Whiplash Beetles

Staphylinidae, Paederinae, Paederini, Paederus. Spanish: Zorritos (Peru), bichos de fuego (Argentina); corallilos (Guatemala); jallapas (Bolivia); picajuis (Venezuela). Portuguese: Potos, potos i P'mentas, trepas moleque (Brazil).

en these beetles walk on human skin, y sometimes deposit a caustic liquid from glands on the last abdominal segment which produces pustulent dermatitis (Frank and Kanamitsu 1987), although more often the effects are caused by hemolymph from accidentally crushed beetles (Guillén 1989). If the insect enters the eye, the effects are extremely severe and may result in loss of sight. Often, the injury is accompanied by fever and other systemic disorders that have been documented from numerous cases (Ojeda 1967). Agricultural workers in Paraguay have suffered from the abundance of these beetles in their environment (Dallas 1939).

Adults can be seen running on shrubs in warm, humid climes. They are slow moving, but when agitated, they elevate the abdomen in a threatening posture. Their food usually consists of small dead arthropods, although they sometimes attack and overpower other live but lethargic insects.

These are small (BL 12—14 mm), elongate, slender beetles, slightly flattened and of a deep, metallic black color (fig. 9.4b). Typical of their family, the elytra are short and truncate, covering only about a third of the abdomen. They have a globular prothorax and similarly shaped head of about the same size. Immatures of the Latin American species are apparently unknown.

Just over eighty species inhabit the Latin American region.


Dallas, E. D. 1939. Coleópteros que origem dermatitis en al República de Argentina. 7th Int. Cong. Entomol. Proc. 2: 678-682. Frank, J. H., and K. Kanamitsu. 1987. Paederus, sensu lato (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae): Natural history and medical importance. J. Med. Entomol. 24: 155-191. Guillén, Z. 1989. Lesiones cutáneas producidas por Paederus irritans (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae) sobre animales de laboratorio. Rev. Peruana Entomol. 31: 31-35. Ojeda, D. 1967. Estudo sobre un caso de dermatitis producida por Paederus irritans Chapin (Col.: Staphylinidae). Rev. Peruana Entomol. 10: 28-31.

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