Darkling beetle

Darkling beetle is the common name of the large family of beetles, Tenebrionidae. The number of species in the Tenebrionidae is estimated at more than 20,000 and the family is cosmopolitan in distribution.

Darkling beetle
Darkling beetle
Alphitobius sp. (Tenebrioninae: Alphitobiini)
Scale bar (top right) is 2 mm
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Superfamily: Tenebrionoidea
Family: Tenebrionidae
Latreille, 1802

See text.


Tenebrio is the Latin generic name that Carl Linnaeus assigned to some flour beetles in his 10th edition of Systema Naturae 1758-59.[1]. The word means "seeker of dark places"[2] (or figuratively a trickster); an English language analog is "darkling"[3].

Numerous Tenebrionidae species do inhabit dark places, however, there are many species in genera such as Stenocara and Onymacris, which are active by day and inactive at night.

The family covers a varied range of forms, such that classification presents great difficulties. The following list of subfamilies was largely accepted in 2005.[4]

Ongoing phylogenetic studies are showing that some taxonomic changes are needed. For instance the tribal classification of tribe Pedinini has recently been altered.[5]

The misspelling "Terebrionidae" occurs frequently enough to be easily overlooked.[6][7] The error appears to have no particular significance, but to be the product of misreadings, mis-scans and mis-typings.

Tenebrionidae Beetle, Little Stsimons Island, Georgia, face 2016-02-03-17.04 (24717881181)
Tenebrionidae head


The Tenebrionidae may be identified by a combination of features, including:

  • Their 11-segmented antennae that may be filiform, moniliform or weakly clubbed
  • First abdominal sternite is entire and not divided by the hind coxae
  • Eyes notched by a frontal ridge
  • The tarsi have four segments in the hind pair and five in the fore and mid legs (5-5-4), tarsal claws are simple

Biology and ecology

Tenebrionid beetles occupy ecological niches in mainly deserts and forests as plant scavengers. Most species are generalistic omnivores, and feed on decaying leaves, rotting wood, fresh plant matter, dead insects, and fungi as larvae and adults.[8] Several genera, including Bolitotherus, are specialized fungivores which feed on polypores. Many of the larger species are flightless, and those that are capable, such as T. molitor, only do so when necessary, such as when dispersing or malnourished.[9][10][11]

Eleodes (Eleodes) tribulus larva
A tenebrionid larva (Eleodes sp.)

The larvae, known as mealworms or false wireworms, are usually fossorial, heavily armored and nocturnal. They may possibly be an important resource for certain invertebrates and small mammals. However, the adults of many species have chemical defenses and are relatively protected against predators.[10] Adults of most species, except grain pests, have slow metabolisms, and live long lives compared to other insects, ranging from approximately six months to two years.

Some species live in intensely dry deserts such as the Namib, and have evolved adaptions by which they collect droplets of fog that deposit on their elytra. As the droplets accumulate the water drains down the beetles' backs to their mouthparts, where they swallow it.[12]

Humans spread some species such that they have become cosmopolitan, such as Tribolium castaneum, the red flour beetle, which was spread through grain products.

Notable species

The larval stages of several species are cultured as feeder insects for captive insectivores or as laboratory subjects:


Diaperis boleti MHNT Fronton

Diaperis boleti under bark of oak.

Tenebrionid sal

A Platynotina species (Tenebrioninae) in India

Stenocara dentata

Stenocara dentata in southern Africa

Gonopus tibialis (Fabricius, 1798) (3989862005)

Gonopus tibialis


Pie dish beetle, Helea sp. in Australia

Hegemona sp. Darkling Beetle, Caves Branch Jungle Lodge, Belmopan, Belize

Hegemona sp. (De Laporte, 1840) from Belize

Neomida bicornis female

Neomida bicornis, female


  1. ^ "Caroli Linnæi ... Animalium specierum in classes, ordines, genera, species, methodica dispositio ." Internet Archive.
  2. ^ Jaeger, Edmund Carroll (1959). A source-book of biological names and terms. Springfield, Ill: Thomas. ISBN 0-398-06179-3.
  3. ^ Brown, Lesley (1993). The New shorter Oxford English dictionary on historical principles. Oxford [Eng.]: Clarendon. ISBN 0-19-861271-0.
  4. ^ Bouchard, Patrice. Lawrence, John F. Davies, Anthony E. Newton, Alfred F. Synoptic Classification of the World Tenebrionidae (Insecta: Coleoptera) with a Review of Family-Group Names. ANNALES ZOOLOGICI (Warszawa), 2005, 55(4): 499-530
  5. ^ Kamiński, M.J.; Kanda, K.; Lumen, R.; Smith, A.D.; Iwan, D. (2019). "Molecular phylogeny of Pedinini (Coleoptera, Tenebrionidae) and its implications for higher-level classification". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 185 (1): 77–97. doi:10.1093/zoolinnean/zly033.
  6. ^ Dennis S. Hill (1997). The Economic Importance of Insects. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 109–. ISBN 978-0-412-49800-8.
  7. ^ "Egyptian Beetle (Blaps polychresta)".
  8. ^ "Species Bolitotherus cornutus - Forked Fungus Beetle".
  9. ^ Flying Mealworm Beetle (Tenebrio molitor) on YouTube
  10. ^ a b "Family Tenebrionidae - Darkling Beetles".
  11. ^ "Bolitotherus cornutus". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-08-14.
  12. ^ "Desert beetles inspire aircraft design that doesn't freeze". ZME Science. 2016-01-25. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  13. ^ Alphitobius diaperinus, lesser mealworm. University of Florida IFAS

External links

Abdera flexuosa

Abdera flexuosa is a species of false darkling beetle (Melandryidae).

