What Eats Rove Beetles: Key Predators Revealed

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Rove beetles are fascinating insects that belong to the Coleoptera order and the Staphylinidae family. These tiny creatures are usually found on the soil surface in various habitats, and they play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of our ecosystem. But, have you ever wondered what creatures consider rove beetles a part of their diet?

As we dive into the world of rove beetles and their predators, you’ll learn about the significance of these insects and their impact on the food web. From decomposing plants to acting as pest control, rove beetles contribute positively to their environment, making it essential to understand what animals might view them as prey. Keep reading to uncover the mysteries around these small yet mighty beetle species.

Classification and Genera

Rove beetles belong to the family Staphylinidae, which is part of the order Coleoptera. This family is diverse and accounts for many beetle species. In this section, you’ll learn more about their classification and genera.

There are numerous subfamilies within the family Staphylinidae, which are then further divided into different tribes and genera. Some well-known subfamilies include Aleocharinae, Omaliinae, and Oxytelinae.

For example, within the Aleocharinae subfamily, you can find the genera Atheta and Aleochara. Similarly, the Omaliinae subfamily contains genera such as Anthobium and Eusphalerum. Each genus consists of multiple rove beetle species that share common characteristics.

Rove beetles come in various shapes and sizes, but they share some distinct features:

  • Elongated, slender body
  • Short wings (elytra)
  • Abdomen visible due to reduced elytra
  • Fast-moving and agile

While exploring the Staphylinidae family, it’s crucial to remember that classification is always evolving. Researchers continuously discover new species and reorganize subfamilies and tribes based on improved understanding. Staying up to date with the latest scientific research will help you better comprehend the complexity and diversity of rove beetles.

Physical Attributes

Size and Color

Rove beetles are generally of small to medium size, with adults ranging from 1/4 to 1 inch in length. Their color varies between different species, but most are commonly found in shades of brown or black. By observing their size and color, you can better identify these invertebrates when you encounter them.

Distinctive Features

One of the most distinctive features of rove beetles is their elytra, which are the hardened wing covers. Rove beetles have short elytra that only cover a small portion of their abdomen, leaving the rest of their abdominal segments exposed. This unique feature allows you to easily distinguish them from other beetles. Another interesting characteristic of these beetles is their flexible and often upturned abdomen, giving them a scorpion-like appearance. Despite their menacing appearance, most rove beetles are harmless to humans.

In addition, rove beetles have:

  • Solid mandibles used for feeding on smaller invertebrates
  • A slim labium that supports their mouthparts

A comparison of rove beetles with other similar insects can be done in the following table:

Feature Rove Beetle Similar Insect
Size 1/4 – 1 inch 1/4 – 2 inches
Color Brown / Black Various Colors
Elytra Short Longer
Abdomen Upturned Yes No
Harmful to Humans No Varies

Through understanding their physical attributes, such as size, color, and distinctive features, you’ll be better equipped to identify rove beetles in nature and learn about their important role in controlling pest populations.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Larval Stage

During the larval stage, rove beetle larvae are primarily known as active predators. They typically go through a few molts before reaching the pupal stage. In spring and fall, you can often find these larvae preying on smaller pests in the soil.

Some characteristics of rove beetle larvae include:

  • Actively hunting mites, beetle larvae, aphids, and small caterpillars
  • Being nocturnal during warm weather
  • Going through several molts before becoming pupae

Adult Stage

The adult rove beetles continue their predatory lifestyle, actively hunting and feeding on various pests. They usually become active in the spring and continue throughout the fall. Some may overwinter as larvae, pupae, or adults, depending on the species.

When considering the life of an adult rove beetle, it’s important to know that:

  • They are agile and highly active predators and scavengers
  • Over 1,200 species exist in California alone, with varying feeding habits
  • They contribute to keeping pest populations under control

Remember that rove beetles, both as larvae and adults, are a valuable part of regulating garden ecosystems by controlling pest populations such as aphids and mites. So, appreciate their presence in your garden and let them help protect your plants from harm.

Geographical Distribution

Rove beetles are known for their extensive geographical distribution and diverse habitats. In North America, you can find these insects in various environments, such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands. They are also present in Europe, including countries like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

Canada and the United States have a rich assortment of rove beetles as well. In fact, some species are native to these regions, adding to the biodiversity of the continent. When exploring their natural habitats, you might come across rove beetles in places like compost piles, under rocks, or near decaying organic matter.

