Click beetles gone wild

Click beetles range in size from a few millimeters to over an inch. This 7 mm-long click beetle literally fell in my lap at my desk this morning.

Some of the most interesting, and sometimes amusing, household insects that cross my desk are ones that aren’t in the pest control handbook.  We call these “occasional invaders”, and they are outdoor insects that seemingly accidentally find their way indoors.

So far the accidental invader of the month is the click beetle.  Over the past week or two I’ve had nearly a half dozen calls about insects fitting the description of click beetles getting into homes.  One woman complained about the click beetles in her bed.  This is pretty funny… unless it’s your bed.

You might think that these beetles don’t look very scary; but click beetles have a unique behavior that announces their presence in a startling way.  When threatened or flipped upside down, click beetles use a special peg-like structure on their underside to force a quick snapping action between the front and hind body sections.  The motion is fast, and works much like someone snapping their fingers.  The action causes the beetle to making a clicking noise and flip up into the air, often several inches.

Now imagine being in bed with click beetles.  The sensation, I suppose, would be much like someone flicking you with their finger.  Not a pleasant sensation, especially if you’re just falling asleep.

Lest you scoff at this story, I received a second bed-related call today.  This time a child was sleeping in bed when a click beetle crawled in his ear.  Imagine waking up to that on a Monday morning!

So what have these click beetles been drinking?  I have no really good explanation for click beetles invading homes except that occasionally the pulse and rhythms of nature seep out of wild places and into our homes. We rip up habitats and displace wild things on a daily basis.  Why should we be surprised when nature asserts her right to invade and exploit us once in a while?

The invasion of large numbers of outdoor insects of our homes is an indication that the offending insect is present outside in goodly numbers.  Apparently click beetles are having an unusually good summer this year (at least in north Texas) despite the 105 degree plus temperatures.

Click beetles are nocturnal and, like many nocturnal flying insects, are attracted to lights.  Such nighttime fliers have natural instincts to crawl into any dark, convenient crack to hide during the day.  If such a crack happens to lead indoors, who can blame a click beetle for heading for the bed?

The best solution for click beetles, or any similar occasional invader, is not pesticides.  Rather it’s to figure out where the insect is invading and how it is getting in.  Larger insects usually come in under doorways, especially doors with glass (through which lights shine at night) or doors next to porch lights.  This may be a good excuse to have a handyman or energy auditor come out and seal those doors along with other cracks around windows and foundations.

Having insects join us in bed is not as bizarre or unusual as you might think (think bed bugs for the worst example). Earlier this spring I had three similar reports of an insect called an alfalfa weevil getting into bed with unwilling humans.  Fortunately, neither alfalfa weevils nor click beetles can really hurt us.  But getting woken up by a click beetle flicking me or crawling in my ear is not my idea of fun.

Click here to view a short video of a click beetle doing it’s thing.

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