What Do Eyed Click Beetles Eat: A Friendly Guide to their Diet

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Eyed click beetles, also known as eyed elaters, are fascinating insects found in the eastern part of the United States. They are known for their distinctive eyespots on the pronotum, which can help deter potential predators. These beetles inhabit deciduous forests and are part of a larger family of click beetles characterized by their unique clicking mechanism to right themselves when turned upside down.

As you may wonder about the diet of these intriguing creatures, it’s essential to understand their life cycle. The larvae of eyed click beetles, often called “wireworms,” play a significant role in their ecosystem by feeding on decaying logs and preying on other insects like longhorn beetle grubs source. As they grow and transform into adults, their diet shifts and they often consume various plant materials, including leaves and flowers.

Eyed Click Beetle Overview

The eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus), also known as the eyed elator, is a fascinating insect known for its distinctive appearance and unique clicking mechanism. These beetles have a striking black and white coloration, with prominent eyespots on their pronotum. The real eyes of the beetle, however, are much smaller and located behind the antennae.

The eyed click beetle has a special ability to right itself when flipped over, thanks to its click mechanism. When it needs to, the beetle can snap its body, producing an audible click that sends it flying up into the air, similar to a tiddly wink.

Found in various parts of the United States, primarily in the eastern region, these beetles inhabit deciduous forests where they play a vital role in the ecosystem. The larvae of eyed click beetles grow in decaying logs, preying on longhorn beetle grubs.

Here’s a brief overview of the eyed click beetle’s features in bullet points:

  • Striking black, white, and gray coloration.
  • Pronotum eyespots that deter predators.
  • Unique click mechanism for flipping itself upright.
  • Habitat in deciduous forests, living in decaying logs.
  • Larvae prey on longhorn beetle grubs.

So, if you happen to spot an eyed click beetle in your surroundings, take a moment to admire its unique features and remarkable abilities. These insects are not harmful to humans or pets, and their presence is a sign of a thriving ecosystem. Just remember to handle them gently if you ever need to move them from your home or garden.

Classification and Anatomy

The eyed click beetle belongs to the kingdom Animalia and is a member of the phylum Arthropoda. As arthropods, they have an exoskeleton, segmented body, and jointed appendages. Specifically, they fall under the class Insecta and the order Coleoptera, which consists of beetles and weevils. The eyed click beetle is part of the family Elateridae, with over 9,700 species worldwide.

In the order Coleoptera, beetles have a characteristic two pairs of wings. The front pair, called elytra, are hard and protect the delicate hind wings used for flight. This is a unique feature of arthropods classified within this order.

The eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) was first described by Linnaeus in 1758. Adult click beetles have a distinctive appearance with two large, false eye spots on their pronotum – the plate covering the thorax. These eye spots are believed to deter predators, as they give the impression of a larger and potentially dangerous creature. The beetles’ actual eyes are much smaller and positioned behind the antennae 1.

Some key features of the eyed click beetle include:

  • False eye spots on the pronotum
  • Small, true eyes behind the antennae
  • An average size of 1¾ inches long

While the order Coleoptera contains a wide variety of species, the eyed click beetle’s distinct eye spots and size make it easy to differentiate from other beetles.

Distribution and Habitat

Eyed click beetles, also known as eyed elaters, can be found in various regions across North America, including the U.S and Canada. You might come across these beetles in states like Texas, where they favor deciduous forests and mixed woodlands as their primary habitats 1.

These beetles appreciate environments with ample access to both decaying logs and the longhorn beetle grubs they prey on. These factors are essential for their survival and reproduction. In your search for eyed click beetles, you might not find them in deserts, as their preferred habitats are forests and woodlands 2.

Here are some characteristics of the habitats favored by eyed click beetles:

  • Deciduous or mixed forests
  • Presence of dead or decaying logs
  • Longhorn beetle grubs for larvae to feed on
  • Woodlands abundant in trees and understory vegetation

Remember, when exploring these habitats to locate eyed click beetles, take the time to observe the unique environments that support their existence and contribute to maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Life Cycle and Generations

In the life cycle of eastern eyed click beetles, they pass through several stages, starting from eggs that develop into larvae. These larvae, also known as wireworms, are typically brownish and hard-bodied. They have three pairs of tiny true legs behind the head and a flattened, ornamented shield-like segment on the tail end of their body.