A few key features of rove beetles include:

  • Elongate body and short wings
  • Shiny brown or black color
  • Hold the tip of their abdomen in the air, resembling a scorpion
  • Predatory nature, feeding on other insects and their larvae

Rove beetles are not only fascinating insects, but they also play a crucial role in controlling pests and maintaining the balance of ecosystems. So next time you come across one, remember the importance of these tiny creatures in our environment and their widespread distribution across North America, Europe, Canada, and the United States.


Rove beetles thrive in a variety of habitats. These environments typically possess certain features, such as:

  • Soil: rich in organic matter and moisture
  • Plants: abundant vegetation for shelter and food
  • Rocks: offering hiding spots and protection
  • Leaf litter: providing additional cover and resources

In moist environments, rove beetles are frequently found near decaying organic matter such as compost piles and rotten fruits. These types of habitats tend to support the various types of insects, like maggots, mites, and nematodes, which rove beetles consider their prey. So, it’s common to see the beetle’s presence in these locations source.

One place you’re likely to find rove beetles is in the soil. They prefer damp, soft soil that is rich in organic matter. Here, they can take advantage of abundant food sources such as other insects, including earwigs source. Turning over rocks or logs, especially when situated near areas with decaying organic matter, will often reveal these agile insects. They may be seeking shelter and hunting under these coverings source.

Another location to observe rove beetles is in areas with dense vegetation. They use plant cover to hide from predators and forage for food. The presence of other insects, such as aphids and small caterpillars, draws rove beetles to these habitats source.

Eating Habits


Rove beetles are known for their diverse eating habits. They mostly feed on small insects, arthropods, and other invertebrates such as springtails, mites, and maggots. Some species also act as scavengers, consuming decaying plant material and dead animals. On the other hand, a few rove beetle species feed on plant roots and may cause damage to crops1.

  • Predatory: Most rove beetles are predators, feeding on other small insects and arthropods.
  • Scavengers: Some species consume decaying organic matter, benefiting the ecosystem.
  • Plant eaters: A few species feed on plant roots and can be harmful to crops.

Predators and Preys

Though rove beetles are typically predators, they can also become prey to larger invertebrates and vertebrates. For instance, predatory insects like centipedes and spiders may target rove beetles as a food source. Birds, small mammals, and even some amphibians also consider rove beetles a part of their diet2.

Parasitic organisms, such as parasitoids, can also affect rove beetles. These parasitoids, including certain wasps, lay their eggs on or inside the rove beetle larvae. As the parasitoid eggs develop, they eventually consume and kill the host larvae, demonstrating a real threat to the rove beetle populations.

However, it is important to note that rove beetles can also act as biological control agents for pests in their ecosystem by preying on harmful insects, such as flies and their larvae, helping to maintain a healthy balance in the environment.

Role in Ecosystem

Rove beetles play a significant role in their habitat. They contribute to biological control by feeding on various pests, acting as beneficial insects. These beetles are predominantly terrestrial, but some aquatic species help in controlling aquatic pests.

For instance, rove beetles are known to prey on:

  • Aphids
  • Mites
  • Small caterpillars
  • Slugs

Their diet is not limited to pests; rove beetles also consume decaying matter and carrion. By doing so, they help recycle nutrients and keep ecosystems clean. You might find them on dead animals, breaking down organic material.

Rove beetles share their habitat with other creatures, forming different relationships:

  • Mutualistic Relationships: Some rove beetles live in the nests of ants or termites and feed on their larvae. In return, the beetles provide services like cleaning and waste disposal.
  • Parasitic Relationships: There are instances where rove beetle larvae may attach themselves to different species of adult beetles, feeding on their host externally.

In summary, rove beetles help maintain natural balance in various ecosystems, both terrestrial and aquatic. They act as beneficial insects, controlling pests, and contributing to the decomposition of organic matter. Their relationships with other species range from mutualistic to parasitic, showcasing their adaptability and significance in their ecosystems.


When trying to identify rove beetles, it’s important to focus on their specific features. These insects have slender bodies, making them easy to spot among other beetle species.

