Click Beetles (Elateridae)

Click beetles are a family of beetles known for the sound they produce while jumping – a violent click noise. There are around 9300 species in this family, with about 965 species in North America.

Common Beetles Belonging to this Family

  • Eastern Eyed Click Beetle (Alaus oculatus)
  • Ampedus nigricollis
  • Alaus zunianus
  • Cebrio gigas
  • Lanelater fuscipes
  • Sericus brunneus
  • Melanoxanthus anticus

Scientific Classification

These beetles are separated into several subfamilies, which consist of several genera.

Subfamilies

  • Agrypninae
  • Campyloxeninae
  • Cardiophorinae
  • Dendrometrinae
  • Elaterinae
  • Eudicronychinae
  • Hemiopinae
  • Lissominae
  • Morostomatinae
  • Negastriinae
  • Oestodinae
  • Omalisinae
  • Parablacinae
  • Physodactylinae
  • Pityobiinae
  • Plastocerinae
  • Subprotelaterinae
  • Tetralobinae
  • Thylacosterninae

Genera

  • Actenicerus
  • Adelocera
  • Adrastus
  • Aeoloderma
  • Aeoloides
  • Aeolus
  • Agriotes
  • Agrypnus
  • Alaus
  • Ampedus
  • Anchastus
  • Anostirus
  • Aplotarsus
  • Athous
  • Balgus
  • Betarmon
  • Brachygonus
  • Brachylacon
  • Brongniartia
  • Calambus
  • Cardiophorus
  • Cebrio
  • Chalcolepidus
  • Cidnopus
  • Conoderus
  • Craspedostethus
  • Crepidophorus
  • Ctenicera
  • Dacnitus
  • Dalopius
  • Danosoma
  • Deilelater
  • Diacanthous
  • Dicronychus
  • Dima
  • Drilus
  • Eanus
  • Ectamenogonus
  • Ectinus
  • Elater
  • Elathous
  • Eopenthes
  • Fleutiauxellus
  • Haterumelater
  • Hemicleus
  • Hemicrepidius
  • Heteroderes
  • Horistonotus
  • Hypnoidus
  • Hypoganus
  • Hypolithus
  • Idolus
  • Ignelater
  • Ischnodes
  • Isidus
  • Itodacne
  • Jonthadocerus
  • Lacon
  • Lanelater
  • Limoniscus
  • Limonius
  • Liotrichus
  • Megapenthes
  • Melanotus
  • Melanoxanthus
  • Metanomus
  • Merklelater
  • Mulsanteus
  • Negastrius
  • Neopristilophus
  • Nothodes
  • Oedostethus
  • Orithales
  • Paracardiophorus
  • Paraphotistus
  • Peripontius
  • Pheletes
  • Pittonotus
  • Pityobius
  • Podeonius
  • Porthmidius
  • Procraerus
  • Prodrasterius
  • Prosternon
  • Pyrearinus
  • Pyrophorus
  • Quasimus
  • Reitterelater
  • Selatosomus
  • Sericus
  • Simodactylus
  • Spheniscosomus
  • Stenagostus
  • Synaptus
  • Vesperelater
  • Zorochros

Physical Description and Identification

Adult

Size: 0.47-1.2 in (1.2-3 cm)

Color: Most specimens are black or brown, though some have been spotted with red and yellow patterns on their bodies.

Other Characteristic Features: They are long, with backward projections coming from the corners of the shield lying behind their pronotum.

They pretend to play dead when they are touched by falling on their elytra. Once safe, the beetle bends its head and thorax forward, causing its spine to hook into a notch on the abdomen. On release, it makes its characteristic “click” and hurls itself into the air.

Larva

The larvae of these beetles, nicknamed “wireworms”, are long, flat, and cylindrical. They move with the help of a set of thoracic legs and an elongated abdomen.

These larvae finish development within 1 year but stay underground for 3-4 years.

Pupa

While underground, the beetles undergo pupation. In the pupal stage, they resemble adults resting.

Egg

The eggs are laid close to the soil, where the larvae can access the roots of the host plants after hatching.

Quick Facts

Other names Elaters, snapping beetles, spring beetles, skipjacks, or typical click beetles.
Lifespan 2-5 years
Distribution Worldwide
Habitat On dead or decayed plants or underground
Predators Bats, beetles, birds, lizards, moles, shrews, and toads
Seasons active Summer
Host Plants Alfalfa, beans, beet, clover, corn, cotton, grasses, oat, and wheat
Diet of adults Nectar, foliage, and other plant material

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

The most damage caused by these beetles comes from the larval stage, as they feed on the roots of plants while underground. They are also very resistant to pesticides and can recover after a certain period.

Did You Know

  • English zoologist William Elford Leach, MD, FRS, first described these beetles in 1815.

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