Strangers In The Night: Get To Know These Nocturnal Feeding Insects

Put on your night-vision goggles. It's time to learn about nocturnal feeding insects.



Anyone who’s turned on a porch light and seen the moths swarm knows that insects don’t go away just because the sun goes down. No, the nighttime is the right time for plenty of bugs. Let’s shine some light on some of these night feeders and their habits.


Fireflies are one of the nocturnal feeding insects you probably see the most. Naturally, that has a lot to do with the fact that they’re not that hard to spot.

Their name is a bit misleading, however. Fireflies aren’t flies. They’re flying beetles that communicate and find mates by emitting flashes of light. And each species of firefly uses a unique pattern of flashes. But where does that light come from?

Well, each firefly has a special organ located near its abdomen. Here, a compound called luciferin creates the glow you see. We bet you’ll never look at fireflies again without thinking about that fun fact.

Bed Bugs

Tucking the kids in with a kiss and a “don’t let the bed bugs bite” may be part of your nightly routine. But we’re willing to bet that would change if you ever had an actual infestation of bed bugs.

Though they’re not currently known to transmit disease through biting, these little parasites are certainly a nuisance. Like Dracula, they come out at night to feed on your blood. While you usually won’t feel them as they feed, the itching caused afterward can leave you in a world of misery. Their bites don't result directly in infection, but scratching the bites can cause a secondary infection.

That’s not all, though. Bed bugs are tough to get rid of, and an infestation can be incredibly stressful. So, if you discover one of nocturnal feeding insects in your house, you’ll want to call and set up a bed bug treatment plan as soon as possible.

Dung Beetles

If you live in the United States, you might think that dung beetles are something you’ll only see on nature shows, struggling as they roll a piece of elephant dung eight times their size into a hole. Nope. There are many species of these nocturnal insects that call North America home.

True to their name, many dung beetles eat animal dung. Depending on the species, it may also lay eggs in the excrement or even live there. That may seem gross, but dung beetles are crucial to our ecosystem. Imagine all the cow patties and backyard landmines that would exist if these bugs weren’t around.

Dung beetles will feed whenever dung becomes available, but when they feed at night they use the stars to navigate. That’s kind of romantic for a creature that eats poop, isn’t it? And believe it or not, there’s a lot of competition out there for the best pieces of dung. Their celestial navigation skills help them make a quick escape from other beetles looking to steal a meal.

Asiatic Garden Beetle

Have you ever checked on your garden in the morning to find your jalapeño and basil looking less like plants and more like Swiss cheese? Then you may have Asiatic Garden Beetles treating your raised beds like they’re an all-you-can-eat buffet.

These beetles were introduced to the U.S. from Japan in the 1920s. They’ll feed on everything from vegetables to flowering plants to shrubs to trees. However, research from Purdue, on the Asiatic Garden Beetle, shows these nocturnal bugs really enjoy flowers like mums, dahlias and roses.

As Asiatic Garden Beetles are nocturnal feeding insects, you probably won’t ever see them. Unless you’re out looking for them, of course. Many people think slugs and snails are the culprits treating their gardens like midnight snacks. So if you want to try to properly control these night feeders, you may need to stage a stakeout.

Clearly planet Earth is abuzz whether we’re awake or not. And while not all nighttime feeding insects are pesky, there are some — like kissing bugs — you’d probably prefer to avoid.


National Geographic
National Geographic
Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens
Texas A&M
Gardens Alive
Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens



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