made, it sure looks like it. I´ve put my video (20.6 MB) and a pic from the web on my google-drive-account, you can watch it in the link if you like:
That´s all I know until now to image 3, hope it helps.
bye, Becky, Munich-Germany
Thanks for the additional information Becky. The segmented antennae are a very good indication this is a beetle. At first glance we thought it was a True Bug, but the antennae structure overrules that. We found some images of Mouldy Beetles on Margy Green Coleoptera and we believe you have correctly identified this critter. Images on iSpot and Africa Wild are also a very good visual match to your image.
Letter 11 – Darkling or Ironclad Beetle from South Africa
Subject: Strange bug
Location: Kwazulu Natal South Africa
December 9, 2015 7:49 am
Please can you identify the attached bug
Signature: Greg Griffith
We haven’t the time to do the research at this moment, but this is either a Darkling Beetle in the family Tenebrionidae or an Ironclad Beetle in the family Zopheridae. We will do additional research later today.
Update: December 10, 2015
We believe we found this matching image on iSpot that is identified as a Darkling Beetle, and there is a really robust comment on the differences between Ironclad Beetles and Darkling Beetles that ends with this conclusion: “I think the teneb in this observation belongs to the tribe Asidini of the subfamily Pimeliinae, but I don’t know the tenebs well at all.”
Letter 12 – Death Feigning Beetle
Mojave Desert Beetle
Hi there. I just wanted to say that I love your site, its provided many hours of fun browsing and reading. 🙂 I thought I’d contribute some pictures I took while on a motorcycle trip through the Mojave last weekend. While walking off the beaten trail (my bike having gotten stuck in some sand), I saw this guy scurry across the path I was walking on. He was kind of a pain to get a picture of, but was kind enough to let me pick him up and set him down a few times so I could get a good picture. I found the texture on his abdomen to be quite facinating. I’ve never seen a beetle quite like it. An hour or so of searching online helped me ID the beetle as *Cryptoglossa verrucosa, *commonly called either the Grey Death Feigner, Mojave Desert Beetle, or (confusingly) the Ironclad Beetle. I’ve ID’d him succesfully, but still thought you might appreciate some pictures, as I didnt see any *Cryptoglossa verrucosa* in your beetle pages. I found it interesting that he didn’t display his death feigning behaviour when I handled him. He was quite active, running around in circles while I tried to get a decent photograph. Thanks for maintaining your site, I look forward to learning more from it. Sincerely,
Earlier this year we did post another photo of a Death Feigning Beetle, but we are also thrilled to post your colorful letter and wonderful photo.
Letter 13 – Eastern Ironclad Beetle
Subject: Identification please
June 1, 2015 6:33 pm
Found this bug in a forest in Quebec (Canada). The city is called Mandeville. It was near a waterfall.
Can you identify it?
Signature: Steve Morissette
Thanks to its resemblance to our familiar western Diabolical Ironclad Beetle, we quickly identified your Eastern Ironclad Beetle, Phellopsis obcordata, thanks to images posted on Bugguide where it states they are found: “under bark of decaying hardwoods & conifers in association with polypore fungi (Piptoporus, Fomes) in dense boreal forests and at high elevation in Appalachian Mts; larvae feed inside fungi.”
Letter 14 – Haldeman's Ironclad Beetle
Haldeman’s Iron Clad Beetle Photos
July 8, 2010
Haldeman’s Iron Clad Beetle Photos
Your letter to the bugman Hi would you like some good photos of a Haldeman’s iron clad beetle? I took the photos, but I can’t take credit for the ID or information.
Scott Fleenor at the Univ. Texas at Austin was kind enough to identify it. Here is his reply unedited:
This unlikely critter is known as Haldeman’s ironclad beetle (Zopherus haldemani). It’s knobbly, Rorschache-print pattern and constricted body form is distinctive. It’s extremely well armored and will turn an insect pin – entomologists are said to have drilled holes through the elytra in order to pin and mount them! The wing covers are sutured shut and do not open, and I believe the wings are vestigial. The adults and larvae live on fungi in decaying oak trees. Traditionally placed in the large family of darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae), they have recently been placed in a family of their own – the Zopheridae. This beetle graces the seal/emblem of the Southwestern Entomological Society, which publishes the quarterly journal The Southwestern Entomologist.
