What Do Darkling Beetles Eat?

Written by Volia Schubiger
Published: October 4, 2022
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Darkling beetles belong to the Tenebrionidae family of beetles. Over 20,000 members make up this family of beetles! They are typically found in North America and Africa, where substantial numbers of them exist. Typically, you can find these beetles living in areas that have a lot of forest cover or desert areas. You’ll typically be able to recognize them because of their small rounded bodies that are covered in a scaly exoskeleton.

Darkling beetles are usually only found in three colors: black, brown, or cream. What’s even more interesting is that many people actually keep them as pets as well. Are you curious to find out more about the darkling beetle? Let’s go over what darkling beetles like to eat as well as other fascinating facts!

What Do Darkling Beetles Eat?

Darkling Beetle
Darkling beetles are scavengers and decomposers. They will eat decaying wood and dead insects.

©Therina Groenwald/Shutterstock.com

Darkling beetles eat a diet that consists of dead insects, fallen leaves, live plants, decaying wood, and fungi. They are classified as omnivores as they are both fantastic scavengers and decomposers. Darkling beetles may also consume fruits and seeds as well. A larval form of these insects, called mealworms, can often be found inside rotting stumps, logs, and rocks. Their preferred habitats are shaded and protected areas with abundant plant material. 

What’s even more amazing about this bug is that the darkling beetle can actually create water inside itself. This is perhaps its most fascinating characteristic. There is no need for external water sources for the beetles to survive. This is accomplished by constructing it from other molecules within their bodies. Furthermore, they have a waxy shell covering their bodies to prevent water from evaporating. 

Now that we have a better understanding of what darkling beetles eat, let’s take a look at their complete diet.

A Complete List Of What Darkling Beetles Eat

As decomposers, darkling beetles eat a wide variety of unsavory items. Both adults and larvae of darkling beetles eat plant matter of some kind, as we mentioned above. 

So what does their complete diet look like? The main components of their diet include: 

  • Dead leaves 
  • Rotting wood 
  • Dead insects 
  • Dung 
  • Living plants 
  • Fungi 
  • Bran meal 
  • Grains & flour 
  • Fruits such as apples, oranges, and pairs 
  • Vegetables such as romaine lettuce, cucumbers, and potatoes

A darkling beetle’s diet is quite diverse, as can be seen above. Next, here’s a closer look at how these tiny beetles find their food in the first place.

How Do Darkling Beetles Forage For Food?

Darkling Beetle
Darkling beetles scavenge for food, meaning that they primarily eat dead material instead of killing it themselves.

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It’s important to reaffirm that darkling beetles are scavengers. What does this mean? The scavenger is an example of a decomposer, an organism that consumes dead material. In contrast to other hunters or foragers, scavengers consume animals or plants that have either died naturally or have been attacked by another predator. In the case of plants, they will usually eat plants that have withered away and begun to rot. Darkling beetles will not kill anything, and they aren’t equipped to do so, either. 

It is common to find darkling beetles in wooded areas and fields. Several kinds of darkling beetles live in close proximity to humans, including parks, flowerbeds, barns, and other artificial structures that provide them with sufficient food. Globally, darkling beetles are considered pests of grains and other products stored for long periods of time such as flour.

What Do Pet Darkling Beetles Eat?

Among insect species, darkling beetles make a pretty popular pet choice among bug enthusiasts. Since darkling beetles are omnivorous eaters, this means that they’ll eat a variety of organic materials. This means that feeding them as pets isn’t that difficult at all. 

Feeding darkling beetles moist foods during their mealworm stage will provide them with water. This can be accomplished with slices or pieces of fruits and vegetables such as potatoes and apples. Some owners like to feed the following as treats for their darkling beetles: melons, peaches, pumpkins, strawberries, potatoes, and even snow peas!

What Animals Eat Darkling Beetles?

Due to their size, darkling beetles are eaten by a lot of bigger animals. Darkling beetles are frequently eaten by coyotes, foxes, hawks, snakes, leopard geckos, ravens, fish, and crows. As a means of defense, the darkling beetle has a very unique method. When disturbed, they lie on their backs with their tails up. In the event that they are handled roughly, they will release a foul-smelling, dark-colored fluid. In most cases, this behavior is enough to deter all but the most committed attackers from pursuing them as prey. If you touch your hands with the fluid, it can easily be washed off with water.

Are Darkling Beetles Dangerous To Humans?

Darkling beetle larvae can transmit diseases such as Salmonella throughout their life cycle.

©Tomasz Klejdys/Shutterstock.com

No, darkling beetles are not a threat to humans. In general, darkling beetles will run away from you or threaten to spray you with their foul-smelling liquid rather than bite you. It is important to note that the mouth of a Darkling beetle is equipped with mandibles, which are pincers designed to grasp food outside the mouth and chew it. There are instances when a darkling beetle bites, although these are incredibly rare. 

It is important to understand that the darkling beetle refers to several genera in the insect family Tenebrionidae, which includes more than 20,000 species. Some darkling beetles are more aggressive than others because thousands of species fall under the umbrella term ‘darkling beetle.’ Having said that, a bite from a beetle is still extremely rare, and only a small number of people experience it. 

The fact remains, however, that darkling beetles are capable of spreading several diseases. There was a study published in 2008 that hypothesized that insects like darkling beetles and their larvae might play a role in the transfer of pathogens from one life cycle to the next. According to the studies, beetles and their larvae are capable of transmitting Salmonella and Campylobacter to flocks during successive production cycles, which is why poultry farms need to have intensive control programs in place in order to eliminate them from their flocks.

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About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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