Beetle larvae or wireworms inhabit underground environments, where they feed on decaying wood and other organic matter while growing. After a certain period, they transform into pupae and then finally become adult click beetles.

Adult click beetles are known for their unique clicking mechanism that helps them escape predators and flip over. They have large eyespots on their pronotum that make them easily recognizable.

The generations of eastern eyed click beetles may vary based on their surroundings. Some key factors affecting their reproduction and growth include availability of food sources, temperature, and presence of natural predators.

During the click beetle life cycle, both the larvae and adults contribute to the ecosystem in multiple ways. For example, wireworms aid in breaking down dead plant materials, while adult beetles serve as pollinators and help control pest populations.

Overall, understanding the life cycle and generations of eyed click beetles can provide valuable insights into their role in maintaining balance within the ecosystem.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Eyed click beetles, like most beetles, are known for their appetite. Primarily, their diet consists of various insects and their larvae. For example, longhorn beetle grubs are a common food source for eyed click beetle larvae, also known as wireworms.

As for adult click beetles, their dietary preferences expand to include nectar and vegetation. Despite this, they still enjoy a good snack of other insects, such as spiders and centipedes. Here’s a quick table comparing the diet of eyed click beetle larvae (wireworms) and adults:

Diet Larvae (Wireworms) Adult Click Beetles
Insects Yes (e.g., grubs) Yes (e.g., spiders)
Nectar No Yes
Vegetation No Yes (limited)

You might be interested to know that in captivity, people have observed them eating mealworms as well. So when providing food for a pet eyed click beetle, a great choice would be to offer a mix of mealworms and other insects to keep their diet well-rounded.

Remember, the health of eyed click beetles largely depends on what they eat. A balanced diet, in the wild or captivity, is essential for their growth and long-term well-being.

Defense Mechanisms

Click beetles, also known as snapping beetles or spring beetles, have developed some interesting defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators. One such adaptation is their ability to produce a loud snapping noise. When threatened, the beetle quickly snaps its body, which has two primary benefits:

  • It gives the beetle a chance to escape by being launched into the air.
  • The sudden noise can startle and discourage predators.

In addition to their snapping ability, click beetles possess eye spots, which are large, circular markings that resemble eyes. The eyed click beetle, for instance, has prominent eye spots on its pronotum, making predators, such as birds, hesitate to attack.

Some click beetles take their defense mechanisms to another level with bioluminescence. Glowing click beetles emit light through special organs called photophores. This unique trait serves multiple purposes:

  • Bioluminescent patterns can confuse or deter predators.
  • Glowing can attract potential mates.

These defense mechanisms, combined with excellent camouflage and their nocturnal lifestyle, help click beetles avoid their natural predators. So, when you come across these fascinating little creatures, remember that their peculiar adaptations serve an essential purpose: survival.

Significance to Ecosystem and Agricultural Impact

Eyed click beetles play a role in maintaining the balance in the ecosystem. They contribute to the nutrient cycling by feeding on decaying plant matter and helping in the decomposition process. This, in turn, enriches the soil, making it more fertile for plant growth.

In the agricultural context, these beetles can be both beneficial and problematic. As predators, they feed on other insects, some of which are agricultural pests. This can help in controlling the pest population, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

However, eyed click beetles can become problematic if their population grows rapidly. Clean cultivation and clean fallowing practices, where crop residues are removed rather than left to decompose, might assist in beetle population control. A potential drawback is the reduction of organic matter returned to the soil, potentially impacting soil fertility.

Infestations with these beetles can potentially occur in any crop. Management strategies such as crop rotation can help in reducing the risk of infestation. It’s always good to consult an entomologist for site-specific advice on handling these beetles.

In summary:

  • Eyed click beetles contribute to soil fertility by decomposing plant matter.
  • They can help control agricultural pests by preying on them.
  • Clean cultivation and clean fallowing can help manage beetle populations.
  • Crop rotation is a useful strategy to reduce infestation risk.
  • Consult an entomologist for site-specific management advice.

Remember, a balanced approach towards pest management is crucial to maintain both ecosystem health and agricultural productivity.

Unique Traits and Behavior

Eye-catching creatures, eyed click beetles are known for their distinctive features and behavior. Their diet primarily consists of wood-boring beetles, found in decaying wood like logs and stumps. Let’s dive into some of their remarkable traits.