Thanks for the nice pic’s!
Please properly cite him for the information.
Thanks for sending us your awesome images of Haldeman’s Ironclad Beetle. The view of the underside is so richly detailed.
Letter 15 – Ironclad Beetle
I found this bug on my front porch in San Antonio, Tx on Sunday Nov. 7th. I have was wondering what it is.
Thanks in advance
There are two genuses of beetles with the common name Ironclad Beetle, and your specimen of Zopherus nodulosus haldemani is one of them. We have another letter and photos from June 2004 on our Beetles 2004 page with additional information.
Letter 16 – Ironclad Beetle
Hi there –
I found this neat beetle on my front porch at Crater Lake National Park (Oregon) house (I am a Park Ranger here), which I researched and found it belongs to the ironclad beetle group (Family Zopheridae). It is all brown and very hard. It plays dead when touched. It looks like the beetle at http://www.myrmecos.net/insects/Zopherid1.html and http://www.zin.ru/Animalia/Coleoptera/eng/incozo.htm (Great picture of what looks exactly like the beetle I have, but what is with that scientific name – Phellopsis amurensis? I cannot find that listed anywhere else? Did they change the name?) and http://tolweb.org/tree/ToLimages/Zopherid1_reduced.100a.jpg Do you know what genus and species this is?
Species is often difficult to discern from a photo, and even a specimen will cause disagreement among experts. We are not experts. According to Hogue this an Ironclad Beetle from the Family Zopheridae. Our Southern California species are in the genus Phloeodes. Audubon recognizes a very different beetle as the Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus haldemani. Audubon also calls your type of beetle a Plicate Beetle, Noserus plicatus. Hope that doesn’t further confuse the issue. Late breaking news: Eric Eaton just solved the question for us. “It is Phloeodes sp. I think there is only one now, THE ironclad beetle. They sure are neat, but you need a drill to pin them.”
Ed. Note: Just got this update.
Ironclad Beetle (07/13/2005) The ironclad beetle in the photograph on your webiste is Phellopsis porcata (LeConte) 1853 (nice picture!!). It is easily seperated from the genera Phloeodes(10-seg. ant.) and Zopherus (9-seg. ant.). Phellopsis has 11-seg. ant. and open procoxal cavities. It inhabits old growth boreal forests of North America and Asia, and was even proposed by the USGS as a bio-indicator of Snowy Owl habitat, but they could not collect it in sufficient numbers. Cool website. Oh yeah, if the Park Ranger who collected it wants to keep it alive, they like Apples, and can live for at least a year.
Ian A. Foley
Montana Entomology Collection-MTEC
Montana State University
Letter 17 – Ironclad Beetle
Please let me know the species of this beetle. I think it is a wood boring species. Thanks,
Mel Boreham, Cottonwood, AZ
We needed to check with Eric Eaton and here is his response: “The images are of an ironclad beetle in the family Zopheridae (once part of the Tenebrionidae). Genus is most likely Phloeodes or Zopherus. Can’t seem to keep ’em straight. Eric” Ironclad Beetles do not bore into wood. According to our sources, they eat fungus. They get their common name because of their tough exoskeleton.
The imaged Zopherid from thanksgiving in AZ belongs to the genus Zopherus. It is probably Zopherus uteanus (Casey). Larvae of the Zopherini do bore into wood where they eat sheet fungi between the wood layers. As adults they probably feed on fungi, and are often collected under bark and rocks.
Letter 18 – Ironclad Beetle
Please tell me WTB ?
Here Is a picture of a beetle I have never seen before. Do you know what it is ?
This is an Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus haldemani.
Letter 19 – Ironclad Beetle
Can you identify?
This is a bug I saw crossing our patio in SW Austin, Hill Country. He was about an inch long. Do you know what it is?
