What Do Rove Beetles Eat: Uncovering Their Diverse Diet

Rove beetles are fascinating little creatures that play a significant role in the ecosystem. These highly active predators and scavengers can be found on the soil surface in a variety of habitats, often hiding under rocks or logs near compost piles. With their shiny brown or black appearance and scorpion-like posture, they may seem intimidating, but they’re actually quite beneficial to the environment.

So, what do these tiny predators feed on? You’ll be pleased to know that rove beetles are nature’s little helpers, as they have a diverse diet consisting of various pests. For example, both adult and larval rove beetles are known to eat mites, beetle larvae, aphids, and small caterpillars. This makes them incredibly valuable to gardens and agricultural landscapes, as they help naturally control pests that could otherwise damage plants.

Rove Beetles Overview

Classification

Rove beetles belong to the family Staphylinidae within the order Coleoptera, the class Insecta, and the phylum Arthropoda. Staphylinidae is one of the largest families of beetles with more than 63,000 described species. Some well-known genera include Stenus, Paederus, and Ocypus Olens.

Physical Description

Rove beetles have distinctive features that set them apart from other beetles:

  • Elongated body shape
  • Short elytra (wing covers) that expose the abdomen
  • Flexible abdomen for movement

The adult rove beetles are generally small, measuring between 1 and 35 mm in length. The larvae, on the other hand, have a more worm-like appearance with soft bodies and well-developed legs.

Characteristic Adult Rove Beetles Larvae Rove Beetles
Size 1 – 35 mm Smaller than adults
Body Shape Elongated Worm-like
Legs Well-developed Well-developed

Habitat

Rove beetles thrive in a variety of habitats such as forests, meadows, and urban environments. They are often found under stones, logs, or leaf litter. Some species, like the ant-loving rove beetles, live in close association with ants or other social insects.

In these habitats, you may encounter rove beetles searching for their favorite food: small insects, larvae, and even carrion. The diet of rove beetles primarily consists of other invertebrates, but they can also consume fungi and decaying plant material. With their vast diversity in species, habitat preferences, and eating habits, rove beetles play a vital role in various ecosystems, helping maintain the balance by controlling pests and breaking down organic matter.

Life Cycle of Rove Beetles

Eggs

Rove beetles begin their life cycle as eggs, which are usually laid by adult females. These eggs are small and often found in moist environments. They typically hatch within 3 to 4 days into creamy white larvae.

Larvae

Once the eggs hatch, the young rove beetles emerge as larvae. The larvae are similar in appearance to maggots, with a creamy white coloration. These tiny creatures play a vital role in the life cycle, feeding on various types of prey. Some common food sources for rove beetle larvae include small insects, fungi, and decaying organic matter. As they grow, they undergo three development stages, called instars, before reaching the pupal stage.

Pupae

After living as voracious larvae, rove beetles eventually enter the pupal stage. At this point, they stop feeding and become dormant, preparing for their transformation into adults. This period of metamorphosis typically lasts around a week and marks the final stage of the rove beetle’s life cycle before adulthood.

Adults

Once the pupal stage is complete, the rove beetles emerge as fully formed adults. They are usually black or brown and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with over 1,200 known species in California alone. As predators or parasites, adult rove beetles play a crucial role in controlling populations of small arthropods and other pests. They have a relatively short life span, completing their life cycle in about three weeks at temperatures around 77° F.

Feeding Habits and Diet

Catering to Different Diets

Rove beetles have quite diverse eating habits and diets, making them interesting insects to study. They feed on a variety of prey and also act as scavengers when needed. Let’s explore their diet preferences in more detail.

Feeding as Predator

As predators, rove beetles are known to feed on several small insects and invertebrates. They take on a variety of prey such as:

  • Mites
  • Aphids
  • Caterpillars
  • Small caterpillars
  • Root maggots

This makes rove beetles beneficial insects, as they help control pest populations in gardens and farms. For example, rove beetles can be a great natural predator for aphids and caterpillars, which can be harmful to plants.

Feeding as Scavenger

Besides preying on live insects, rove beetles are also effective scavengers. When feeding as scavengers, rove beetles are attracted to various sources of organic matter. Some examples include:

  • Dead animals
  • Carrion (rotting flesh)
  • Decaying plant matter

Rove beetles play a significant role as carrion feeders, along with carrion beetles, burying beetles, and sap beetles. Their appetite for decaying matter helps in the decomposition process and recycling of nutrients in the ecosystem.

