Last summer I spent almost an entire month blacklighting in my backyard every night. I’m going to share my blacklighting setup with you all in the not too distant future so you can see what it involves, but I turned on my lights just before it got dark and then went out multiple times each night to document the things I found. I focused on moths as I was participating in National Moth Week at first, but I saw a bunch of other really cool things too. Though I have no interest at all in studying beetles (except maybe how various aquatic beetles breathe), I have always rather enjoyed looking at them. I got some really great ones coming to my lights too! Today I’m going to share 5 of my favorite beetles from my blacklighting adventure last summer.
A note about my identifications: I’m not 100% certain about any of the IDs I propose for these beetles! I bought Art Evans’ wonderful book Beetles of Eastern North America, which anyone who has an interest in insects and lives in the eastern US should own, just before I started my month of blacklighting. I used it for most of my identifications and though it is a remarkably comprehensive field guide that covers 1406 species, beetles are incredibly diverse and the book certainly doesn’t cover all of the species found in the eastern US. It’s entirely possible (maybe even likely) I have some of these wrong – I welcome corrections if you see a mistake!
LeConte’s Seedcorn Beetle, Stenolophus lecontei
This gorgeous little fellow is found throughout most of the eastern US and is known to come to lights at night. They’re active from spring into late summer and belong to the ground beetle family Carabidae. They’re common in fields, gardens, and suburban yards where they feed on live and dead insects and the occasional fruit, seed, or plant.
This little pond dwelling predaceous diving beetle is found throughout the southeastern US as well as the Bahamas and Cuba. It is surprisingly hard to find information about this particular species, but I would suspect that they are predatory like most of their relatives in the family Dytiscidae and feed on other insects in ponds. You can tell this one is a male because he’s got suction cups on his front feet.
I was thrilled when this gorgeous longhorn beetle from the family Cerambycidae showed up at my porch light! It was pretty high up and I didn’t get a good shot of it before I bumped it and it flew away, but wow! What a spectacular beetle! These beetles are common throughout the southeastern US and range into New England and are frequently seen at lights in spring and summer. They feed on oaks and sumacs as larvae.
Long-necked Ground Beetle, Cosnania pensylvanica
This is a very interestingly shaped member of the ground beetle family Carabidae, with its long, extended prothorax separating its head from the rest of its body. These are found in the southeastern US and into New England and are common in open grassy areas (like my backyard, for example), on plants along the edges of wetlands, or under piles of debris. They’re most common in the spring and summer and are known to be attracted to lights. They are thought to be ant mimics and are suspected to feed on aphids.
Black turfgrass Ataenius, Ataenius spretulus
During my month of blacklighting, I learned that these small, black beetles are far and away the most common thing I find at lights at night in my yard. There were sometimes hundreds of them! They belong to the scarab beetle family Scarabaeidae and are active most of the year throughout large parts of the US and into Ontario in Canada. They are definitely attracted to lights! They are also a turfgrass pest, which made me worry a bit for my yard. Not that our grass is perfect anyway (it’s more a collection of neatly trimmed weeds than grass), but there were SO many of these that I was surprised I had any grass left at all!
Apart from this tiny handful of beetles that came to my lights, I found awesome click beetles and loads of aquatic beetles. There were several scarab species, some of which were very numerous, and some wonderful long-horned and wood-boring beetles. Some of the beetles had crazy antennae and others were comparatively uninteresting. My very favorite beetle didn’t stick around long for me to photograph it, a click beetle with absolutely wild antennae! The experience reminded me, as nature so often does, that there are seemingly endless beetle species in the world of countless colors, sizes, and shapes. Makes me excited to see what I will find when I start blacklighting again this spring!