Pinacate Beetle

Eleodes armatus LeConte

Last updated: September 29, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Kojihirano/Shutterstock.com

Pinacate beetles do a headstand if they feel threatened

Pinacate Beetle Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Insecta
Order
Coleoptera
Family
Tenebrionidae
Genus
Eleodes
Scientific Name
Eleodes armatus LeConte

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Pinacate Beetle Conservation Status

Pinacate Beetle Locations

Pinacate Beetle Locations

Pinacate Beetle Facts

Name Of Young
grub (larva)
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Pinacate beetles do a headstand if they feel threatened
Biggest Threat
Grasshopper mouse
Most Distinctive Feature
Prominent head slightly narrowed behind the eyes
Other Name(s)
Clown Beetles, Desert Stink Bug
Habitat
Sandy environments such as deserts, islands. Also found in shrublands and mountainous regions
Predators
Grasshopper mice, burrowing owls
Diet
Herbivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
  • Nocturnal/Crepuscular
  • or Nocturnal Depending on Region and Season
Type
Insect
Common Name
Pinacate beetle
Location
Western North America

Pinacate Beetle Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Black
  • Dark Brown
Skin Type
Hard Outer Shell
Lifespan
3 years (36 months)
Length
10mm - 35mm (0.4in - 1.4 in)
Venomous
No
Aggression
Medium

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Pinacate beetles do a headstand if they feel threatened.

Summary

Pinacate beetles are bugs in the genus Eleodes. They’re found in various locations across western North America. This black-colored beetle has a large and smooth color. They’re unable to fly because they do not have hindwings, and their elytra are fused. Pinacate beetles are scavengers known to feed on organic matter. When disturbed, the beetle would lift their hind legs off the ground and do a headstand. They also secrete a foul-smelling fluid to deter predators. 

Pinacate Beetles Species, Types, and Scientific Name

Beetles in the genus Eleodes are known as Pinacate beetles. Other common names that are often attributed to these beetles include clown beetles and stink bugs. The name “pinacate beetle” is a Mexican Spanish word that translates as “black beetle,” a reference to the jet black coloration of the beetle. The genus name “Eleodes” has a similar meaning. 

There are more than 120 species of Pinacate beetles in the United States West. They belong to a larger group of insects known as Darkling beetles. This group contains more than 1400 species of beetles in the family Tenebrionidae.

They’re also called clown beetles. This alludes to their habit of doing a headstand when they feel threatened. They’re also called desert stink bugs because of the bad-smelling oily secretion they emit from their rear end to deter predators. 

Appearance: How to Identify Pinacate Beetles

Pinacate beetles have ovate to oblong-shaped bodies and are occasionally robust. They typically range between 0.4 to 1.4 inches (8 to 40 mm) in length. This beetle is typically jet black, although some species can also be dark brown. 

They have a prominent head that is slightly narrowed towards the eyes. A few varieties of this beetle have a hair-like structure that appears like a tail but is actually an elongated wing. Like other beetles, they have thick leathery elytra, which protect their delicate flight wings. They do not use the wings to fly, and the elytra are typically fused in many species to protect the insect from harsh conditions. 

Habitat: Where to Find Pinacate Beetles

Pinacate beetles have an extensive range in North America, where they’re endemic. There are roughly 120 species of this beetle in the United States west, exhibiting great variety. They are found in various ecosystems, including open dunes, shrublands, and even in mountainous regions. Some species have been found on Islands off the coast of California. 

The largest of the pinacate beetles are typically found in desert lands. The desert variety is also the smelliest. Although they’re commonly found under logs, rocks, and other detritus, in the desert you may find them simply wandering randomly in search of food. Pinacate beetles are among the most commonly encountered insects in the desert. 

Pinacate beetles are active all year round. However, their habits tend to vary at different times of the year. From spring to autumn, for instance, they are nocturnal or crepuscular, which means they’re more active at night and early in the morning before sunrise. But in other seasons of the year, they’ll revert to a diurnal lifestyle. 

Diet: What Do Pinacate Beetles Eat?

In a lab or terrarium, Pinacate beetles can consume a variety of foods and fruits. Their diet may include lettuce, dog food, apples, dry corn meal, and carrots. In the wild, this beetle typically eats plant matter from grasses and forbs. They can also feed on the leaves of saltbush plants, Ironwood blossoms, and other plants. They’re mostly solitary, so they’re hardly ever problematic in gardens. 

What Eats Pinacate Beetles?

Pinacate beetles have an interesting defense behavior that protects them from predators. When threatened, they would do a headstand and release a noxious-smelling liquid from the lower end of their abdomen. This chemical is a type of benzoquinone. In addition to having an unpleasant smell, it can also irritate the skin and eyes of the attacking predator. While the effect does not last long, it is often enough to protect the beetle from most predators. 

However, the grasshopper mouse is one predator that isn’t deterred by this defense mechanism. It would grab the beetle, bury its abdomen into the soil and eat only the front half of its body. Scorpions can also break the beetle and eat only the soft bits inside instead of the whole instead. 

Prevention: How to Get Rid of Pinacate Beetles

Pinacate beetles are not pests, so there’s really no reason to worry about them. However, most people would rather keep them out of the house. The best strategy to achieve this is to bug-proof your home by caulking around the doors and windows. You should also block any possible entry points and use window screens.  

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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated freelance writer on Upwork. He can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing on health, technology and animals. He is inquisitive and currently aspires to become a software engineer. He loves animals, especially horses and would love to have one someday.

Pinacate Beetle FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are pinacate beetles dangerous?

Pinacate beetles release noxious chemicals (quinones) when they’re disturbed. However, this chemical is not poisonous. It has a terrible odor and can also cause extreme irritation if it gets in contact with the lining of the mouth and eyes.

How many legs do pinacate beetles have?

Like all insects, Pinacate beetles have 3 pairs of legs which means they have six legs in total.

How do you identify Pinacate beetles?

Pinacate beetles are jet-black beetles with smooth bodies. They have an ovate or oblong shape and typically range between 8 to 40mm (0.4 to 1.4inches) in length. They have prominent heads that narrow slightly towards the eyes. Their most unique feature is their tendency to raise the hind part of their body in the air when they’re disturbed or threatened.

How do you get rid of a pinacate beetle smell?

You can use toothpaste to remove the stench of the oily fluid released by the pinacate beetle. First, apply a generous amount of toothpaste to the affected area and rub it in. Then, rinse it off with warm water. If the smell persists after using toothpaste, you can try lemon juice as well.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleodes
  2. Desert USA / David B. Williams, Available here: https://www.desertusa.com/insects/stinkbug.html
  3. The University of Arizona / Jeff Schalau, Available here: https://extension.arizona.edu/pinacate-beetle-0
  4. Britannica , Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/pinacate-bug

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