🎶…. Keep them beetles rovin’ 🎶… This funny looking critter in the photos is a Rove Beetle. I don’t know why the Rawhide song popped into my head when I found this guy, maybe just the rhyminess of it (rollin’/rovin’), but now that I’ve associated the two, I’m stuck on it. While many younger generations probably have no idea what in the world I’m talking about, I imagine some of you more experienced folk probably get the reference lol :)
Rove Beetles (family = Staphylinidae) are a strange looking group of beetles and often get confused with earwigs. They are not earwigs though – earwigs have pincer-like (or tweezers or forceps-like) structures at the end of their butt, whereas rove beetles do not. Looking like an earwig apparently works for rove beetles though, since they are one of the most specious families of beetles in the world with over 4,000 species in North America and over 63,000 species worldwide. That’s a lot of beetle species! Believe it or not, there are actually full sized insect wings under the tiny little squares (wing covers) on their backs. The wings are just folded up really, really, small. Like origami. This hidden wing design is super useful for the rove beetle, because wings are fragile and rove beetles like to spend a lot of time scurrying around on the ground, in the soil, and under rocks and logs and things. Keeping their wings tucked up tight means they don’t have to worry about them getting messed up. Like when you have long hair, but twist it into a small tight bun clipped in place to keep it out of the way while gardening…
The specific rove beetle featured for today’s story isn’t just any rove beetle though, oh no. This rove beetle is the Hairy Rove Beetle, Creophilus maxillosus. It’s pretty distinctive as far as rove beetles go, because, well, as the name implies, it’s hairy. Or fuzzy if you prefer to be cute about it :) Now if this were just any rove beetle, I’d probably have less to talk about since they are pretty much found everywhere. Rove beetles are beneficial predators, scavengers, and decomposers so it’s good they are found in so many places. Even if it is in the basement, like where I found this guy. This particular rove beetle however, doesn’t just eat decomposing materials though. It eats carrion (dead animals 🤢).
The Hairy Rove Beetle, both adults and young, feed primarily on carrion and the maggots (baby flies) feeding on carcasses. Occasionally, the adults will also feed on dead arthropods and things in the compost bin, but mostly carrion. This makes the North American natives an important beetle since they provide essential ecosystem decomposition services (aka they dispose of stinky smelly things for us – for free!!). The Hairy Rove Beetle is also super useful for forensics and is commonly used to learn more about crime scenes. Because forensic scientists know the life cycle of these beetles, their presence and life stage they are in at the time a body is found can help pinpoint when exactly something (or someone) died. Which of course can answer the bigger question of who dunnit… Go beetles! Hairy Rove Beetle detective agency at your service :)
Yeah, sooo… Back to this the Hairy Rove Beetle in my house. As super cool as crime solving beetles are, it does beg the question: if the Hairy Rove Beetle is a carrion eater, why is it in my house?? Does this mean I have a dead mouse somewhere I don’t know about yet? Did it just wander in accidentally from outside? Did it get in the night before because I left too many lights on? * Sigh * I guess I should do some better checking around the basement for dead things… Hopefully it just wandered in from outside, although I really don’t want to find any carcasses that close to the house outside either…
According to my research for this story, I probably should have been a little more careful handling this furry guy. Large rove beetles like this one are apparently capable of giving a bit of a bite if aggravated. Apparently, the Hairy Rove Beetle can also curl its abdomen (butt) upwards and emit a defensive chemical capable of causing a slight burning sensation or mild rash. I did keep putting my fingers and hand in its way trying to get it to slow down enough for some photos, but I guess I must not have poked or pestered it enough at it to make it actually feel threatened. I do try really hard not to harm any of the critters I know are good guys. After I gave up getting better photos of my Hairy Rove Beetle, it was promptly scooped up and relocated outside.
Last note - earlier this year I found a rove beetle larva (aka baby rove beetle) attacking an earthworm. It’s probably a different species of rove beetle since the Hairy Rove Beetle usually feeds on carrion and carrion maggots, but I thought it was pretty cool to see this predator in action so here is the short video:
To learn more about the Hairy Rove Beetle, check out these resources:
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