Picnic Beetle Profile
There are many insects that can be observed visiting sunflower heads. One of these insects is a small black beetle that has orange or yellow spots on its hardened forewings. This beetle is commonly known as the picnic beetle. This name refers to the beetle’s preference towards ripe or decaying fruit or plants.
Although it can be observed on sunflower, it is not a known pest. The adults are attracted to ripe or decaying plant matter, and will lay eggs near those sites. The newly hatched larvae will then feed on the decaying matter. On sunflowers, these beetles are most attracted to heads that have had a previous injury or are currently diseased. Although there may be numerous picnic beetles on each head, management is not necessary.
The picnic beetle is approximately 1/3 of an inch long. These beetles are shiny black and have four yellow or orange spots on their wing covers (elytra) (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Picnic beetle adult. Notice the yellow markings on the otherwise black abdomen. Photo by Adam Varenhorst.