Is This Large Beetle With Big Black Eyes Dangerous? Back »

Figure 1. Adult Eastern eyed click beetle. Courtesy: Amanda Bachmann.


Written collaboratively by Adam Varenhorst, Amanda Bachmann, Philip Rozeboom, and Patrick Wagner.

Every year we get several questions about large black or grey beetles with very large black eyes (Figure 1). The last clue is what normally helps us make an identification of this particular insect – the eyed click beetle. There are six species of eyed click beetles in North America, but the most common of these species is the Eastern eyed click beetle. The Eastern eyed click beetle is an elongate beetle that is approximately 1 - 2 inches in length. These beetles are black in color with white mottling across their bodies. The most noticeable characteristic of this species are the two large black circular markings on the pronotum (the top of the thorax, right behind the head). These eyespots are outlined in white and are almost velvety in appearance (Figure 2). Like other click beetles, if the Eastern eyed click beetle is placed on its back it will right itself and in the process make an audible clicking noise.

Head and thorax of a black beetle. There are two large black circles on the thorax that are outlined in white.
Figure 2. Close up of the eyespots on the click beetle thorax. Courtesy: Amanda Bachmann.

Although the Eastern eyed click beetle may look threatening because of its size, the eyespots on its back are similar to the markings that can be found on moths and butterflies. This beetle uses those markings to scare away potential predators. The adult Eastern eyed click beetles larvae are commonly found in decaying hardwoods (most commonly found in decaying oak, cherry and apple), and are actually predators of other wood-boring beetle larvae.

These beetles are really fun to watch and are one of the larger beetle species that can be found in South Dakota. No management recommendations exist for this insect as it is not a pest.

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