(Paykull, 1799)

It associates with plants:

Alnus glutinosa — Black Alder

Salix — Willow

Abdera hoffeinsorum

Abdera hoffeinsorum is an extinct species of false darkling beetle in the genus Abdera. It was discovered in 2014.

Accanthopus velikensis

Accanthopus velikensis is a species of darkling beetle belonging to the family Tenebrionidae subfamily Tenebrioninae.

Alphitobius laevigatus

Alphitobius laevigatus, the black fungus beetle, is a species of darkling beetle in the family Tenebrionidae.


Chalcopteroides is a genus of darkling beetle, defined by Embrik Strand in 1935, and replacing the older name Chalcopterus which was preoccupied. The type species is Chalcopterus iridicolor.

Confused flour beetle

The confused flour beetle (Tribolium confusum), a type of darkling beetle known as a flour beetle, is a common pest insect known for attacking and infesting stored flour and grain. They are one of the most common and most destructive insect pests for grain and other food products stored in silos, warehouses, grocery stores, and homes.


Cossyphus is a genus of darkling beetles in the family Tenebrionidae.


Cryptochile, the Namaqua darkling beetles, is a genus of darkling beetles in the subfamily Pimeliinae.

Eleodes obscurus

Eleodes obscurus is a species of darkling beetle in the genus eleodes. It ranges from southern British Columbia to northern Mexico and east to Texas, Kansas and Wyoming. The diet of Eleodes obscurus includes dead plant material, animal remains, roots, and seeds.

Eleodes osculans

Eleodes osculans, the wooly darkling beetle, is a common nocturnal insect in coastal southern California. As a stink beetle of genus Eleodes, its easily observed defensive posture is to raise its hind end and secrete an unpleasant odor. This is one of the few Tenebrionid beetle species in North America to be covered in visible fuzz. E. osculans is the only known darkling beetle species which has brightly colored reddish brown hair covering most of its black exoskeleton.

Eleodes suturalis

Eleodes suturalis, or the red-backed darkling beetle is a species of darkling beetle in the genus Eleodes. Their known range extends from South Dakota to Texas, and are not known to exist west of the Rocky Mountains. They can be easily identified by the distinctive red stripe which goes down the center of their decently flat elytra.

Flour beetle

Flour beetles are members of the darkling beetle genera Tribolium or Tenebrio. They are pests of cereal silos and are widely used as laboratory animals, as they are easy to keep. The flour beetles consume wheat and other grains, are adapted to survive in very dry environments, and can withstand even higher amounts of radiation than cockroaches. They are a major pest in the agricultural industry and are highly resistant to insecticides.

The larvae of T. molitor, when full-grown, are known as mealworms; small specimens and the larvae of the other species are called mini mealworms.

Flour beetles are part of the life cycle of the tapeworm Hymenolepis nana, which causes hymenolepiasis in humans. Female reproduction is distributed over their adult life-span which lasts about a year. Flour beetles also display pre-mating discrimination among potential mates. Female flour beetles, specifically of T. castaneum, can mate with different males and may choose more attractive males over the course of their adult life-span.

List of Eleodes species

This is a list of species in the darkling beetle genus Eleodes.


Mealworms are the larval form of the mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor, a species of darkling beetle. Like all holometabolic insects, they go through four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Larvae typically measure about 2.5 cm or more, whereas adults are generally between 1.25 and 1.8 cm in length.


Melandryidae is a family of false darkling beetles in the order Coleoptera. There are at least 40 genera and 100 described species in Melandryidae.

Pinacate beetle

Pinacate beetles, also known as stink beetles, are darkling beetles of the genus Eleodes endemic to the Sonoran Desert and adjacent regions of the U.S. Southwest and Mexico, usually the species Eleodes obscurus. The name is also loosely applied to a number of closely related species of Eleodes, of Western Mexico and the Western United States (including the Great Basin), which, aside from the wooly darkling beetle, are not easily distinguished from each other. The name pinacate is Mexican Spanish, derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec) name for the insect, pinacatl, which translates as "black beetle".

The pinacate beetle is noted for its defensive tactic of standing on its head and squirting a noxious spray. This has earned it the additional names of clown bug and stink bug, names also applied to other unrelated insects.

Seaweed darkling beetle

The seaweed darkling beetle (Chaerodes trachyscelides), also known by its Māori name pāpapa, is a flightless, nocturnal beetle found on sandy beaches in New Zealand.


The Tar darkling beetles (Somaticus) are an Afrotropical genus of darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae). Adults are omnivorous scavengers, and the larvae, known as False wireworms, feed on plant roots. The larvae of several species are known to damage maize crops. The adults are matt black with longitudinal ridges on the pronotum and elytra, and may be covered in hairs of different colours.Species include:

Somaticus aeneus Solier,1843

Somaticus angulatus (Fahraeus)

Somaticus cinctus Haag-Rutenberg,1873

Somaticus damarinus (Peringuey,1904)

Somaticus distinctus Peringuey,1892

Somaticus geniculatus

Somaticus haagi Peringuey,1886

Somaticus metropolis

Somaticus spinosus Solier 1843

Somaticus terricola

Somaticus vestitus

Somaticus wahlbergi Haagi-Rutenberg,1873

Stenocara dentata

Stenocara dentata, the long-legged darkling beetle, is an insect of darkling beetle family found in southern Africa. The beetle stands in a head down posture on sand dunes to catch the morning mist which collects in drops on its body and slides into its mouth. It is large enough to crawl out of the trap of the plant, Hydnora africana, unlike smaller beetles which remain trapped for several days.

Extant Coleoptera families


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.