Devil’s beetle

Just in time for Halloween, another repulsive garden pest is plaguing my little farm.

I’ve complained about the curse of crazy insect pests here before. The caterpillars in legion like I’ve never seen. The squash vine borers that thrive here to the point that they ignore their normal biological limitations and wreak damage worse than anyone has yet documented – and that is not an exaggeration as far as I can tell. The stink bugs that were so thick I could shake a single corn stalk and fill the bottom of a bowl – luckily the chickens loved them.

I just have to keep thinking that this must be an odd year. And I looked forward to Fall like a gardener’s balm. The cooler temps mean bad insect pests are supposed to die out and leave me with pleasant, uncompetitive gardening. That has happened to a degree.

But now I’ve discovered another nasty, one I didn’t even know existed before. The Oil Beetle (up til yesterday I thought it was the Devil’s Coach-Horse Beetle, hence the title of this post).

They are disgusting and almost as long as my thumb.

In this picture he’s figured out I’m messing with him and he’s mad – thus the oil bubbles on his legs. That oil is caustic and can raise skin blisters and cause stinging rashes.

This beetle infests beehives and eats honey, pollen, and bee larvae.

According to,

In at least some species of Meloe, triungulins aggregate and use chemical signals to attract male bees to which they attach themselves. This allows transport (and transfer) to a female bee who carries them back to her nest. […] The female bee stocks these nests with honey and pollen for her own young, but the hungry blister beetle young are there to gobble up the provisions. They eventually pupate and finally emerge as adult flightless beetles. Brothers and sisters find each other and mate, produce eggs and the hatchlings start the process all over.

So first they decimate my crops, munching young seedlings – even garlic and turnips! – to the ground. Then they use that energy to produce young that will kill off my precious bees. But some of the sites mentioned “ground bees” specifically. My only hope is that maybe they won’t cross-speciate and my honeybees are safe? Ground bees look just like honeybees. Does anyone know? Anything?

5 Responses to “Devil’s beetle”

  1. heidi Says:

    Can you net the hive or something? It looks as if the beetle is bigger than the bees and maybe a small mesh screen to pull the beetles off the bees before they get into the hive? just a thought.

  2. diana Says:

    It is the larvae that attack the bees, not the full-grown beetle. A bee can carry several little larvae and still fly, which means they must be tiny.

  3. diana Says:

    Also, good news – I did read ONE article that said that these beetles only attack one type of bee each. So if that’s true, my honeybees might be safe after all!

  4. heidi Says:

    checked on the net: this beetle also will cause real danger to any sheep (goats?) or horses who ingest forage crops with the beetle on it–even if the beetle is smashed up.
    also watch out for human contact as the beetles are drawn to outdoor lights.
    will keep reading.

  5. heidi Says:

    did I mention, don’t let Sofia pick these up? or you?
    nothing in the literature about their effect on chickens, better to not find out.
    wonder what DOES eat them?

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