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Desert Stink Beetle (Eleodes spp.)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Desert Stink Beetle

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Desert Stink Beetles may be slow and look unassuming, but the abdomen of these desert-dwellers harbors a secret weapon worth avoiding.

Updated: 01/03/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Desert Stink Beetles are a type of Darkling Beetle, and tend to walk with their heads down, as if they are looking for lost contact lenses. This results in their abdomen being lifted higher than the head and the moniker 'Headstand Beetle'. Many stand still if disturbed, but eventually raise their back end into the air in preparation for defense. They are capable of discharging a foul-smelling secretion from the tip of the abdomen toward a would-be attacker. This advantage is also seen in skunks, so this type of beetle is also known as a Skunk Beetle. A face-full of this disgusting chemical usually scares off predators. That said, there is a species of field mouse that feeds on Desert Stink Beetles, and learned to counter such chemical attacks by holding the beetle's butt down to the ground while biting its head off.

Desert Stink Beetles are a satiny black color. Many species have completely smooth abdomens, though some have ridges and dimples on the elytra (wing coverings). The wings of this genus are fused shut to retain moisture, so they are not able to fly. This type of beetle can be found roaming the arid Sonoran desert, especially around mesquite and oak trees. It burrows under the sand when intense daylight heats up the ground surface, and comes out at night to look for food in cooler air. Its diet consists of fungi, animal detritus, and plant matter.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Shiny insect icon
Smelly insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Tenebrionidae
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          Genus: Eleodes
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            Species: spp.

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Eleodes spp.
Other Name(s): Skunk Beetle, Head Stander Beetle
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 25mm to 35mm (0.98" to 1.37")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black
Descriptors: slow; tilted; head-down; stink; shiny; smell; discharge

Desert-Stink-Beetle Video(s)

Desert Stink Beetles hanging out.

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 25mm (1.0in) and 35mm (1.4in)
Lo: 25mm
Md: 30mm
Hi: 35mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Desert Stink Beetle may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Desert Stink Beetle. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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