Remember, when observing rove beetles, their diet might vary depending on the species and environmental factors. Whether they’re acting as predators or scavengers, these insects are undoubtedly an essential part of maintaining balance in the ecosystem.

Rove Beetles and their Environment

Outdoor Habitats

Rove beetles thrive in various outdoor habitats. They frequently inhabit areas rich in soil and leaf litter, where they can easily find food sources like decaying matter, springtails, and small arthropods. These beetles are also found in and around vegetation and under rocks, providing them with shelter and additional food options.

For example, in Europe, you might find rove beetles in:

  • Forest floors
  • Gardens
  • Meadows
  • Woodlands

Indoor Habitats

Occasionally, rove beetles find their way indoors. While they prefer outdoor habitats, they can adapt to indoor environments where they find organic matter and debris. Common indoor spaces for rove beetles include:

  • Basements
  • Greenhouses
  • Indoor gardens

In these indoor spaces, the rove beetles will still focus on consuming their regular diet of decaying matter, small insects, and other organic materials.

In summary, rove beetles are highly adaptable creatures that can thrive in both outdoor and indoor environments. They mainly consume decaying matter and small insects, finding their place in the local ecosystem. Remember to keep an eye on your surroundings, as you might just spot a rove beetle working its way through your garden or indoor spaces.

Importance in Ecosystem

Rove beetles play a crucial role in maintaining the balance in various ecosystems. Because of their diverse diet, they contribute to controlling populations of unwanted pests and decomposing organic matter. Let’s explore their significance in more detail.

Beneficial Insect: Rove beetles are considered a valuable asset to the ecosystem because they feed on other insects and help maintain balance in various environments. For instance, they eat mites, beetle larvae, aphids, and small caterpillars, both as adults and larvae, making them beneficial insects for crops and gardens source.

Crops and Dead Animals: These beetles are often found near decaying fruits, roots, and dead animals. They prey on maggots, mites, and nematodes, which can be harmful to both crops and other animals source.

Let’s take a look at some related beetle families and how they contribute to the ecosystem:

  • Silphidae: Also known as carrion beetles, they are specifically drawn towards dead animals. They feed on the decomposing matter and help in breaking it down.
  • Hister Beetles (Histeridae): These beetles are also attracted to dead animals and insects. They prey on maggots, contributing to organic decomposition and maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
  • Nitidulidae: Known as sap beetles, they are commonly found in plants and play a role in the pollination process.

Rove beetles exhibit certain characteristics that enable them to be effective in their ecological niche:

  • Four Stages: Like most other beetles, rove beetles have four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Each stage contributes differently to the ecosystem.
  • Nocturnal: Rove beetles are mainly nocturnal, which means they are active during the night. This puts them at an advantage, as they can hunt and feed without much disturbance from predators.

In conclusion, rove beetles and their relatives play critical roles in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Due to their varied diet and feeding habits, they serve as natural pest controllers and contribute to the decomposition process, which ultimately benefits both plants and animals in the long run.

Identifying Rove Beetles

At a Glance

Rove beetles are fascinating insects that are quite useful because of their diet which consists of small pests like mites, beetle larvae, aphids, and small caterpillars as adults and larvae. Here’s a quick, visual guide to help you identify rove beetles:

  • Size: Rove beetles come in various sizes, typically small to medium-sized.
  • Wing Covers: They are characterized by their short and flexible wing covers.
  • Food Source: Rove beetles are predators and scavengers, feeding on a wide range of small insects and organic matter.
  • Shelter: They usually live in moist environments, often near rotting vegetation.

In-depth Identification

To identify rove beetles more accurately, you should pay attention to the following characteristics:

  • Wing Covers: Rove beetles have distinctive and flexible wing covers that only cover a small portion of their abdomen. This feature allows them to move their wings easily for swift and agile movement.

  • Folding Wings: These beetles can fold their wings quickly under their wing covers, making them appear smaller than they are.

  • Thorax and Legs: Rove beetles have a well-developed thorax and strong, segmented legs. Their legs are equipped with claws that enable them to cling to objects.

