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Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle

Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle

One of the most fascinating creatures in the insect world is the Alaus oculatus, or eastern eyed click beetle, from the family Elateridae. They have this name because their black-and-white mottled body includes two large black spots encircled by white that resemble eyes, presumably to frighten predators.

The Alaus oculatus can jump as high as ten inches. Their larvae glows in the dark and it seems that they are able to control the brightness of the light they emit, although they do not blink on and off like fireflies. This insect is also called the Eyed Elater or Big-Eyed Elater in the Elateridae family.
They are found in and around the forests of many regions of the world. The southwestern eyed click beetle is one of the largest varieties found in the United States.

Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle Identification

An Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle has a long, narrow body with black and white mottling. The two large eyelike markings are on its pronotum, the foremost of the three sections of an insect’s thorax.

This would look as if it were its head to people unfamiliar with insects. The beetle is around two inches long and has a very unique identifier. When it feels threatened, it will bend and snap its head and prothorax together, launching itself several inches into the air with a loud clicking noise.

They can also use this ability to flip themselves over if they land on their Easter-Eyed Click Beetle close-up and are unable to right themselves. They can fly away after this stunt if they so choose, but more often they will fall to the ground and play dead. Sometimes they will wander off in search of something else more interesting to do. The click beetle sound is what identifies them beyond a doubt and also gave them their name.
If you see what looks like bioluminescent worms after you turn over a rotting log, you may have discovered click beetle larvae. Don’t get too close, as they can be less friendly than their glow in the dark counterparts, fireflies.
They can often be found in the dark along the forest floor. These creatures are the natural predators of some true pests, including many wood-boring insects, but their identity as pests themselves makes them unpopular despite their bioluminescence and fascinating life cycle.

The eyed click beetle is not only one of the most incredible you will encounter, but its behavior is unique as well. They have a number of colloquial names related to their activities, including spring beetles, skipjacks and snapping beetles, depending upon the region where you encounter them.

The black click beetle is usually not a danger to humans and can even make an engaging pet for insect enthusiasts because they do not require much maintenance.

Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle Facts

  • Attracted to light
  • Bioluminescent larvae
  • Resists predators by leaping into the air
  • Unique click beetle sound
  • Crop pest, particularly for potatoes
  • Harmless to humans
  •  Live less than half their lives as adults
  • Black and white mottled body
  • Found in deciduous forest areas
  • Eat wood-boring beetle grubs
  • 1-2 inches in length full grown

Where do Eastern-Eyed Click Beetles live?

The click beetle habitat varies depending on the region. They are nocturnal and usually only emerge at night, except in warmer climates where they are active during the day.

They live in areas with deciduous forests. There are many different varieties of these beetles and they live in many parts of Central America, the United States and Canada.

They are also found in other parts of the world, including Europe, Africa and some parts of China.

Their size varies a great deal from region to region, and the smaller beetles tend to be able to jump much higher than the larger ones.

What do Eastern-Eyed Click Beetles eat?

The larvae of the Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle, also called wireworms, eat wood-boring beetle larvae. They are the natural predators of many unwanted pests.

Unfortunately, they can also do damage to crops because they will eat seed germ, so they are viewed as pests themselves. Adult beetles tend to eat nectar and plant juice, but they do not eat very often, if at all.

This is why many people who are interested in raising insects choose these beetles as pets, since they do not require the amount of caretaking other insects require.

Size of the Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle

The size of this beetle can vary, and it tends to be between one or two inches, or 25-45 millimeters long.

It has a long, thin body and a hard carapace. Some of the adults in the tropical regions also glow in the dark like the wireworms.

The wireworm larvae are flat and slow-moving, growing from 15-40 millimeters in length.

The largest click beetles are found in the American southwest and also have some of the most prominent markings.

How long do Eastern-Eyed Click Beetles live?

These beetles have different lifespans depending on where they live. Those in cold climates can live up to 3 or 4 years, while those in warmer areas may live as few as 2 or 1.

Click Beetle Larvae - Wireworm

This is partly because the adults can bury themselves in the soil in colder climates over the winter months to emerge again in the spring. These beetles are able to hibernate under the snow and survive the long winter.

Life Cycle

These beetles lay their eggs in the soil. The grubs pupate underground or in rotting wood on the forest floor. They spend most of their lives in the larval stage (2-5 years).

Their adult stage usually lasts through the following summer and if they live in a cold climate, they may survive for one more year.

They have a full metamorphosis, meaning they start as eggs and pupate, changing from grubs into fully grown adults. This can take quite some time and also seems to depend upon the region where they are found.

Do Eastern-Eyed Click Beetles bite?

A Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle bite is unlikely and very rare. These beetles are harmless to humans and they don’t bite, unless you bother them a great deal.

The larvae, on the other hand, have strong jaws and probably should not be handled. The adults are attracted to light, so it is possible to find a click beetle in the house after leaving a door open on a warm summer evening.

Sometimes these beetles are seen as a problem pest due to their attraction to light, but it is possible to deter them with improved screening methods and the judicious use of bug spray.

Some people wonder, is the glowing click beetle toxic? No, but its young can bite. It’s also extremely rare to encounter a glowing click beetle outside of the tropics.

A glowing click beetle is one of nature’s most incredible sights, because we don’t often encounter bioluminescent creatures in our everyday lives.

Natural Enemies

This beetle has a wide variety of predators, including the usual suspects. Birds, moles, bats, lizards and spiders are among their natural enemies.

Their slippery bodies usually mean that predators are left without a meal. Humans also tend to kill them because they are considered pests in many parts of the world, and dislike what is often considered a click beetle infestation.

The Southwestern-Eyed click beetle is particularly unpopular due to its size and many people try to find different ways to eradicate them. For the most part, these are not the infesting type of insect so it is unlikely that anyone will be able to fully eliminate them.

Their natural habitat is the outdoors and the forest floor, so it’s also unlikely that you will find yourself the victim of a click beetle infestation. Instead, these insects are a natural part of the deciduous forest environment and are rarely seen apart from when they are attracted by artificial light.

The Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle may look scary at first glance, but it is mostly harmless. Those who consider the glowing click beetle toxic are misinformed. A click beetle bite is incredibly rare.

However, click beetle larvae tends to be more of a pest than the adult variety, and is more likely to bite. It’s unlikely that you will come in contact with this insect in grub form unless you go looking for it, so there is not much risk of being bitten regardless of the form in which you may encounter a click beetle.

If you find yourself meeting a black click beetle over the summer, you can say you found a click beetle in the house and then put it outside without fear. They are a part of the ecosystem and a frequent visitor in the summer months.

Its fascinating click and jump makes it one of the most interesting insects commonly found in your own backyard.

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