A goal of my hike this morning was to find a cover shot for my Facebook timeline. I was collecting images of tree bark, lichen, and beautiful mosses, all possible candidates. At a mature sassafras tree, as I worked around some poison ivy vines, I came upon a surprise: two BIG eyes looking back at me. Turns out, it was an Eyed Click Beetle, Alaus oculatus, one mighty funny looking creature.
This beetle is pretty large, almost 2 inches long. He has enormous fake eyespots on his back, which are a means of protection. The eyespots and the pattern on his back are composed of scales, much like on the wings of butterflies. These eyespots are to startle predators, perhaps making them think that they have run into a critter much larger than the Eyed Click Beetle actually is. The Eyed Click Beetle’s real eyes, one on either side of its small head, are located at the base of its saw-toothed antennae.
The name “click beetle” comes from another means of protection. When a click beetle finds himself on his back, or when being held by a predator, the beetle will create an unnerving snapping or clicking sound by bending his head backwards and suddenly snapping it straight. This action creates the sound, and sends the click beetle several inches into the air. That is something that sure would shock me, if I wasn’t expecting it. The catapulting can put the beetle right side up, but if it doesn’t, he’ll try again until he is successful.
The larvae of most click beetles are called wireworms. Some of them are serious pests that feed on the roots of crops including potatoes, strawberries, corn and wheat, and also the roots of lawns. These destructive wireworms find their food by following the carbon dioxide produced by their foodplants in the soil. They often use preexisting tunnels to travel through the soil to get to their food. However, the larvae of the Eyed Click Beetle are well behaved predators, that prefer to eat caterpillars and the larvae of wood boring beetles and flies. The Eyed Click Beetle lives in the larva form (as a wireworm) for two to five years and spends that time underground or in rotting logs.
I’m hoping I’ll find another Eyed Click Beetle as I hike up my mountain tomorrow. Perhaps I can get him to do a catapult for me.
This blog was originally posted in a slightly different form, in the summer of 2013. At that time, I was participating in a group blog (BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com), with smart, dear, nature loving friends. Unfortunately that website has gone belly up. I am resurrecting this post so that those of you who have not seen it, can read more of my ramblings.