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African Black Beetle (Heteronychus arator)

The African black beetle, or the black lawn beetle, is a member of the rhinoceros beetles family. Danish zoologist Johan Christian Fabricius was the one who named it in 1775. Its scientific name Heteronychus arator is a combination of Heteronychus meaning “variable claw” and arator meaning “ploughman”. 

African Black Beetle

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Dynastinae
  • Genus: Heteronychus
  • Scientific name: Heteronychus arator

Physical Description and Identification

Adult

Size: 12-15 mm (0.47-0.6 in)

Color: It has a shiny black appearance on the upper side and reddish-brown on the undersides.

Other Characteristic Features: These slow-moving nocturnal beetles are oval and cylindrical in shape. The females appear larger than the males.

Heteronychus arator

Larva

They are white and have a yellow-brown head with black jaws. The bodies of these grubs are soft and “C” shaped, with six legs and a swollen, dark abdomen. When newly hatched, they are 5mm long, eventually growing to 25-30 mm.

African Black Beetle Larvae

Pupa

The pupae start as pale yellow and turn reddish-brown as they are about to mature into adults. It is 1.5 cm long and 8mm wide. In Australia, the larva begins to pupate in March when autumn starts. Pupation takes place for around one month.

African Black Beetle Pupa

Egg

The eggs are creamy-white, 1.8mm long, and oval. A female can lay 30 eggs in her lifetime.

African Black Beetle Eggs

Quick Facts

Other namesBlack lawn beetle
Adult lifespan10 months
DistributionNative: Africa, Introduced: Australia (except Tasmania) and North Island in New Zealand
HabitatLawns, farms, gardens
Seasons activeMarch to December
Host plantsGrass, turf, horticulture crops, and cereals like wheat, barley, and triticale.
Diet of adultsPlant stems
African Black Beetle Damage

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

Adults often feed on growing points of young plants, causing the plant to die before reaching maturity. The damage is recognizable from bite marks on stems. Larvae target the roots of pastures, which eventually become patchy, and can be lifted easily from the from the soil’s surface, rolled back just like a carpet.

Did You Know

  • They are strong fliers but generally prefer living near their host plants to flying around.
Black Lawn Beetle

Image Source: barmac.com.au, pbs.twimg.com, agric.wa.gov.au, abc.net.au, agric.wa.gov.au

The African black beetle, or the black lawn beetle, is a member of the rhinoceros beetles family. Danish zoologist Johan Christian Fabricius was the one who named it in 1775. Its scientific name Heteronychus arator is a combination of Heteronychus meaning “variable claw” and arator meaning “ploughman”. 

African Black Beetle

Physical Description and Identification

Adult

Size: 12-15 mm (0.47-0.6 in)

Color: It has a shiny black appearance on the upper side and reddish-brown on the undersides.

Other Characteristic Features: These slow-moving nocturnal beetles are oval and cylindrical in shape. The females appear larger than the males.

Heteronychus arator

Larva

They are white and have a yellow-brown head with black jaws. The bodies of these grubs are soft and “C” shaped, with six legs and a swollen, dark abdomen. When newly hatched, they are 5mm long, eventually growing to 25-30 mm.

African Black Beetle Larvae

Pupa

The pupae start as pale yellow and turn reddish-brown as they are about to mature into adults. It is 1.5 cm long and 8mm wide. In Australia, the larva begins to pupate in March when autumn starts. Pupation takes place for around one month.

African Black Beetle Pupa

Egg

The eggs are creamy-white, 1.8mm long, and oval. A female can lay 30 eggs in her lifetime.

African Black Beetle Eggs

Quick Facts

Other namesBlack lawn beetle
Adult lifespan10 months
DistributionNative: Africa, Introduced: Australia (except Tasmania) and North Island in New Zealand
HabitatLawns, farms, gardens
Seasons activeMarch to December
Host plantsGrass, turf, horticulture crops, and cereals like wheat, barley, and triticale.
Diet of adultsPlant stems
African Black Beetle Damage

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

Adults often feed on growing points of young plants, causing the plant to die before reaching maturity. The damage is recognizable from bite marks on stems. Larvae target the roots of pastures, which eventually become patchy, and can be lifted easily from the from the soil’s surface, rolled back just like a carpet.

Did You Know

  • They are strong fliers but generally prefer living near their host plants to flying around.
Black Lawn Beetle

Image Source: barmac.com.au, pbs.twimg.com, agric.wa.gov.au, abc.net.au, agric.wa.gov.au

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