darkling beetle

darkling beetle
any brown or black beetle of the family Tenebrionidae, the larvae of which feed on dead or decaying plant material, fungi, stored grain, etc.
Also called tenebrionid.
[1810-20]

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      any member of the approximately 12,000 species of the insect family Tenebrionidae (order Coleoptera), so named because of their nocturnal habits. These beetles tend to be short and dark; some, however, have bright markings. Although found on every continent, they are more common in warm, dry climates. Most members feed on dry, decomposing vegetation or animal tissue. Some bore in wood; others feed on larvae or live in ant nests.

      Adult darkling beetles vary greatly in size and shape: from 2 to 35 mm (1/12 to about 1 1/2 inches) and from flat to cylindrical. The larvae are about 25 mm (1 inch) long, cylindrical, and wormlike.

      The larvae of a widely distributed darkling beetle known as the mealworm (Tenebrio) are used as food for such pets as birds and fish. Both the mealworm and the smaller flour beetle (Tribolium confusum) are pests in dried foods. Remains of Tribolium have been found in a grain jar in an Egyptian tomb dating back to about 2500 BC. The flour beetle is also used in laboratory studies of population ecology, heredity, and behaviour because large numbers can be raised under a variety of experimental conditions.

      The forked fungus beetle (Bolitotherus cornutus) is easily recognized by a pair of blunt, hornlike projections on the head. The dark adult is 10 to 12 mm (0.4–0.5 inch) long and has wing covers that resemble pieces of bark. The larvae live in woody bracket fungi.

      The pinacate bug (Eleodes) is large and smooth with no hindwings. In dry climates the wing covers (elytra) are fused together to reduce evaporation of water from the body. When disturbed the bug elevates the hind part of its body and secretes a foul-smelling, oily fluid for protection.

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Universalium. 2010.

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