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Horned Passalus Beetle (Odontotaenuis disjunctus)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Horned Passalus Beetle

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Held together by joints one can actually see, Horned Passalus Beetles is otherwise a robust, hefty beetle found in near piles of decaying wood.

Updated: 01/04/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
A shiny pronotum as slick as patent leather inspired one of many common names for this beetle. Both larvae and adults make a kissing sound when handled, but it is naturally employed to communicate with each other. This species is also known as a Bess Beetle because of this noise ('bes-' is the root sound for the word kiss in many languages).

Adults and larvae may be seen together as adults care for the young, something not commonly done among beetles. Adults may appear black or dark brown, and some even have hues of maroon or orange. Legs are dark as well, though short orange hairs may cover part of them and also extend out from under the pronotum. Larvae are white and worm-like with a dark line along the 'spine'. Their heads are orange, and only four legs are visible as the other two are quite short in this early life stage. Adults eat decaying wood and possibly fungi. They pre-chew this material before feeding it to hungry larvae. An injured larva is likely to be consumed by either adults or other larvae, making cannibalism a part of this insect's story. Look for this beetle in areas with rotting wood, and if one is found, look around for more. They are able to fly, but rarely choose to do so, meaning others are probably not far away. ©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Spiny / Spiky insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Passalidae
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          Genus: Odontotaenuis
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            Species: disjunctus

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Odontotaenuis disjunctus
Other Name(s): Betsy Beetle; Patent Leather Beetle; Peg Beetle; Bess Bug
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 32mm to 36mm (1.25" to 1.41")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; black; orange
Descriptors: pinch; squeak; kiss; glossy; ridged back; orange legs; chunky; horn; rhino

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 32mm (1.3in) and 36mm (1.4in)
Lo: 32mm
Md: 34mm
Hi: 36mm

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 Horned Passalus 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 Horned Passalus Beetle. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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