When trying to identify a rove beetle, consider their food source and the area they inhabit. They prefer moist environments and are often found near rotting vegetation, where plenty of their preferred diet, such as mites and aphids, are available.

By keeping the abovementioned characteristics in mind, you’ll be able to identify and distinguish rove beetles from other insects effectively. Remember, these tiny predators can be quite helpful, so take the time to familiarize yourself with their unique features.

Rove Beetles in Popular Culture

Rove beetles are fascinating creatures that have captured the attention of both entomologists and the general public. These insects are not just famous for their unique appearance but also for their intriguing behavior.

For instance, entomologists appreciate rove beetles for their role in the ecosystem. They’re predators and scavengers that dine on mites, beetle larvae, aphids, and small caterpillars. If you’re a nature enthusiast, you’ll enjoy observing these beetles in action, contributing to a balance in our environment.

On a lighter note, rove beetles have also inspired mobile apps that help people identify insects they come across. These apps aim to educate users about various insect species, including rove beetles, and their importance in the ecosystem. They can even turn a nature walk into an exciting treasure hunt, as you search for and discover these fascinating insects in their natural habitat.

Lastly, rove beetles are regarded as essential allies in pest control, making them beneficial to have around your garden. Their insatiable appetite for harmful pests has led to widespread admiration and use in the agricultural sector.

To summarize:

  • Rove beetles attract entomologists due to their fascinating behavior and role in the ecosystem.
  • Mobile apps inspired by rove beetles help in identifying various insect species.
  • They’re considered essential allies in controlling harmful pests in gardens and agricultural fields.

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 – Rove Beetle from Brazil

 

Subject: Maybe a rove beetle blue metallic
Location: Curitiba (large city) at south of Brazil
November 11, 2012 6:03 pm
Hi from Brazil!
I live in Curitiba (south of Brazil) and today I found a strange insect that flyed at my garden.
I think it is a ”rove beetle” (Plochionocerus, Staphylinidae). But I’m not sure…
Signature: daniel calegari

Rove Beetle

Hi Daniel,
We agree that this is a Rove Beetle.  Did you actually witness it flying?  Not all Rove Beetles are capable of flight, and unlike most other beetles, they do not have hard elytra or protective wing covers that extend the length of the body and which cover and protect the soft flight wings.  This is really a beautiful Rove Beetle and we hope we are able to identify it to the species level.  We will postpone that search for a later time as our own garden is beckoning us to plant onions and sugar snap peas in anticipation of the winter rains in Southern California.

Rove Beetle

We might attempt a quick search now though.  We found a matching photo on TrekNature, but no species identification.  Perhaps Cesar Crash will write in with an ID.

Rove Beetle

Hi! Thanks for so fast answer!
Yes, I saw it coming, flying at the garden, then I hurry to take some photos, but it was going to hide bellow some old wood and vases. I used a small stick to make it run at dry and clear space, but I thank it could be dangerous/poisonous, then I took photos at some distance, and soon it was flying again and disappered.
Very beautiful beetle! I had a luck day!
thanks, yours,
Daniel, from Brazil.

 

Letter 2 – Rove Beetle from Brazil

 

Subject: Purple and Orange Scorpion-like Bug
Location: São Paulo / Brazil
November 15, 2015 6:03 pm
Found at the Pedra Grande State Park in the city of São Paulo, southeast Brazil in June 2014.
Signature: Guilherme Ramalho

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Dear Guilherme,
Though we have not been successful at determining a species identity, we can tell you that this is a Rove Beetle in the family Staphylinidae, and that it is the most brightly colored Rove Beetle we have ever seen, which makes it puzzling that we were not able to locate any matching images online.  We will contact Cesar Crash who edits our sister site in Brazil, Insetologia, to see if he can provide any additional information.  This pose is a typical threat position of Rove Beetles, and although they expel a foul odor, they are otherwise harmless.  The one exception to that are the Rove Beetles from the genus
Paederus, known as Creechie Bugs in Africa.  According to BugGuide:  “some species contain a toxic chemical (pederin) in their hemolymph which causes contact dermatitis in humans, usually as a result of slapping the beetle and crushing it against exposed skin. The affected area becomes red, swollen, and itchy, causing the skin to peel when scratched.”

