Family Passalidae - Bess Beetles
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Coleoptera (Beetles)
Suborder Polyphaga (Water, Rove, Scarab, Long-horned, Leaf and Snout Beetles)
Superfamily Scarabaeoidea (Scarab, Stag and Bess Beetles)
Family Passalidae (Bess Beetles)
Other Common Names
Peg Beetles, Betsy Beetles, Patent Leather Beetles, Horn Beetles
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Explanation of Names
Family name is from Greek passalos
, meaning a peg or gag, originally bestowed by Fabricius (1)
"Bess" beetle would appear to be from French baiser
, to kiss (compare Middle English bassen
, Modern English, though archaic, buss
to kiss), after the kissing sound (stridulation
) made by the beetles when handled. "Betsy" would appear to be a variant of "bess". Betsy is a a form of the English name "Bess", short for the name Elizabeth, not related to the French "bess" in meaning, but this would appear to explain the progression baiser
-->"Bess"-->"Betsy" (Internet searches).
"Peg" beetle is likely from the appearance of the beetle protruding from its excavation in a log, like a carpenter's peg.
is a shiny leather, referring to the shiny body of these beetles.
"Horn Beetle" is one of several common names given by Blatchley (2)
and presumably refers to the shiny body as well.
Two genera and four species in North America (Univ. Florida
However, only two species, both in genus Odontotaenius, are currently known to occur in the United States--the other two species are doubtfully (or formerly?) known from Arizona (Schuster, 1994).
Worldwide, about 500 species are known (Schuster, 2001).
Genus Odontotaenius Kuwert 1896
Odontotaenius disjunctus (Illiger 1800) - General, except far West
Odontotaenius floridanus Schuster 1994 - Florida
Genus Passalus Fabricius 1792
Passalus interruptus (Linnaeus 1758) - AZ?
Passalus punctiger Serville 1825 - AZ?
Large dark beetles with characteristic body form and lifestyle:
robust body, distinct gap between pronotum and elytra
pronotum grooved in middle
elytra deeply grooved
mandibles robust, toothed, project beyond tip of labrum
antennae not elbowed (geniculate) like those of the Lucanidae
, but they are curved when relaxed
antennae have 10 segements, including a club of 3 (typically) to 6 segments
antennal plates (lamellae) cannot be pressed together as in Scarabaeidae
and related families.
mentum (lower mouthpart) deeply notched, the notch occupied by the large, horn-like ligula, see Dillon, fig. 438 (3)
Each tarsus has five segments (tarsal formula 5-5-5)
Some images of the widespread Horned Passalus, Odontotaenius disjunctus, illustrating these characters:
Eastern and south-central North America. The Horned Passalus, Odontotaenius disjunctus
is widespread in east. Odontotaenius floridanus
is a Florida endemic, described in 1994. These are apparently the only two species of the family known to occur in North America (United States and Canada).
Family is cosmopolitan, with most species in the tropics.
Live inside rotting logs in forests.
Adults and larvae feed on wood
Unusual (for beetles) subsocial
lifestyle. Adults and larvae live together in family groups in galleries excavated in rotting wood by adults. Adults care for larvae, and actively feed them prechewed food. Both adults and larvae stridulate, which is used for communication within the group. See Generic Guide to New World Scarab Beetles
for more details.
Arnett et al., America Beetles, Vol. 2, Chapter 25 (4)
Blatchley, p. 908 (2)
The Century Dictionary
--entry for passalus (1)
Schuster, 1994. Odontotaenius floridanus New Species (Coleoptera: Passalidae): A Second U.S. Passalid Beetle. Florida Entomologist 77(4)
: 474-478, available here
|3.||A Manual of Common Beetles of Eastern North America|
Dillon, Elizabeth S., and Dillon, Lawrence. 1961. Row, Peterson, and Company.
|4.||American Beetles, Volume II: Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea|
Arnett, R.H., Jr., M. C. Thomas, P. E. Skelley and J. H. Frank. (eds.). 2002. CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, FL.
|5.||A Dictionary of Entomology|
George Gordh, David H. Headrick. 2003. CABI Publishing.