There are more than 350,000 known species of beetles, but some scientists estimate that there may be as many as three million species worldwide. Beetles belong to the order Coleoptera, which is the largest order in the animal kingdom. In fact, one out of every four animals on Earth is a beetle. And as you might suspect with a group this large, there are some differences in beetle behavior between the species. So what do beetles do?


Many of the weirdest beetle behaviors have to do with finding and consuming food. There are species of beetles found all over the world, and they eat a variety of things. Some types eat dead animals or decomposing plant matter, others eat fungi or wood and there are types that eat other beetles and small insects.


In the case of the American Burying beetle, found in much of the United States, the males will locate a carcass at night. This type of beetle, which is endangered, looks for primarily small birds and mammals. Males and females will fight to see which ones get the carcass, which is then moved to a new location and buried. To move it, the beetles flip onto their backs and use their legs to walk the carcass down their ranks to the new site, much like a conveyor belt. This strange behavior allows them to easily move a food source that is up to 200 times their own weight. Once moved, the carcass is buried and eggs are laid in a tunnel adjacent to the carrion. The female will stay with the young beetles, feeding off the dead animal, until they transition to pupae.

Farming fancy fungi

Certain species of beetles, also known as weevils, are fungi-farmers. These insects, sometimes called pinhole borers or ambrosia beetles, are often found in wooded areas. They bore into trees and other wood, carrying with them types of spore. The fungi begin to grow inside the tunnels, or galleries, bored by the beetles. Once it’s cultivated, both young and adult beetles will feed on it.


Predatory beetles can often be seen running after other insects. In the case of the tiger beetles, it is not uncommon to see them on or near clay banks. They will chase down their food, and catch it in their large mandibles. The larvae of this type of beetle remain inside a burrow. They leave their mouths open and snap down on any insect that unwittingly walks into the trap.

The majority of beetle species are beneficial in nature. They feed on other insects and plant life that is usually considered to be weeds, but other behaviors can be disturbing. For example, bark beetles and Emerald Ash borers kill thousands of trees every year. Other beetles cause substantial economic damage to crops and stored grain. Many infest household food items such as cereal, rice and dried vegetables. Species such as the varied carpet beetle will eat the backing of carpets and rugs. Other species, known as powderpost beetles and Longhorned beetles, cause significant damage to the wood in homes and other structures.

Beetles are a fascinating and diverse group of insects. An occasional beetle wandering into your home may not be an issue, but when beetle behavior causes them to invade ¬– infesting your food or damaging your clothing or carpets – it’s time to take action. What do beetles do when faced with a Terminix® Service Technician? They run away. Call today for a free pest evaluation and make your beetle problems disappear.

Beetle Behavior Resources