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Cesar Crash writes back
Yes, I do! The beauty is in the genus Glenus, we have two on Insetologia:
http://www.insetologia.com.br/2014/11/besouro-estafilinideo-glenus-em-sao.html
http://www.insetologia.com.br/2015/10/besouro-estafilinideo-glenus-em-minas.html
and I guess G. biplagiatus http://www.me.esalq.usp.br/fotos/Coleoptera/Staphilinidae/1728.jpg
Best, Cesar

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Letter 3 – Rove Beetle from Borneo

 

Subject: What is this bug?
Location: Borneo
December 13, 2016 8:14 am
Hey Bugman,
On a recent trip to Borneo we came across this funky bug.
Very praying mantis in its stance, but flies like some sort of wasp.
Super cool creature that we spent about 30mins watching as it waited for ants or flys to cross its path so it could have lunch.
Thanks!
Signature: Emily

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Dear Emily,
The front legs on your insects are quite unusual, and they do not seem adapted for walking.  Nonetheless, we are relatively certain that this is a Rove Beetle in the family Staphylinidae.  But for the front legs, your individual looks like this individual from Malaysia pictured on Project Noah.  This unidentified Rove Beetle from Paul Bertner’s Rainforest Photography site and the one from Borneo Bootcamp have similarly structured legs.  Because we will be away from the office for the holidays, we are postdating your submission to go live at the end of the month while we are away.

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Letter 4 – Rove Beetle from Brazil

 

Subject: Rove Beetle
Location: Santa Cruz do sul, Rs, Brasil
March 2, 2016 8:02 am
Hello I was with my sister photographing some wildlife animals near my house , when in the midst of a trunk partially eaten by termites came across this peculiar insect that had never seen in my life , so I looked about and did not find much thing , only that he is an insect of the family Staphylinidae follows insect photos , I hope you like .
Signature: Tiago Back

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Dear Tiago,
The first time we saw an image of this stunning Rove Beetle from the genus
Glenus, we were quite amazed.  The colors are striking.

Letter 5 – Rove Beetle from England

 

Subject: What is this bug?
Location: South East, England
April 1, 2014 7:29 am
Hi,
Found this bug in my house.. just wondering what it is! It moves it’s bum a lot and uses it to push back it’s wings (which were hidden for a long time)
Signature: Thanks, Cassia

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Hi Cassia,
This is a Rove Beetle in the family Staphylinidae.  We will attempt a species identification when we have more time.

Update:  We believe we have identified this Rove Beetle as Staphylinus erythropterus thanks to Wikimedia.

Letter 6 – Rove Beetle from Canada

 

Subject:  Strange bug in my pool
Geographic location of the bug:  Ontario, Canada
Date: 09/07/2018
Time: 10:28 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi, I found a very odd bug in my pool and I’ve never seen one like it before. Could you tell me what it is?
How you want your letter signed:  Crystal

Rove Beetle

Dear Crystal,
Based on this BugGuide image, we believe we have correctly identified your Rove Beetle as
Platydracus immaculatus.  Rove Beetles are not aquatic.  We believe this individual fell into the pool.  According to BugGuide:  “now infrequently collected over much of its range.” 

Letter 7 – Rove Beetle from England

 

Bug ID?
Hi, I have been going through the pages on your site (amongst others) but am yet to ID this, measures around 20mm and was taken in the South of England. If it helps at all it quickly ran underground (crack in the concrete). Thanks!

This is a Rove Beetle in the family Staphylinidae. It greatly resembles an American species, the Hairy Rove Beetle, Creophilus maxillosus pictured on BugGuide. Since there are references to this species photographed in France and Czech Republic, we believe it may be your exact species, or a closely related species.

Letter 8 – Rove Beetle from Germany

 

Subject: What’s this ?
Location: Scheeßel, Lower Saxony, Germany
August 29, 2015 2:06 pm
Hi, do you know this nice bug ?
Signature: Peter B.

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Dear Peter,
We believe this Rove Beetle may be
Platydracus stercorarius and there are some very nice images on Eakring Birds.  According to Nature Spot, it “is also quite a large species reaching 2 cm or more in length. The legs and elytra are rust red, whilst the head, thorax and abdomen are mainly black. The head is very square at the back and there are bands of pale pubescence on the apical abdominal segments.”  It might also be the related Staphylinus caesareus.