Some key characteristics to help you recognize rove beetles are:

  • Slender, elongate bodies
  • Short wing covers
  • A habit of raising their “tails” when disturbed

One of the main ways to identify these beetles is by their unique posture. They often raise their tails when running or disturbed, which can lead to confusion with small scorpions. However, unlike scorpions, rove beetles do not pose any danger to humans. Their wing covers are also significantly shorter compared to other beetles, which gives them a distinctive appearance.

In summary, pay attention to the slender bodies, short wing covers, and raised tails when looking for rove beetles. This combination of features will help you easily identify them in the insect world. Good luck on your identification journey!


Rove beetles exhibit fascinating behaviors in their natural habitat. They are mainly nocturnal, meaning they are active during the night. It’s essential to understand their behaviors to learn more about what eats them.

As agile and highly active predators, rove beetles hunt for their prey during warm weather. They have a diverse diet, feeding on other organisms like mites, beetle larvae, aphids, and small caterpillars in their adult and larval stages. This makes them a valuable part of the ecosystem due to their role in controlling pest populations.

An interesting aspect of rove beetle behavior is their ability to move their tail – the flexible end of their abdomens – quite adeptly. This feature helps them maneuver quickly, navigate through ground-level debris, and evade potential predators.

In conclusion, understanding the nocturnal behavior and the feeding habits of rove beetles can help identify their natural predators. Their role in the ecosystem and their distinctive tail movement add to the intriguing aspects of their behavior.

Threats and Conservation

Pesticides threaten rove beetle populations in several ways. They may directly kill these beneficial beetles as they prey on pests, or they could unintentionally remove the beetles’ food source. Rove beetles are important predators in ecosystems, consuming mites, beetle larvae, aphids, and small caterpillars. By removing them from their habitat, you may inadvertently allow pest populations to thrive.

To help conserve rove beetles, it’s vital to implement sustainable agricultural practices. For example:

  • Use targeted, low-toxicity pesticides.
  • Minimize the use of broad-spectrum pesticides.
  • Maintain diverse habitats with plenty of natural food sources for rove beetles.

Rove beetles aren’t venomous, but certain species have defensive gland secretions. If handled or disturbed, they may release a foul-smelling odor to deter predators. So, if you encounter them, it’s best to refrain from touching them to avoid any unpleasant experiences.

In conclusion, preserving rove beetles is crucial for maintaining balanced ecosystems. By carefully managing pesticide use and supporting diverse habitats, you can help ensure the survival of these intriguing insects.

Interesting Notes

Rove beetles have several fascinating aspects to their existence. They’re known for their versatility, found in a wide range of habitats, and play a crucial role in the ecosystem. Let’s explore some interesting notes about these creatures.

Dating back to the Triassic period, rove beetles have evolved considerably. Their systematics and classification are intriguing, as they belong to the family Staphylinidae, one of the most diverse group of beetles, with over 1500 species found in North America alone.

Rove beetles exhibit various features that make them distinct:

  • Slender and elongate bodies
  • Short wing covers (elytra) exposing their flexible abdomen
  • Quick, agile movement, capable of rapid takeoff and flight

When it comes to their diet, rove beetles are quite versatile. Some species prey on other insects, such as bark beetles, and help in controlling pest populations. However, different species show varying feeding habits including scavenging on dead animals and insects or even adopting an omnivorous diet.

Now that you’re acquainted with their adaptations, it’s worth noting that rove beetles, despite their modest size, play an essential role in our ecosystem. Their diversity and widespread distribution make them an integral part of the food chain, both as predators and prey. So, whenever you come across these tiny creatures, take a moment to appreciate their interesting existence and the crucial part they play in maintaining our environment.


  1. Predatory Beetles : Rove beetles | Hortsense – Washington State University’

  2. ‘Beetles – Pests of home, garden, landscape, and turf – UC Statewide IPM

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 Scotland


Subject: Beetle
Location: Loch lomond
April 3, 2017 1:23 pm
I saw this wee guy while walking up Ben Lomond.what is it?
Signature: Bug

Rove Beetle

Dear Bug,
This colorful Rove Beetle is
Staphylinus caesareus.

