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What Do Beetles Eat?

beetle eating a leaf

Beetles form one of the most diverse and extensive insect orders, with over 350,000 species known to science, and their dietary preferences can vary widely. Generally, beetles are herbivores or scavengers, but some are also predators. Here's a breakdown of what beetles eat:

What Do Lady Beetles Eat?

Lady beetles, also known as ladybugs or ladybirds, are beneficial insects that primarily feed on other small insects, particularly aphids. Here is a detailed overview of what lady beetles eat:

  • Aphids: Lady beetles are famous for their appetite for aphids. These small, soft-bodied insects are a favorite food source for lady beetles. Lady beetles use their strong mandibles to grasp and consume aphids. This diet makes lady beetles valuable in agriculture as natural pest control agents, helping to reduce aphid populations on plants.
  • Scale Insects: Lady beetles also feed on scale insects, which are known for their protective waxy covering. Lady beetles can penetrate these protective coatings to consume the soft insects beneath.
  • Mealybugs: Mealybugs are another group of soft-bodied insects that lady beetles will feed on. Like aphids, mealybugs secrete a sugary substance known as honeydew, which can attract lady beetles.
  • Spider Mites: Lady beetles can also consume spider mites, which are tiny arachnids that infest plants and can cause damage by sucking the plant's juices. Lady beetles help control these pests in gardens and agricultural fields.
  • Other Soft-Bodied Insects: Lady beetles are opportunistic feeders and may consume other soft-bodied insects, such as whiteflies, thrips, and small caterpillars.
  • Pollen and Nectar: While lady beetles are primarily predators of other insects, some species may also supplement their diet with pollen and nectar. This behavior is more common in some lady beetle species than others.
  • Overwintering: During the colder months, lady beetles often enter a state of dormancy called diapause. During this time, they do not actively feed. However, they may consume a small amount of stored fats and nutrients to survive the winter.

Lady beetles are considered beneficial insects in agriculture and gardening because they help control pest populations. Gardeners and farmers often release lady beetles into their crops to help manage aphids and other harmful insects. Understanding their diet and natural behavior is crucial for effective pest control and integrated pest management practices.

Flesh Eating Beetles

There are several types of beetles that are known for consuming flesh, whether it's the flesh of dead animals, other insects, or in some cases, even living animals. These beetles play essential roles in decomposition processes. Here are some beetles that are associated with flesh consumption:

  • Carrion Beetles (Silphidae): Carrion beetles are known for their scavenging behavior. They feed on the decaying flesh of dead animals. They often arrive at carcasses relatively quickly to lay their eggs, and both the adults and their larvae feed on the decomposing tissue. The burying beetle is a well-known example in this family.
  • Hide Beetles (Dermestidae): While hide beetles primarily feed on dry animal products like leather, fur, and feathers, they are sometimes found on decomposing flesh as well. They can be pests in museums, homes, and taxidermy collections.
  • Rove Beetles (Staphylinidae): Some rove beetles are associated with carrion and may consume decaying animal matter. These beetles are often found in the same environments as carrion beetles.
  • Necrophagous Beetles: This is a broader category that includes various beetles that feed on decaying matter. In addition to carrion beetles, it encompasses a range of other scavengers and decomposers.
  • Predatory Beetles: While not strictly flesh-eating, some predatory beetles, like ground beetles (Carabidae), may occasionally consume soft-bodied invertebrates, including the flesh of other insects.

While some beetles are associated with decomposing flesh, they typically do not pose a threat to living animals or humans. Instead, they contribute to the decomposition process, helping to recycle nutrients and maintain ecological balance. Carrion beetles, in particular, are considered beneficial because they help to reduce the presence of dead animal carcasses in the environment.

What Do Boxelder Beetles Eat?

Boxelder beetles, scientific name Boisea trivittata, are primarily herbivorous insects with specific dietary preferences. They are often associated with the boxelder tree (Acer negundo) and feed on various parts of this tree. Here's what boxelder beetles eat:

  • Boxelder Tree Seeds: Boxelder beetles primarily feed on the seeds of the boxelder tree, which is their preferred and most common food source. They have a strong preference for the seeds, especially those that are freshly fallen or still on the tree. These beetles use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to extract the sap and nutrients from the seeds.
  • Other Maple Species: While boxelder beetles are most closely associated with boxelder trees, they may also feed on seeds of other maple tree species, such as silver maple (Acer saccharinum) and red maple (Acer rubrum).
  • Other Vegetation: In the absence of boxelder seeds or other suitable food sources, boxelder beetles may feed on other plant materials, such as leaves, stems, and tender parts of various plants. However, this is less common, and they prefer seeds.