This very distinctive looking beetle is an Ironclad Beetle.
Letter 20 – Ironclad Beetle
another Texas Ironclad
Caught sight of this critter scrambling across the concrete on my back porch, which faces the greenbelt here in Austin, TX. Ran back in and was ecstatic to find a hit on Beetle Page 2. Thought I’d send this pic along… I managed to get pretty close, so you can really see the body division and leg construction 🙂
We always appreciate fine photographs of distinctive insects. This Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus haldemani, is a nocturnal species that hides by day.
Letter 21 – Ironclad Beetle
my very special spotted bug
I love your website and was just showing it to a friend (you know, slow Friday afternoon at work) who said,"Your unknown bug photo is better than any of these! Or at least as interesting as!" So here I am. I live in central Texas. This is the second consecutive year I’ve encountered this insect, but have only ever seen these two, once each.
Update: *Wow!* Just after I wrote that Friday afternoon, when I got home from work later, the very first thing I encountered in my path from car to door was yet a third. Each one of them has very interesting and unique variations on the zipper and the spots. Do you know what he is? I understand you are swamped but hope that you’ll get to me one day, even if it’s months from now. Thank you!
Dripping Springs, TX
Something in the cosmos must have alligned causing you to encounter another Ironclad Beetle the day you wanted an identification. We loved your subject line, which is what caught our attention among the myriad letters that arrived. The Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus haldemani, got its common name from the nearly impenetrable exoskeleton.
Dear Bug Man (person?),
Oh my, WOW, I can’t believe my special spotted bug made it onto your site! I feel incredibly honored, especially to have such a speedy answer when you are so swamped. Now I have to go email the link to my husband, and my mom, and my friend who introduced me to your site (when she saw my photos of the polyphemous moth that flew in my bedroom one night), and the one who suggested that I email this bug to you. I hope to have more fabulous and intriguing bugs for you to identify one day. I’ve lived in Texas 35 years but have never seen so many fascinating bugs as I have in the two years since I moved to Dripping Springs. Thank you so much from your devoted fan!
Letter 22 – Ironclad Beetle
What is it?
I live in Round Rock, Texas and saw this bug crawling on the window screen in my back yard. I’ve lived in Texas all my life and have never seen one of these! What is it? My four year-old daughter and I are curious, yet cautious.
Oddly, you are the second Andrea to request an identification of the Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus haldemani. The common name is derived from the extremely hard exoskeleton. The insect is highly resistant to water loss. You have no reason to fear this beautiful beetle.
Letter 23 – Ironclad Beetle
Picture from Microsoft Picture It!
We live in Mission Viejo, Ca. Our 3 yer old found this beetle and has been living in his bug house for over 2 weeks. Do you know what it is and what it eats? He just found another so now it has company. Our son LOVES insects. His favorite thing to watch is our 4 tape series called Insectia with George Brossard. Thanks for any information you have to offer.
This is an Ironclad Beetle. Hogue identifies a species that looks very much like this as Phloeodes pustulosus. They are thought to eat fungus laden wood.
(04/29/2007) Ironclad Beetle of 4-28-07
In regards to the Ironclad Beetle photo and response of 4-28-07…. I’m surprised you didn’t tell the woman not to let her three year old son live in a bug house. First, how did he fit in it? Second, couldn’t the child catch some horrible disease or something? After all, bugs don’t shower and they have a lot of anonymous sex…. I fell in love with your website last summer when after a partial hysterectomy (“kept the girls, got rid of the junk” I like to say) I could not sleep and spent my evenings in the front yard with a LED flashlight and my trusty camera. Wow! Talk about screwed up sleep cycles! But I digress…. I sure hope to get some good photos for you this year and God! Am I looking forward to the cyclical cicadas this year. (I live near Chicago.) I’m sure you will get a ton of “What the hell is this?” emails so I’ll keep you all in my thoughts and prayers. Pure hell I imagine, to open your inbox and see 45,763 emails with the subject “What IS this???” and crappy photos. I’ll try to send you a few awesome pix. I’m a professional drinker…er, I mean /photographer,/ and because of your web site I have fallen in love with photographing bugs ‘n’ stuff. I have a lovely tree cricket photo I’ll send in soon. My Canon camera (my “peashooter” as I lovingly call it) has a super-macro setting which focuses from 0 to 1.5 inches so all I have to do to get a good close up is remind myself that the chances of this bug actually killing me is slim to none. Warmest regards,
Joanne M. Pleskovich
ps….I mention your website to my patients when they start freaking out about bugs or spiders etc. I’ll link to you when I get my site up and running, too. You guys (and/or gals) rock my world!