Letter 2 – Rove Beetle from the UK


Subject: What is it?
Location: Kent uk
July 16, 2016 11:50 am
My kids asked me what this is. I don’t know!
Signature: Karen

Rove Beetle: Staphylinus caesareus
Rove Beetle: Platydracus stercorarius

Dear Karen,
This colorful Rove Beetle is
Staphylinus caesareus.

Update:  August 7, 2017
Subject: Rove Beetl from the UK – July 16, 2016
August 7, 2017 5:28 am
just found your entry about that rove beetle from Kent, UK on your website, category ‘what’s that bug’.  You told Karen it was a  staphylinus caesareus but I am pretty sure from what I see on the foto, that it is a Platydracus stercorarius.
Yours sincerely,
ZM (Zoology, University of Regensburg, Germany)
Signature: Zora

Ed. Note:  Here is an image from iNaturalist and one from Nature Spot that support Zora’s correction.

Letter 3 – Rove Beetle from Ireland


Subject: What type of beetle is this
Location: Westmeath, ireland
April 4, 2015 10:23 am
My 3 yr old found this outside and wanted to know what it’s called!! It arches it’s back like a scorpion too.
Signature: Noah Fagan

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Dear Noah,
Congratulations on recognizing that this soft bodied insect is an unusual type of beetle, a Rove Beetle to be more precise, and we believe the species is
Staphylinus caesareusThough this particular Rove Beetle is harmless, the threat position you describe is quite daunting, and we believe the Rove Beetle has the ability to release a foul odor when disturbed.

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Letter 4 – Rove Beetle from Norway


Subject: Unknown bug
Location: Sout-West Norway
August 6, 2014 3:46 am
This bug suddenly walked over my living room floor yestreday. This is in South-west of Norway.
Does anyone know which kind of bug this could be?
Best Regards!
Signature: Joeran

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Hi Joeran,
This is some species of predatory Rove Beetle in the family Staphylinidae and it will not harm you or your home.  You should release it from its plastic bag immediately.  It looks like a very good match to this image of
Creophilus maxillosus on Warren Photographic Image Library of Nature & Pets.  According to BugGuide, it is called a Hairy Rove Beetle and it is:  “native and widespread in NA, C. m. maxillosus is native to the Palaearctic and is known from scattered records from ON, QC, and MA (first detected: ~1620, NF)(2) and many other parts of the New World” which indicates there are different subspecies in the Old and New Worlds.  We learned that there is a European subspecies, Creophilus maxillosus maxillosus, and according to Nature Spot, it is:  “Widespread and generally common throughout Britain.”  According to BugGuide, the Hairy Rove Beetle feeds on “maggots and adult flies, also other arthropods,” so it is a beneficial species.  Eakringbirds has a UK distribution map.  Macro Photos has an image taken in Norway.  Gwannon.com has a worldwide distribution map that includes Norway.

Letter 5 – Rove Beetle, probably


What is this?
I came home today and found about 5 of these in the lower level of my home. Do you know what they are?
Thank you!

Hi Erica,
We contacted Eric Eaton for a more expert opinion, and he believes it is some species of Rove Beetle, wingless predators that often eat destructive insects. There are so many similar looking species that he can’t provide anything more concrete that that.

Letter 6 – Rove Beetle from UK


Subject: Ontholestes murinus?
Location: Totton, Southampton, Hampshire (UK)
April 29, 2014 6:06 am
Hello! The other day, we had a visitor to the optical practice where I work. I’m 90% sure this is Ontholestes murinus; I was sure it was a rove beetle at the time and although I wasn’t expecting to get such a precise ID, I stumbled upon O. murinus when researching it later. I can’t tell you anything about where it came from, only that there are a couple of green areas around the corner from the practice and that when I chucked it outside, it took off before it even hit the pavement. It was very fast and had large mandibles, and it did raise his tail a few times as a Devil’s Coach Horse would. What do you think? (PS the numbers on the ruler are millimetres, and also I have more photos if required but sorry they’re not better quality). many thanks in advance.
Signature: Becca

Rove Beetle
Rove Beetle

Dear Becca,
This is definitely a Rove Beetle, and it could well be
Ontholestes murinus, which is pictured on Beetles and Coleopterologists.


  • 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.

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  • 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.

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