While boxelder beetles primarily feed on plant material, they are not considered significant agricultural or horticultural pests. They are more commonly known for their overwintering behavior, where they seek shelter in homes and other structures during the cooler months, which can be a nuisance to homeowners. Their feeding on boxelder and other maple tree seeds does not typically lead to significant harm to these trees.

What Do Carpet Beetles Eat?

Carpet beetles are common household pests known for their ability to feed on a variety of natural materials found in homes. Their diet primarily includes items such as textiles, carpets, and other organic materials. Here's what carpet beetles eat:

  • Natural Fibers: Carpet beetle larvae are particularly fond of natural animal-based fibers. This includes materials such as wool, fur, feathers, and silk. They can cause damage to carpets, upholstery, and clothing made from these materials.
  • Synthetic Fibers: While carpet beetles prefer natural fibers, they can also feed on synthetic fibers like polyester, especially when they are blended with natural fibers in fabrics or carpets.
  • Feathers and Animal Hairs: Carpet beetle larvae will feed on feathers and animal hairs, which can be found in various items like down pillows and stuffed animals.
  • Insect Specimens: In some cases, carpet beetle larvae are attracted to insect collections or taxidermy displays. They may consume preserved insects or the materials used in mounting and preserving them.
  • Stored Food Products: While the primary diet of carpet beetles is focused on organic materials like fibers, they may also infest stored food products in the absence of other suitable food sources. These food items can include cereals, flour, pet food, and spices. However, their ability to infest stored foods is not as common as other pests like pantry moths.

It's essential to prevent carpet beetle infestations by maintaining good hygiene and taking measures to protect textiles and stored items from these pests. Regular cleaning and proper storage of vulnerable materials can help mitigate the damage caused by carpet beetles.

What Do Darkling Beetles Eat?

Darkling beetles, which belong to the family Tenebrionidae, are a kind of darkling beetle known for their scavenging and detritivore behavior. Their diet primarily consists of decaying organic matter, but they are opportunistic feeders and can consume a variety of food sources. Here's what darkling beetles eat:

  • Decaying Plant Material: Darkling beetles are often found in habitats with decaying plant matter, such as fallen leaves, dead wood, and compost piles. They feed on decomposing plant material, helping to break it down and recycle nutrients.
  • Decomposing Animal Matter: Some darkling beetles, especially larger species, feed on decaying animal matter. This includes carcasses of animals, birds, insects, and other invertebrates.
  • Fungi: Darkling beetles may also consume various fungi that grow on decaying organic matter. Fungi can be an essential part of their diet, especially in habitats with high fungal activity.
  • Stored Grains and Crops: Certain darkling beetle species, like the confused flour beetle (Tribolium confusum) and the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum), are considered pests in agriculture and can infest stored grains, cereals, and other dry food products. They can cause significant damage to stored food items.
  • Animal Manure: Some darkling beetles are attracted to and feed on animal dung, which can serve as a source of nutrients for them.
  • Roots and Vegetation: While their primary diet is decaying matter, some darkling beetles may also consume plant roots and vegetation if other food sources are limited.
  • Algae: In certain arid environments, darkling beetles may feed on algae growing on rocks or other surfaces.
  • Carrion: Some darkling beetles may scavenge on carrion or dead animals, contributing to the decomposition process.

Darkling beetles play an essential role in nutrient cycling and ecosystem decomposition. Their ability to consume a wide range of organic matter contributes to the breakdown of dead and decaying material in natural ecosystems. However, in agricultural settings, certain species can be problematic pests, particularly when they infest stored food products.

What Do Stag Beetles Eat?

