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Eleodes sp.

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Photo: Insectarium de Montréal, René Limoges

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Darkling beetles are small and black, but on close examination their shells reveal a wide variety of shapes and textures. This makes them just as interesting to look at as other, more colourful beetles. Darkling beetles are 3 to 4 cm long.

Country of origin

United States
French name
Scientific name
Eleodes sp.
English name
Darkling beetle
Living environment


Darkling beetles are omnivorous, eating anything, especially decomposing plant matter (detrivorous).


Darkling beetles live in arid regions.

Geographic distribution

They are found in the western United States, in desert regions in Arizona and Texas.

Ecological role

By eating different plants and helping to recycle organic material, they help to maintain a balance in their natural habitat.

Special behaviour

When they feel threatened, they lower their heads, raise their abdomens and squirt an unpleasant-smelling black liquid. This is a means of defence against potential predators. The liquid is said to smell much like leather to humans.

There is another reason why they sometimes raise their abdomens and hold that position for hours. In the desert, water is available in the form of fine mist in the morning. When a beetle leans down, microdroplets of water collect on its abdomen and then run down toward its head, so that it can drink the precious liquid.

Interesting facts


The different darkling beetle species are very common.

Popular beliefs

Indians in the American Southwest believe that the Great Spirit assigned a darkling beetle to place the stars in the sky. This important mission went to its head and the proud beetle became careless. One day, by mistake it spilled all the remaining stars into the sky: we can still see the result of this cosmic mistake in the Milky Way. Ever since, whenever someone approaches a darkling beetle, it lowers its head and looks at the ground in shame.

Interesting facts and curiosities

Darkling beetles live in the most blazing deserts. Their very thick shells, made of several waxy layers, allow them to withstand temperatures of 50°C. Their long legs allow them to move very quickly and to keep their bodies off the scorching hot ground. They are often skilled at tunnelling, burrowing quickly into the sand to escape the sun’s burning rays or predators.

At the Insectarium

Biogeographic zone = Nearctic

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