Florida is a great place to live – for insects as well as humans! And that means that finding creepy crawlies in your home isn’t unusual.
Amongst the critters that can make their way inside are a number of different species of beetle. These interesting little bugs come in a number of different shapes and sizes. And if you want to find out more about them, you’ve come to the right place!
We’re going to look at some of the most common beetles in Florida homes. We’ll find out about their habitat and diet. And we’ll learn how to get rid of them – and even better, avoid them setting up home with you in the first place!
Ready? Let’s get started!
Types of beetles in Florida Homes
1. Black Carpet beetle
We’re focusing here on the Black Carpet beetle, Attagenus unicolor. That’s one of the most widespread species. And it’s also one of the most destructive.
Adult beetles are between 1/8th and 3/16ths of an inch long. They have either dark brown or black oval bodies. Their babies – larvae – are the same color. They’re shaped a bit like cigars, with tapering, segmented bodies that are covered in short bristles. And older larvae have long, bristly tails.
Adult Black Carpet beetles will usually live outside, where they feed on pollen and nectar. But it’s the larvae which can do the damage inside your home.
During this stage in their life cycle, the beetles are growing fast, so they have voracious appetites. They feed on anything containing the protein keratin – which can include wool or synthetic fibers in carpets and upholstery. The result is large, irregular shaped holes in the pile.
Watch out if you have a taxidermy or dried insect collection too. That’s a super-tasty all-you-can-eat buffet for Black Carpet beetle larvae.
2. Ant-like Longhorn beetle
Unlike Black Carpet beetles, Ant-like Longhorn beetles don’t tend to wreak havoc in your home. They’re usually found in forests, where the larvae feed on dead wood. The diet of adults is nectar and pollen, so you’re more likely to see them on your flower beds than your upholstery.
It’s no surprise that Ant-like Longhorn beetles, aka Cyrtophorous verrucosus, look a lot like ants. In fact, they’re easily mistaken for larger ants, with a similar shaped and sized head to soldier ants. They probably developed this unusual appearance to disguise them from predators.
But you can tell them apart from ants by their long antennae. And unlike regular ants, these beetles can fly.
Their bodies are between ¼ and 7/16ths of an inch long. There are two different kinds, black and red. But both have the same markings on their wings – a white V-shape.
3. Cigarette beetles
Cigarette beetles get their name from one of their favorite foods – tobacco. But they’ll chow down on pretty much anything, including dried flowers, flour, cereals, coffee beans, dry dog food and pot pourri. They’ll even eat the stuffing from your furniture, and the glue used to bind your books!
They’re very small – just 1/8th of an inch long – and a red-brown color. They live for anything between 40 and 90 days.
A female can lay around 100 eggs, which hatch within 10 days. So one stray cigarette beetle in your home can multiply very fast!
Regular cleaning and vacuuming is the best solution to keeping your home cigarette beetle-free. It’s also a good idea to store foodstuffs in see-through containers. That will give you a good chance of spotting an infestation at an early stage.
4. Antelope beetles
Dorcus parallelus, or the Antelope beetle, has a classic beetle-y look. It’s solid black, with a square-ish body and head, and two great big pincers. And it’s one of the biggest of all the Florida beetles, measuring between 0.6 inches and an inch long.
But despite its somewhat intimidating appearance, it’s harmless to humans. It belongs to the Lucanidae family, also known as Stag beetles.
The larvae feed on dead or rotting wood, like tree stumps or logs. They particularly like elm, but will also munch away on maple, oak or basswood. When fully grown, the adult beetles swap that diet for plants or the honeydew from aphids.
Like many insects, adult Antelope beetles will head towards the light at night. So make sure insect screens are in place over doors and windows if you’re keeping them open after dark.
5. Drugstore beetles
Drugstore beetles are also known as Bread beetles and Biscuit beetles. And these alternative names give a pretty accurate reflection of their preferred diet! They dine on starchy foods, including anything from pasta to cereals, cookies to bread.
And if you’re wondering how they also came by the Drugstore beetle name, it’s because they often infest drugstore goods too.
They’re found in many parts of the world, and the story goes that they travelled there by boat.
Biscuits were standard fare for sailors, who needed something that wouldn’t go off over long journeys. They were traditionally banged on the table before eating. And the story goes that it was this practice that led to the beetle being transferred from wood to biscuit.
Drugstore beetles are small critters, measuring just 0.14 inches at their largest. They’re similar in appearance to Cigarette beetles, with reddish-brown, oval bodies.
Because they’re so tiny, you’re more likely to spot damage to food stores than to spot the beetles or their eggs. The good news is, they’re not harmful to humans. But damaged food should be thrown away.
6. Click beetles
Click beetles are actually a whole family of bugs, the scientific name for which is Elateridae. They are so called because of their ability to make a loud click. The sound is made when the beetle snaps a spine on its body into a notch in its exoskeleton.