One striking characteristic of these beetles is the large, false eyespots on their pronotum, which help deter predators. However, their actual eyes are much smaller, located behind the antennae1. As members of the Elateridae family, they have evolved a fascinating clicking mechanism. When disturbed or flipped over, they click their body with an audible sound, propelling themselves into the air2.

A noteworthy example is the eastern-eyed click beetle or eyed elater, found mostly in the eastern part of the United States1. These beetles inhabit deciduous forests and prey on larvae of longhorn beetles that thrive in decaying logs1.

Some other beetle families, such as the Eucnemidae, display similar traits. However, eyed click beetles are usually larger, with some tropical species like Pyrophorus boasting bioluminescent organs3.

In summary, here are some unique features of eyed click beetles:

  • False eyespots for predator deterrence
  • Audible clicking mechanism for self-righting
  • Predatory diet on wood-boring beetles in decaying wood
  • Elateridae family with similarities to Eucnemidae

These remarkable traits and behaviors showcase the intricate ways in which eyed click beetles have adapted to their environment, effectively securing their spot in the food chain while protecting themselves from potential threats.

Extension Suggestions and Management

Click beetles, particularly the eyed click beetle, are fascinating creatures found in the forest. They have unique defense mechanisms, such as clicking and flipping themselves in the air when they are turned over on their back1. In this section, we will explore suggestions and management options for these beetles.

Eyed click beetles, or Alaus oculatus, primarily feed on Longhorn beetle grubs found in decaying logs during their larval stage2. In order to maintain the natural habitat of these beetles, it is crucial to preserve the decaying logs in forests.

Good forestry practices can help sustain the population of eyed click beetles in your area:

  • Leave some decaying logs undisturbed.
  • Avoid excessive use of pesticides, especially around species where the beetle feeds.
  • Promote biodiversity by planting diverse tree species.

If you come across an eyed click beetle, it’s essential to remember that they are harmless to humans and pets3. If you find one indoors, you can simply release it outdoors, allowing the beetle to return to its natural environment.

By following these guidelines, you can contribute to the management and conservation efforts for these fascinating creatures, ultimately helping maintain a healthy ecosystem for them and other organisms4.

Footnotes

  1. Missouri Department of Conservation 2 3 4 5

  2. NC State Extension Publications 2

  3. Field Station 2

  4. https://extension.umaine.edu/home-and-garden-ipm/fact-sheets/common-name-listing/click-beetles/

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 – Eyed Elater

 

Eyed Click Beetle
Location: Burbs just north of Hotlanta
April 9, 2012 11:41 am
Greetings bugman!
Sunday afternoon I was sitting in my front yard and watched this large flying insect make his approach. It flew in a slow lazy way and wasn’t quite parallel to the ground but a bit tilted. I was already curious. Then when it landed on my painting drop cloth I had to check it out with my camera phone. I was expecting a dragonfly or cicada killer wasp. I was not expecting these large eyes. The beetle was a very patient model even allowing me to fetch a quarter and place it alongside for scale. After I took the photos a google search seemed to identify this beetle as an Eyed Click Beetle. I think I saw it listed here as an Eyed Elater the elater was an important part of the name. I do wish I’d discovered its identity before it flew away. I will confess I probably would’ve flipped it over just to witness the click-naming behavior.
Signature: Resa

Eyed Elater

Just to be clear…I fully realized the spots were protection from being eaten as a tasty snack and not true eyes.  Last reply…I also took photos of the eyed click beetle with my “real” camera if you’d like to see them they can be found on flickr. Including this one that shows the real and fake eyes:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/booturtle/7061395201/

Dear Resa,
Thank you for sending us your wonderful first hand observations of the flight and behavior of an Eyed Elater or Eyed Click Beetle.  So often, we get very spare requests for identifications with no observational information.  Our readers like reading about what they can expect to see if they encounter a creature on our pages.  We are sorry you learned the identity too late to witness the ability of this Click Beetle to “right” itself if it finds itself on its back.  We are also happy you did learn that they “eyes” are actually just markings that fool predators like birds into thinking that the Eyed Elater is actually a much larger creature and perhaps even a potential threat to a predator.

