Click Beetles

Elateridae. Spanish: Apretadores (Chile), tuco tuco (Argentina), mayates saltadores (Central America). Portuguese: Tem tem, tec tec, salta martims (Brazil).

Ventrally, adults of these common beetles have a spine on the prothorax which fits into a groove on the mesothorax. A flexible union between the segments allows the former to be forcibly snapped into the latter, causing the beetle to jerk suddenly and, with a clicking sound, catapult up to several centimeters into the air. The action is the same whether the beetle is resting on its back or standing on its feet.

Click beetles are also recognized by their elongate, parallel-sided shape. The posterior corners of the prothorax project as sharp points. Most are small (BL 8-10 mm), but many Neotropical species, especially those in the genus Chalcolepidius (fig. 9.4h), are giants, 4 to 5 centimeters long. These are usually dull blue or green, with longitudinal light streaks on the elytra and bordering the prothorax and a slightly tapered blunt posterior end. Semiotus (fig-9.4g) are similar but a little smaller (BL 3 cm), shiny yellow, and with wing covers pointed at the rear.

The larvae are wormlike, smooth, and with a hard exoskeleton. They burrow in the soil seeking roots and tubers, which they penetrate. These "wireworms" (particularly in the genera Conoderus [fig. 9.4i] and Aeolus) can do considerable economic damage to crop plants. Others work rotten wood and are beneficial as reducers.

More than 1,800 species inhabit the Neotropics and are widely distributed in almost every habitat. The luminescent headlight beetles are the most widely appreciated.

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