We try not to give too much parenting advice on our website. In the past, we have raised the hackles on our readership several times due to our wry senses of humor. We look forward to any submissions you send our way in the future, though sadly, our image receiving ability is currently severely impacted.
Daniel and Lisa Anne
Letter 24 – Ironclad Beetle
Can’t Identify Large White and Black Bug
I would love to know what kind of bug this is. It was on the brick on the side of my house this morning (9/24/08). Also, it is very large-close to 2″ long. Any help would be appreciated, thank you!
San Marcos, Texas
Your Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus nodulosus, gets its common name from the impenetrability of its exoskeleton. Most of our photos of this species are from Texas.
Letter 25 – Death Feigning Beetle
August 30, 2009
This beetle was crossing my living room carpet about 7 pm on 29 August in NE Tucson, AZ. I searched my guides to no avail, but a reference on your site to BugGuide helped me match the shapes and textures of the thorax and abdomen to two Zopherus images, but no exact match. Is it a Zopherus, and if so, which species?
I took the pictures through a ‘bug buddy’ no-harm insect relocator, but after 10-15 minutes (no heat, no flash) it stopped moving and didn’t respond when I set it outside. Was it playing possum?
Thanks for a great site. I’ve enjoyed the pics and the exchanges.
Northeast Tucson, Arizona
We agree with you that this appears to be an Ironclad Beetle in the genus Zopherus, and that it does not exactly match the specimens posted on BugGuide, though it seems closest to Zopherus tristis. We will contact Eric Eaton to try to get some assistance with this positive identification. In our experience, members of this genus are known to feign death.
Correction by Eric Eaton
August 31, 2009
“Ironclad beetle” is actually a “death-feigning beetle,” Cryptoglossa variolosa.
… Hope that helps.
What’s That Bug? and BugGuide query Update:
Good morning Daniel,
Thanks for your reply! I really enjoyed my hours looking through your site and reading the comments, and the BugGuide site. I’m glad to hear that I probably didn’t witness or cause its demise. The beetle was gone in the morning, but I have a robust little ecosystem here, and anything that doesn’t skeedaddle gets eaten; nothing goes to waste. I look forward to hearing what Eric has to say.
Is your site related to the BugGuide site? I mean administered by the same people? Since they don’t seem to have an exact match, I’d gladly contribute my photo to expand the library once the little critter is identified.
The biggest connection between BugGuide and What’s That Bug? is the fact that the awesome Eric Eaton contributes considerably to both sites. BugGuide also provided a valuable resource for insect identification and What’s That Bug? frequently links to BugGuide to provide our own readership with additional information. What’s That Bug? has also submitted some images to BugGuide, but now we as that our readership posts the images without our intervention. The greatest difference between the two sites (which truly are unrelated) is that the readership posts items to BugGuide and our limited editorial staff posts items to What’s That Bug?. We hope that answers your questions.
Letter 26 – Ironclad Beetle
Weird bug from Texas
September 14, 2009
First of all, it is a white bug – which I’ve never seen before, and I’ve lived in Texas more than 5 years, and this is the first time I’ve run across anything that looks remotely like it.
I know that everything is supposed to be bigger in Texas, but this is a rediculously large terminte-looking creature.
Um.. what is it?
Forth Worth, Texas
There should be no confusing the distinctive coloration and pattern of this Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus nodulosus, with any other species. The coloration of the Cottonwood Borer is similar, but the structural anatomy is strikingly different. According to BugGuide, this Ironclad Beetle is: “Endemic to East-Central Texas.“
Letter 27 – Ironclad Beetle
Southern California Beetle ID?
