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Desert Stink Beetles of California

In California, everywhere you go, you are sure to find Darkling Beetles (Family Tenebrionidae). The most common Darkling Beetles that I see are the Desert Stink Beetles (Genus Eleodes). They are called Desert Stink Beetles because of the toxic smell that they release from their abdomen as a defense mechanism. They are black beetles that cannot fly due to their elytra being fused and spend most of their time sauntering across their environment. They like to come out on sunny days and warm nights where they are often found walking across the sidewalk. To the less inquisitive, they all look the same. All of the beetles tended to be black, with moniliform or clavate antennae and an oval body shape (Figure 1).

Fig. 1. The picture shows Eleodes acuticauda and its defined features. Photo by N.Morrison/MYOPS

I would see them every day on my afternoon walks after I got off of work. I thought I saw the same beetles until I decided to take a closer look. Some had orangish-brown hair (Setae) (Eleodes osculans), some had pointy abdomens (Eleodes acuticauda), and some had spined femurs (Eleodes armata) (Figure 2).

Fig. 2. The picture shows Eleodes osculans and their hairy bodies (Setose). Photo by N.Morrison/MYOPS

The differences are minuscule, and some need further inspection of internal anatomy to determine species. There are approximately 66 different species of Desert Stink Beetles (Genus Eleodes) in California, all of them being native. They tend to like desert or rocky habitats and can even be found along the coast walking across the dunes. I hope you like this week’s blog. Please follow along for more, and don’t forget to like and subscribe.

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