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Darkling beetle

Eastern Washington

Darkling beetle picture - rearing up in defense
Darkling beetle of the head-stander type

Darkling beetles in the genus Eleodes are common in the west and go by various common names including pinicate beetle and skunk, stink, or head-stander beetle. They have fused wing covers that help retain water in the arid places they inhabit, and rather than fly, they walk, mostly in the dark of night, in search of dead plant material to eat. To thwart predators, some species of this beetle will rear up and spray a noxious oil from the rear of their abdomen that burns the mouth, nose and eyes-- or it just lets a droplet form as a little surprise to animals that attempt to eat it. Nevertheless, some animals will eat these beetles including grasshopper mice (which have learned eat them head-first), burrowing owls and pallid bats.

Population explosions of darkling beetles can occur following mild winters and may be kept in check naturally by parasitoid wasps ( such as the braconid wasp Microctonus eleodis) in places that remain free of pesticides.

Picture of a darkling beetle hiding in a hole
Darkling beetle hiding

Picture of darkling beetles mating
Darkling beetles mating