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Monday, Dec. 2, 2002


Click beetle

* Japanese name: Ubatamakomeshiki
* Scientific name: Paracalais berus
* Description: Click beetles have a hinged body and a spine beneath the thorax that fits into a groove under the abdomen. They are 16-19 mm long, with flattened, elongated, bullet-shaped brown bodies. Also known as snapping, break-back and elater beetles, they belong to the family Elateridae (from elate, or to raise up). Female click beetles lay eggs in soil. There is a four-stage metamorphosis, as in bees and butterflies: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The larvae are very slow-growing, taking three years to reach the pupal stage. Pupation takes place in rotting logs or underground. The adult beetles emerge in the spring and are active until September.
* Where to find them: Click beetles are found in deciduous woods and in areas with cherry, apple and oak trees. In summer they are often found in houses, attracted to the lights.
* Food: The adults drink nectar from flowers. As larvae, they are known as wireworms and can cause extensive damage to crops by chewing stems and roots.
* Special features: If click beetles find themselves upside down or are knocked over, their short legs are not much use in helping them right themselves. Instead the click beetle arches its body: The beetle is now cocked. When the mechanism is released, the spine fits into the groove under its abdomen with a loud "click," and the body snaps straight with enough force to fling it into the air. As well as the unique click mechanism, these beetles play dead very well, tucking their antennae and legs close to their bodies and not moving. The click and the play-dead behavior seem to be antipredator adaptations. A bird picking up a click beetle gets a big surprise when the insect clicks loudly and twitches, and might well drop it. The insect is then likely to fake death.

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