Stag beetles, known for their imposing mandibles and large size, have adult dietary preferences that vary slightly from those of their larvae (grubs). Here's what adult and larval stag beetles eat:

Adult Stag Beetles:

  • Sap: Adult stag beetles are primarily attracted to tree sap, which serves as their primary food source. They often feed on sap that oozes from wounded or decaying trees, as well as the sap flows created by other insects. They use their mandibles to scrape and consume the sap.
  • Ripened Fruits: Stag beetles are occasionally known to feed on ripened, sugary fruits such as overripe strawberries, peaches, and nectar from flowers.
  • Fermented Substances: They may be attracted to fermented materials, such as beer, wine, and fruit juices. In some regions, people have observed stag beetles visiting open beverage containers.
  • Tree Exudates: In addition to sap, stag beetles might consume other tree exudates like resin and gum, although sap is their primary choice.

Stag Beetle Larvae (Grubs):

  • Decaying Wood: The larval stage of stag beetles primarily feeds on decaying wood. They are often found in decaying logs, tree stumps, or other wood materials. Their powerful mandibles allow them to chew and digest the wood as their primary source of nutrition.
  • Fungi: Stag beetle larvae also consume fungi that grow on decaying wood, which can provide additional nutrients.

The dietary preferences of stag beetles can vary depending on their environment and the availability of food sources. While adult stag beetles have a more varied diet that includes sap and fruits, the larvae are specialized wood-boring insects, and their diet is limited to decaying wood and associated organisms like fungi. Stag beetles play a vital ecological role in recycling dead and decaying trees, contributing to nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems.

What Do Japanese Beetles Eat?

Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) are known as voracious herbivores and are considered agricultural and horticultural pests due to the extensive damage they can cause to a wide range of plants. These beetles feed on various plant parts and have a broad diet. Here is a detailed overview of what Japanese beetles eat:

  • Leaves: Japanese beetles primarily feed on the leaves of a variety of plants. They consume the leaf tissue, leaving behind skeletonized leaves with only the veins remaining. This feeding can lead to defoliation, which can stress and damage plants.
  • Flowers: Japanese beetles are also known to feed on the petals and reproductive structures of flowers. Their feeding can result in flower damage and reduced pollination.
  • Fruits: These beetles feed on the fruit of various trees and plants. They can be particularly destructive to fruit trees and berry bushes, as their feeding can scar and damage the fruit, making it unsuitable for harvest.
  • Grasses: Japanese beetles will feed on the leaves of grasses, including lawn grasses. This can lead to brown patches in lawns and reduced aesthetic appeal.
  • Shrubs and Trees: Japanese beetles are not limited to specific plant types and can target a wide variety of ornamental shrubs and trees in gardens and landscapes.
  • Vegetables: In gardens, Japanese beetles may also feed on a range of vegetables, including beans, corn, tomatoes, and peppers.

Japanese beetles are a significant concern for gardeners, farmers, and horticulturists because they can cause extensive damage to a variety of plants. Integrated pest management strategies are often employed to manage and control Japanese beetle populations, which may include the use of traps, biological controls, and insecticides in some cases.

What Do Ground Beetles Eat?

Ground beetles, which belong to the family Carabidae, are a diverse group of predatory insects known for their beneficial role in controlling pest populations. They are primarily carnivorous and feed on a wide range of other small invertebrates. Here's a detailed overview of what ground beetles eat:

  • Insects and Other Arthropods: Ground beetles are voracious predators and primarily feed on other insects and arthropods. Their diet may include pests like caterpillars, grubs, aphids, snails, slugs, and other small invertebrates that they can capture and subdue.
  • Worms and Larvae: Ground beetles will also feed on earthworms and various insect larvae, such as those of beetles and moths.
  • Small Snails and Slugs: Some ground beetle species are known for their ability to prey on snails and slugs. They can help control populations of these garden pests.
  • Other Ground-Dwelling Arthropods: Ground beetles may also consume spiders and other ground-dwelling arthropods found in their habitat.
  • Decomposing Organic Matter: While their primary diet is focused on predation, ground beetles may occasionally feed on decomposing organic matter and detritus.
  • Plant Material (Occasionally): Some ground beetle species may consume small amounts of plant material, particularly when other food sources are scarce. However, this is less common, and their diet is predominantly carnivorous.

Ground beetles are considered valuable natural enemies of agricultural and garden pests. They help control pest populations and reduce the need for chemical pesticides. To attract and support ground beetles in your garden, it's important to maintain a diverse habitat with adequate ground cover, organic matter, and shelter for these beneficial insects.