Picnic Beetle

the mysterious beer bug
Hi, Bugman!
I live in south-eastern Ontario, and during all of the summers of my childhood, our picnics were plagued by little black and white beetles about a quarter of an inch long that loved our food and would bite if you weren’t careful. Coming from a family of teetotalers, we called them “food bugs”. Later, I heard them called “beer bugs”, but I’ve not yet come across a person who knows what kind of beetle they actually are, and my web research has revealed no clues. Can you enlighten me? Thanks!
Jaimie Cowles

Hi Jaimie,
Our initial impression based on the shape and antennae, is that this is either a Sexton Beetle in the genus Nicrophorus, or some other Carrion Beetle in the family Silphidae. Sexton Beetles are characterized by red markings and we couldn’t find any matches on Bugguide. We are going to try to contact Eric Eaton, but we know he is having computer problems and may not respond for some time. Meanwhile, perhaps a reader can assist.

Update from Eric Eaton (08/04/2008)
The black beetle with the four yellow marks is a sap-feeding beetle in the family Nitidulidae. This one is probably Glischrochilus quadrisignatus, better known as a “picnic beetle.” They will sometimes fly to picnics in large numbers, attracted mostly by fermenting fruit, and probably alcohol, too. Not harmful in the least, just annoying:-)

4 thoughts on “Picnic Beetle”

  1. I grow strawberries in Indiana. Last year, I had trouble with some small beetles picking out the largest ripest berry and burrowing into. Any chance this could be the same beetle? If not, any ideas what it could be?

  2. Hi, here vacationing in Barbados, my girlfriend found two of these beetles as we were enjoying our dinner, unfortunately squashed them before I could identify.

  3. I came across this post from Googling “picnic beetles.” We now live in Michigan where they are not a problem, but years ago we lived in central Ohio, and had no end of trouble with these beetles that my wife – an avoid gardener – called picnic beetles.

    They were about the size and shape of cucumber beetles (proportionately narrower than the picture) but were black, and had a white spot on each wing. They are the devil’s own spawn, eating off the plants what we eat. If there’s fruit, they eat the fruit; if you eat the leaves, they eat the leaves.

    This was over 30 years ago, and pre-internet, so I was left to my reference books to try to find a natural control, but couldn’t even find mention of them buy that name. I found a natural control by accident. I was sitting out by our garden with a glass of wine and felt something on my hand. It was a picnic beetle, apparently attracted by the smell of the wine.

    I went out a bought a couple bottles of cheap wine and poured it into a cookie sheet placed in the garden. The next day the cookie sheet was choked with drowned picnic beetles.

    Hope this helps.


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