Gardening

The elusive Eyed Elater

A couple of days ago an unexpexted guest showed up in front of our garage door. It was a big, two-eyed, scary-looking beetle that was just sitting there, motionless — looking like it was dead.

It was easy to scoop up into a jar so I could have someone take a look at it for identification. Staff members at U of M’s Mathhaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, identified it as an Eyed Elater — a member of the click beetle family.

As it turns out, playing dead is one of the survival behaviors of the Eyed Elater. And as for those “eyes”,  they’re just markings, not real eyes.

This Eyed Elater looks scary but it doesn't bite.

You don’t get to see these very often because they spend most of their lifetime as larvae — sometimes up to six years. During that stage, they live in decaying wood looking for wood-boring beetles to eat. So, they really are beneficial insects. The adult beetles don’t eat much — they’ll sip on a little plant juice once in a while.

Over the years, during my time spent out in the woods harvesting firewood, I’ve seen the larvae but never stopped to make the connection between them and the adult beetle.

When any member of the  click beetle family is placed on its back, it will try to get on its feet by quickly arching its back and snapping back into position. This causes it to flip into the air with a “click!” sound. The smaller click beetles are fun to watch, but this Elater is really something to see.

Since my Eyed Elater is one of the good guys, I’ll take him back out to the woodpile so he can live out the rest of his life without anyone bothering him anymore.

 

 

 

Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.