Location: Perris/Lake Matthews/Riverside, CA
February 27, 2012 4:50 pm
Seen any of these? Found today on exterior wall. Cloudy weather, 50 degrees F, bug ”sluggish”.
This little critter is an Ironclad Beetle, and it got its name from the incredible toughness of its exoskeleton that is nearly impossible to pierce. We just posted a photo from Tanzania that we believe is an Ironclad Beetle.
Thank you Daniel,
I spent two hours trying to figure it out, and was stymied!
Letter 28 – Ironclad Beetle
Subject: Caterpillar Hunter/Calosoma
Location: Jamul, California
February 8, 2013 5:47 pm
I sent in a picture of a likely Western Tussock Moth larva today, but I had more trouble figuring this one out. It’s a black beetle, with sparse flecks of green, white and grey. Not surprisingly, he would blend in well with the large granite outcroppings in the region. Part of the reason why I think he’s a caterpillar hunter (Calosoma) is because I found him close to the Western Tussock Moth caterpillar, and he fits the general description. But there are so many species, I can’t figure out which one. In the pictures, you’ll see the caterpillar in the background – I want to point out that after taking these pictures, I took the caterpillar to some bushes nearby and released him. I didn’t feed him to the beetle. Also, I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures.
This is not a Caterpillar Hunter. It is a Diabolical Iron Clad Beetle, the common name being a reference to the extremely hard exoskeleton that is sometimes pierced with nails when mounting.
Letter 29 – Ironclad Beetle
Subject: Black And White Beetle?
Location: Bulverde, Texas
October 6, 2014 5:19 pm
What’s that bug,
I found this little guy crawling up the outside wall of my house in Bulverde, Texas in early October. He was about 1-2 inches long, six legs, black and white pattern on his body. I was just wondering what he might be and thought these photos might be helpful to you.
This Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus nodulosus, gets its common name because of its extremely hard, nearly impenetrable exoskeleton.
Letter 30 – Ironclad Beetle
Subject: Iron Clad Beetle?
Location: Angeles National Forest
June 26, 2016 1:25 am
I found this guy at Wildwood picnic area in Angeles National Forest, located just north of Sunland, CA. I was wondering if I have correctly identified this insect as an “Iron Clad Beetle.” This bug had a pecular way of playing dead when I picked it up and gently placed it on my notebook for a better shot.
Signature: Jessica Chortkoff
We agree that you have properly identified your Ironclad Beetle. Because we wanted to be able to provide as much detail in the insect in the posting, we were forced to crop the image, meaning your name has been cropped out.
Dear Bugman (Professor Marlos),
Feel free to crop my photos as needed. I put my name on them so nobody on facebook can steal them and use them as their own. I hope all is well at LACC. I had a really rough year and am spending my time working on a film about Angeles Forest. As I catalog the various insects I find there I plan to share some more photos soon, but will try to not overwhelm your site with too many at a time. -Jessica
We didn’t realize that was you writing. The different surname through us. Good luck with your film and we hope things get better for you. The award winning Collegian Times Magazine did quite well this past year thanks to your contributions.
Letter 31 – Ironclad Beetle
Subject: Black and White Beetle
Location: Austin, TX
April 15, 2017 8:31 am
Hi – I found this guy on my porch and thought he was beautiful. Can you tell me what he is? We live in Austin Texas in a relatively rural area of the hill country. Found him in March. He is a little over an inch long.
Signature: Curious in Austin
Letter 32 – Ironclad Beetle from Tanzania
Bug from Tanzania
February 26, 2012 11:59 am
My friend snapped this bug in Tanzania. Any idea what it is? their guide didn’t know.
This sure looks like an Ironclad Beetle in the subfamily Zopherinae. YOu can view BugGuide for some examples of similar looking North American species.
Thank you. I love your website and will hopefully view the entire collection!