Letter 2 – Eyed Elater

 

Subject: beautiful clicking beetle in wv
Location: charleston West Virginia
May 20, 2012 8:17 pm
Hey thank you for this website it helped me id this insect I found in my bathroom. Actually my wife found it an she freaked. But thanks again bugman.
Signature: friendly bug enthusiasts

Eyed Elater

Dear friendly bug enthusiasts,
We are happy our website enabled you to identify your Eyed Elater, a large Click Beetle.    When it find find itself on its backs, it is able to snap its body in a manner as to propel the beetle into the air, flipping itself to land on its feet.

Eyed Elater


Letter 3 – Eyed Elater

 

Hi Bugman,
Found this beauty on the screen of my lanai in Bradenton, Florida. It was about 1-1/2 to 2 inches long and patiently posed for many photos until I got the right one. I thought it bore resemblance to Buprestidae, but I’m not an entomologist.
Tom

Hi Tom,
Your beetle is an Eyed Elater, Alaus oculatus, one of the Click Beetles in the Family Elateridae. This family is often organized near the Family Buprestidae.

Letter 4 – Eyed Elater

 

Rare Bug from NJ
Location: Woodbine, NJ
July 13, 2011 10:31 am
Hello and thanks for taking the time to possibly identify this strange looking bug from the attached pic. We found it yesterday in Woodbine, NJ in a wooded area. It hops around like a cricket.
Signature: Frank Petka

Eyed Elater

Hi Frank,
If identification requests that we receive are any indication, Eyed Elaters are not rare.  We actually have them tagged as one of our Top 10 identification requests.  Eyed Elaters are Click Beetles, and the hopping you describe is the beetle’s ability to right itself if it finds itself on its back.  It can snap its body and flip in the air, producing an audible clicking sound.  The eyespots on the Eyed Elater are a defense mechanism to frighten large predators like birds who might mistake it for a larger creature than the bite sized morsel it actually is.  We are post dating this letter to go live to our site over the weekend while we are out of the office.

Amazing response time…thanks so much…that was awesome. I will spread the word about your great site!
Regards,
Frank

Letter 5 – Eyed Elater

 

WHAT IS THIS?????????
Location: Denfield, ON Canada
July 21, 2011 6:31 am
I noticed this on the sidewalk yesterday. It was about 2 inches long. I have never seen anything this big or unique looking – any ideas what it is and where it could have come from?
sorry the picture is a little blurry!
Signature: Krissy

Eyed Elater

Hi Krissy,
Because of its large size, bold coloration, extensive range, and distinctive eyespots, the Eyed Elater is one of our most common summer identification requests.

Letter 6 – Eyed Elater

 

smokey mountain bug ??
Location: East Tennessee, Smokey Mountains
March 25, 2012 2:36 pm
Found this bug hanging out on a budding tree March 25, 2012 in the Great Smokey Mnts. What do you think it is ??
Signature: Shawn Ricker

Eyed Elater

Dear Shawn,
This magnificent Click Beetle is called the Eyed Elater because of the markings on its thorax that resemble the eyes of a march larger creature, which helps to protect the beetle from being eaten.  Like other members of its family, if the Eyed Elater finds itself on its back, it snaps its body against the ground, producing a clicking sound and propelling its body into the air, allowing it to land on its feet.

Letter 7 – Eyed Elater

 

Amazing bug in my yard, what is it?
Location: Baltimore, MD
May 17, 2012 5:31 pm
I’ve never seen anything like this. What an amazing creature! I think the big spots are on the tail, not sure. I’d love to know the name so I can research it.
Thank you!
Signature: doesn’t matter

Eyed Elater

Dear doesn’t matter,
This is an Eyed Elater, the largest North American Click Beetle.

Letter 8 – Eyed Elater

 

Subject: Big Beetle with false eyespots?
Location: Orlando, Florida
April 14, 2013 5:31 pm
Hello, bugman! I’m a native New Yorker new to Florida, and all it’s Carboniferous sized bugs. This cool looking guy was spotted 4/12, yesterday, on my husbands shorts. We’re near Orlando. He was a bit greener than the image appears. Pretty big, and pretty cool.
Signature: Katie

Eyed Elater
Eyed Elater

Hi Katie,
This impressive beetle is an Eyed Elater,
Alaus oculatus, a species of Click Beetle.  Click Beetles get their common name because they are able to flip to an upright position if they are on their backs.  They produce an audible click while snapping the thorax and abdomen against a hard surface which propels the insect into the air, righting itself.  Eyed Elaters are also native to New York as well as the rest of eastern North America.