Letter 9 – Rove Beetle and mistaken DNA

 

Subject: Earwig no forceps
Location: Logan Canyon, Utah
November 29, 2016 12:49 am
I found an unfamiliar bug that resembles an earwig. Although it looked similar, it was missing the forceps located near the rear of the insect. I extracted the DNA to see if I could use sequencing data to figure out what the insect was. My results came back as an isopod which made no sense (a pillbug). I am still trying to figure out what this bug is or the order it might belong in. If you have any advice I would appreciate it.
Signature: Linsee Park

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Dear Linsee,
This is a Rove Beetle in the family Staphylinidae which is very well represented on BugGuide, but alas, there is not enough detail in your image to determine an exact species identification.  We are quite curious about the DNA testing you conducted.  Was it part of a educational program?  We fondly remember our own Fruit Fly data from a high school genetics class experiment that was so very wrong.  If your results were part of a student experiment, the error makes much more sense than if funds were expended through a for profit company.

Thank You! That helps me out a ton and gives me another place to keep researching. We conducted the DNA test for my Genetics lab course. I am currently an undergraduate at Utah State University. We used the Roche High Pure DNA Extraction kit and we amplified the 648bp region in mitochondrial cytochrome-c oxidase subunit 1 gene using the Promega PCR with GoTaq amplification kit. I was wondering if region of mitochondrial DNA that we amplifed are to conserved between different orders of insects. Could that be a possibility?
Thanks Again!
Linsee Park

Hi again Linsee,
Thanks for the DNA clarification.  Alas, our editorial staff does not have the necessary science background to answer your questions regarding shared DNA among the lower beasts.

Letter 10 – Rove Beetle from Australia properly identified as Webspinner

 

‘Articulated” Rove Beetle?
June 13, 2010
Hi guys,
Here is an odd one. I believe it is a Rove Beetle but can’t find anything with the ‘articulated’ thorax. Have you got anything like it on your side of the world? About 20mm long and has 16 (or more, hard to count from the picture) antennae segments.
aussietrev
Queensland Australia

Rove Beetle

Hi Trevor,
We agree that this is some Rove Beetle.  According to BugGuide:  “In typical form, body appears to be divided into four parts when viewed from above
” indicating that the articulation you describe is not limited to this species, but is a family characteristic that is more pronounced in your beetle.  Perhaps someone will be able to identify your Rove Beetle.

Update
June 15, 2010
Hi guys,
Hope the fishing was good. Thanks to a comment posted by mardikavana I was able to track down this link
http://www.ento.csiro.au/education/insects/embioptera.html
which shows a shot of this as a Metoligotoma species in the family Embioptera
In reference to the stated areas where it is found, my place is inland by about 200kms, hardly coastal.
regards,
Trevor

Hi again Trevor,
We leave for the airport in a few hours.  We will move your posting to the Webspinner category of Embioptera.

Letter 11 – Rove Beetle from Austria: Staphylinus caesareus

 

Odd looking insect
March 6, 2010
Greetings, on my summer holiday (July 2009)I found this insect crawling on the ground. It was about an inch long. Here’s hoping you can tell me what this is because it’s been bugging me ever since I took the photo with my mobile phone. Only one picture was reasonable, the rest are all vague but I added one because it shows some more detail on the head.
Thank you for your time.
Henk de Vries, The Netherlands
Carinthia, Austria

Rove Beetle:  Staphylinus caesareus

Hi Henk,
This is a Rove Beetle in the family Staphylinidae.  We will try to get a species identification when we have more time.

 Rove Beetle:  Staphylinus caesareus

Comment:
This is Staphylinus caesareus.
mardikavana

Thanks for the comment mardikavana.  We found a link on Wild About Britain that pictures and describes Staphylinus caesareus.  We also found a matching photo on BioLib.  Rove Beetles are important predators that help to control populations of invertebrates.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

6 thoughts on “What Do Rove Beetles Eat: Uncovering Their Diverse Diet”

  1. I think that it some sort of Embiidina because staphylinidae doesn’t have that long thorax and i don’t see elytra.

    Reply

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