Letter 33 – Ironclad Beetle from Mexico
Subject: unknown Beetle in Mexico
Location: Lake Chapala, Mexico
May 21, 2016 9:43 pm
This past year I moved from Albuquerque NM to the area just south of Guadalajara, Mexico so everything here is new to me. Right now the Mexican “Rain-Birds,” a Mexican version of the cicada are singing loudly in search of mates.
On a different subject though, I keep seeing these beetles on the side of the house. They seem remarkably placid, never moving around, sometimes staying in the same place for 3 days. They are beautifully ornamented.
I don’t see them eat anything (nor are they pursued). They don’t seem to be looking for mates. They have been around since early April.
This distinctive beetle is an Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus nodulosus, and it is a species well represented in our archives because the species is also found in Texas. According to BugGuide, the range is: “s. TX to Mexico.”
Letter 34 – Possibly Desert Ironclad Beetle
Wonder Valley Desert Beetle
May 3, 2010
so, who is this little chap?
Wonder Valley, CA
Hi Again Clare,
It is difficult to be certain because of the camera angle and lack of detail, but it is definitely a Darkling Beetle. We believe this is a Desert Ironclad Beetle, Asbolus verrucosus, which we located on BugGuide, but we are not certain.
Letter 35 – Possibly Ironclad Beetle from Venezuela
Venezuelan fuzzy beetle
January 29, 2010
This is in Andean cloud forest. High altitude valley, State of Merida, VZ. Near La Trampa. It appeared in the house… moved about 2 feet in 24 hours. Pictures taken in November 2009. Looks ancient and like something happened to it. about 1.3 inches long. Thanks!
Andean Cloud Forest, Merida, Venezuela
This sure looks like it is an Ironclad Beetle in the family Zopheridae to us. We are basing that hunch on the shape of the beetle and the form of the antennae. BugGuide has some images of North American species for comparison. Our second best guess is possibly a Darkling Beetle in the family Tenebrionidae. The pubescence is surely an interesting feature, though our initial attempts at identifying your beetle have been fruitless. Perhaps one of or readers will have better luck.
Eric Eaton to the rescue
Yes, it is a beetle in the Zopheridae.
Letter 36 – Southwestern Ironclad Beetle
I found this guy in the countryside of central Texas outside of San Antonio. He was already deceased when I found him and thought his carapace was awesome. Any ideas on what he is? thanks!
Your beetle is known as a Southwestern Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus nodulosus. They have very strong exoskeketons.
Letter 37 – Southwestern Ironclad Beetle
Odd Black and White Beetle?
Location: Weatherford, TX
April 18, 2011 8:37 pm
I could not find out what this bug is exactly. I searched google for an hour and still could not figure it out. It’s about an inch long, white and black speckled body. Please, we would really like to know, it’s been bugging us!
Signature: Thanks For Your Time, Ashley
Since the last time we posted a photo of Zopherus nodulosus haldemani, BugGuide has added a common name to the information page. This species goes by the common name Southwestern Ironclad Beetle. The exoskeleton is extremely hard, indicating that it has adapted through evolution to survive stomping and other forms of physical trauma. We are postdating this entry to post live during our vacation from the office later in the week.
Letter 38 – Southwestern Ironclad Beetle
what is this?
Location: Cengral Texas
March 18, 2012 2:57 pm
Found this crawling on the house and I have never Sen one. Could someone identify it?
Signature: J Anthony
Dear J Anthony,
This strikingly marked beetle is a Southwestern Ironclad Beetle, Zopherus nodulosus. The common name Ironclad arises from the strength of the exoskeleton that makes if very difficult to crush members of the family. You can get more information on this species by browsing BugGuide.
Letter 39 – Southwestern Ironclad Beetle
Subject: what is the name of this bug
May 22, 2012 7:58 pm
can you identify this bug?
Letter 40 – Tok-Tokkie from South Africa
Location: Magaliesberg mountains, South Africa
January 14, 2013 4:49 pm
we found this plain black beetle in the Magaliesburg mountain on a hike in October (spring)
what is it?