It’s not just the noise which is striking. When it happens, the beetle jumps suddenly into the air. It’s a great technique for escaping predators. And it can also help the beetle find its feet if it’s turned on its back.
It’s an immensely successful beetle, with over 9,300 species worldwide, and almost a thousand in North America. They can be found in many different colors, including black, brown and reddish-brown. None of the are harmful to people.
7. American Carrion beetles
One of the most common of all Florida beetles is the American Carrion beetle, or Necrophilia americana. Like many beetles, it gets its name from its diet. In this case, that’s the dead flesh of animals, although it will also eat fungi.
Adult American Carrion beetles also eat the larvae of flies and of other beetles of the same species. Yes, they’re effectively cannibals! This less than neighborly behaviour does, however, serve an important purpose for survival by reducing competition for food.
They measure between about half an inch and an inch long. Their bodies are black, except for the pronotum – part of the foremost segment of the thorax. That’s pale yellow, with a black spot in the middle.
8. Powderpost beetles
There are 70 different species of Powderpost beetles, all from the family Lyctinae. They get their name from their love of chomping on deciduous trees, turning the wood to powder.
But unfortunately, they don’t confine their snacking to growing trees. They’ll also chow down on wooden tools and furniture, anything from flooring timbers to gun stocks. That makes them something of a pain if they get into your home.
The larvae usually stay hidden in whatever piece of wood is acting as their food source. They can stay there for months or even years. The only evidence of their presence may be tiny pinholes, and small amounts of powdery frass. That’s bug poo to you and me!
Regular vacuum cleaning is the best way to avoid ending up with a Powderpost beetle problem. They don’t like the taste of wood preservatives either, so that will prevent damage to precious items.
9. Southern Pine beetles
The Southern Pine beetle is a type of Bark beetle. It’s found in forests in the southern USA, including Florida. There it enjoys eating a wide range of different species of pine trees.
If one gets into your home, it will be an accidental invasion. But an infestation of these beetles is seriously bad news for pine forests.
That’s because the female lays her eggs inside the phloem of the tree, which interrupts its flow of water. That might not sound like a big deal – after all, a beetle is pretty small compared to a pine tree.
But the Southern Pine beetle also releases a pheromone that attracts other beetles to the tree. Hundreds of beetles laying their eggs and inhibiting the tree’s water supply will significantly shorten its life.
In the south eastern United States, the Southern Pine beetle is one of the biggest problems for the forestry industry.
10. Ashy Gray Lady beetles
The Ashy Gray Lady beetle comes from the family Coccinellidae and its scientific name is Olla v-nigrum. It’s a type of lady bug. But this one looks very different from the common or garden red and black variety.
Instead, its body is ashy gray with black spots, hence its name. Some can also be a tan color. And occasionally you can find them with black bodies and two red spots.
Ashy Grays are looked on as welcome visitors by Floridian gardeners. That’s because they eat a whole host of garden pests, including another Florida beetle, the invasive Asian Multi-colored Lady beetle.
So while you might not want them inside your home, take care of any you spot! Transfer them gently to your garden, and your plants will thank you for it.
Preventing and Treating Beetle Infestations
Trying to prevent a beetle from ever wandering inside your home is virtually impossible. Florida is home to a host of beetle species, and from time to time, they’re going to get in. But that doesn’t mean that a beetle infestation is inevitable!
The first line of defence against unwanted insect guests is to make it less likely they’ll find their way inside. That means installing insect screens over doors and windows, and repairing any holes promptly. Use calk around window and door frames and fill any cracks in your walls.
Once you’ve done that, regular cleaning, particularly vacuuming, is the single best way of reducing chances of an infestation. It will get rid of any insects before they have a chance to get established or lay eggs. And if, by any chance, an industrious beetle has already set up home, it will also get rid of any eggs or larvae.
If you’ve been unlucky and have to deal with an infestation, think carefully about your options. There are a number of insecticides available, but they do involve using strong chemicals in your home. They’re not always effective. And they can have harmful side effects for humans and pets.
Thorough vacuuming works just as well for treatment as for prevention. It will lift and remove the beetles, as well as their eggs and larvae.
If you do need to use a chemical treatment, boric acid powder or diatomaceous earth are less toxic options. They do, however, still need to be handled with care, and kept away from small children and animals.
Florida’s rich variety of beetles
That brings us to the end of our look at just some of many different beetle species that live in Florida. Most of them are entirely harmless house guests. But occasionally, some can cause damage.
Most beetles prefer the great outdoors, so they’ll only enter your home by accident. Insect screens are a simple and effective way to reduce the chances of that happening. Plugging up gaps and filling cracks in walls are other important steps.
If you do spot the odd beetle, just pick it up and take it outside. It won’t hurt you. And if you’ve found an Ashy Gray Lady beetle, it will do you sterling service eating aphids in your garden.