Click beetles, skip jacks, wire worms, Elateridae

Elateridae Family overview

Beetles in the Elateridae family are commonly known as click beetles or skip jacks, and the larvae (below) are known as wire worms. There are 9000 species world wide, and 73 species in Britain. The adults range in length from 0.2cm - 7.0cm. The fossil record for this family goes back as far as the Jurassic.

Elateridae larva, click beetle larva

Click beetle larvae

The larvae (above and below) are known as wire worms, they live on plant roots and cause a large amount of damage. In the UK DEFRA (2010) have recorded click beetle populations as high as 2.5 x 106per hectare, and 3.8 x 106 per hectare on permanent pasture.

It can take a larva five years of feeding before it is ready to pupate. The larva is elongate and cylindrical, and is usually orange or yellow in colour.

Elateridae larva, click beetle larva

Elateridae larva, larva of click beetle, wire worm

Elateridae pupa, click beetle pupa

Above and below is the typical Elateridae pupa.

Elateridae pupa, click beetle pupa

The click beetle click

When click beetles are alarmed they will drop to the ground and play dead. Often they land on their backs, and once they feel danger has passed with get back up on their feet with a flick of their body. It is this flick accompanied by a clicking sound that gives them their common name. Some beetles can flick themselves to quite a height, and this has become their method of escaping danger.

Click beetle adults

The adult beetles have the typical elongated body of the Elateridae, with the pointed rear end and the head almost invisible. They feed on pollen, nectar, flowers or leaves.

click beetle adult

Above is Athous haemorrhoidalis, the Red-brown skipjack. The adult is 9 - 16mm long, and has a brownish-black bulging thorax, and reddish-brown elytra (wing cases). It is most commonly seen in the summer months, especially May - July on flowers in or near hedgerows, field margins, woods, bracken and meadows throughout Europe, in England and Wales, it is less common in Scotland, and found in just a few places in Ireland. The larvae damage plant roots.

Ctenicera cuprea

Ctenicera cuprea adult

Above is an adult Ctenicera cuprea. This click beetle is fairly common over the Palaearctic to Mongolia. In the U. K. it is more common in the north. The adult is 11 - 17mm long. The body colour varies from metallic green, bronze to copper red. The male antennae are more pectinate, the one above is a female.

Adults are seen from May to July, usually in open grassy areas, moors and among heather. Adults will gather around light at night. Eggs are laid in May and June in open areas, and hatch in about a month. On first hatching the larvae feed on both dead and living vegetation, but later move into the soil and feed on plant roots. The larval stage usually takes more than one year. They pupate deep in the soil, around 10 25cm deep, in an earthen cell. Adults emerge in the spring.

Ctenicera cuprea is considered a pest of cereals and ornamental lawns.

Related pages