Wow that was fast! Thsnks! I’m elated to know it. 🙂 (haw haw)

Letter 9 – Eyed Elater

 

Subject: Beautiful Eyed Elater
Location: Bryn Mawr, PA
July 1, 2013 6:30 am
I was able to identify this beautiful beetle through your website. Thanks for the introduction to the fascinating world of bugs. I am a gardener but don’t usually take the time to figure out who these creatures are sharing my outdoor space. You make it a lot easier to get to know them.
Signature: Pomona Sprout

Eyed Elater
Eyed Elater

Dear Pomona Sprout,
Thank you for your kind remarks and also this marvelous photo of an Eyed Elater.

Letter 10 – Eyed Elater

 

Subject: Bug Identification
Location: Fayetteville, Pennsylvania
July 6, 2013 4:43 pm
Hi, We saw this on our back patio late this afternoon and were trying to figure out what it was.
Signature: Lisa Gates

Eyed Elater
Eyed Elater

Hi Lisa,
This large Click Beetle is known as an Eyed Elater.

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Eyed Click Beetle

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20 Comments. Leave new

  • I saw an Eyed Elater just today at a job site in Richmond Virgina.

    Reply
  • I have found those, and they are scary!!!!

    Reply
  • haha scary?! no! they’re so beautious! but whatsthatbug, you post so many eyed elaters.

    Reply
    • When there are numerous sightings, we like our site to document the populations and distributions.

      Reply
  • did u get the pics i posted

    Reply
  • Found one (or something very like it — dang, why do entities like this show up only in the 10% of the time I don’t have my camera with me?) sitting in the parking lot at East Aurora (NY) High School, 2012 June 23.

    Never seen one before, had to come here for an ID. Difference from white-mottled wings shown in photo here — this one looked like it was wearing a black suit with white pinstripes, straight as a ruler, about five stripes running perfectly evenly along the length of each wing. Seemed sick or injured — I flipped it over (it does have a nasty resemblance to a cockroach upside-down), and all it could do was a lot of sit-ups (or ab crunches), couldn’t flip itself upright. I put it back on its feet and left it be.

    Reply
  • Thanks for the reply! Well, you guys are the experts, and I don’t have a photo, so I dunno what else to tell ya. Except for the more pronounced, thin, dull-white striations (sans mottling) along the wings, and that it was more black, not silvery, on the underside, it was in every other respect identical to the one shown in the photo above. It was dreadfully torpid and sluggish (despite nice warm sunny weather), which is why I guessed its inabilty to right itself may have been caused by injury or illness…

    Reply
  • Linda Rhinehart
    July 15, 2013 9:41 am

    Eyed Elater was left on our steps to be identified today. We are located in Waterville, PA.

    Reply
  • My daughter just saw one today in TEXAS!

    Reply
  • Fell from our holly tree in front of me yesterday – we are located in Fairfax, Virginia. Never seen this type of beetle before.

    Reply
  • My husband just found one in our back yard in Stafford Va

    Reply
  • I also found one of these today. On my shirt! And I’ll be honest, it scared the you know what out of me. Read up on it and am saving it for my little grandson to see, and will then release it to do it’s thing. I live south ( approx 25 miles ) of downtown Atlanta, in Fayetteville 30214 .

    Reply
  • Norma Reimann
    May 29, 2017 7:58 pm

    we found one of these beetles in perry county, indiana ..beautiful! about 1 1/2 inch long.

    Reply
  • What do Eyed Elaters eat besides wood. I have one and find them to be so interesting. TY

    Reply
  • TY for getting back to me. Believe it or not, I purchased a medley treat which consists of dried crickets , meal worms, grasshoppers, which is what I feed my lizard. He loves it! I will be looking for larvae, grubs, etc. TYVM <3

    Reply
    • Thanks for letting us know about the diet of your captive specimen. BugGuide did not seem certain about the diet of adult Eyed Elaters.

      Reply
  • taking a nap in my lazyboy there it wes crawling on my arm gave it a swat with my shoe still crawling ware did it come from. Daughter here from Boston.hope there is only one

    Reply
  • Elizabeth K.
    June 6, 2022 11:24 am

    One fell on me and then to the ground. I thought it was dead until it started clicking in my hand. First time I have ever seen one so I had to google it. Manchester, Mi.

    Reply

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