Signature: Emer Mae
We thought we recognized this beetle as a Darkling Beetle we identified once before, so we searched our archives and found this posting of a White Legged Tok-Tokkie, Dichtha incantatoris. We cannot make out the legs in your photograph, but otherwise it looks identical. Perhaps the white legs on your individual are hidden under the body, or perhaps there are other Tok-Tokkies that do not have white legs. We are relatively confident that this is either a White Legged Tok-Tokkie or a relative in the same genus.
Dear Bug Man
Thank you so much for your quick, and detailed responses.
I am a Scout here in the South African Scouting Association and the identification of insects that I find on my hikes are very important to include when I submit hike logs and report back, etc.
I will definately be returning to your site, and advising everyone else in the movement to do the same!
Thank you so very much
We aren’t always so quick or so detailed. Your photos were very nice and they are a nice contribution to our archive.
Letter 41 – Tok-Tokkie from South Africa
Subject: Black bug with stripe
Geographic location of the bug: Table Mountain, South Africa
Time: 04:42 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello all,
I came across this bug while climbing table mountain in south africa. Does anyone know what it is?
How you want your letter signed: Joe
This looks like one of the South African Darkling Beetles in the genus Psammodes known as Tok-Tokkies, but the stripe is something we have not seen, so we will attempt a species identification for you.
Update: October 29, 2018
Thanks to a comment from Emily, we now realize the stripe is actually a blurry blade of grass.
Letter 42 – Dune Beetle from Oregon
Subject: help identifying beetle?
March 26, 2015 2:18 pm
Hello! While backpacking at Cottonwood Canyon State Park in N/Central Oregon (E of the Cascades) this past weekend I found this beetle. Saw at least three of them. It is a sandy/dry location, lots of sagebrush.
Perhaps in the Carabidae (ground beetle) family? The gold accents really stand out. No one seems to know what it is and Google is failing me! Hoping you can assist. Thanks!
Signature: Audrey Addison
We are certain that this is not a Ground Beetle, but we are not certain of its exact identity. We believe it is most likely a Darkling Beetle in the family Tenebrionidae or a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae, but alas, we are in a rush this morning and we don’t have time to research its exact identity. We are posting your image and perhaps one of our readers will write in with an identity. If not, we will continue the research tomorrow.
Eric Eaton confirms Darkling Beetle
It is a darkling beetle called a “dune beetle,” in the genus Coelus. Never saw one of these when I lived out there. Neat find!
We are linking to the BugGuide page on the genus. Checking out the comments, we do believe it appears more like a member of the genus Eusattus, and in our opinion, based on images posted to BugGuide, it looks closest to Eusattus muricatus, a species with a much greater range than other members of the genus.
Eric Eaton responds
Well, shoot, I don’t know. I never saw Eusattus out there, either, though in Arizona and here in Colorado, Eusattus is most definitely most abundant in the *fall*, not the spring.
Awesome!! I struggled trying to find any information on this beetle! Thank you for your help!!
Letter 43 – Unknown Darkling Beetle is Blue Death Feigning Beetle
Beautiful periwinkle-colored beetle
I was exploring herps at the Desert Studies Center in Zyzzyx, CA, in the Mojave Desert, and we came across many of these beautiful insects. They played dead (became stiff) when poked at, and then when they thought the coast was clear, would get up and start trucking around again. What are they? I’d looked in many of the insect field guides at the center and couldn’t find anything remotely this color. Thanks for any help! Sincerely,
San Francisco, CA
We are relatively certain that this is a Darkling Beetle in the family Tenebrionidae, but are unsure of the species. We hope Eric Eaton can be more conclusive.
Sorry I sent the same email quite a few times from a couple of addresses, I kept getting Undeliverable messages. I also looked through all your beetle pages and see that it is in fact a Blue Death-Feigning Beetle. Thanks for your help!
We are a tad bit embarrassed that we identified this beetle over a year ago and you had to locate the previous listing on our own site. The Death Feigning Beetle, Cryptoglossa verrucosa, is sometimes called an Ironclad Beetle