Most pest managers will know the pests with the nasty bites and stings, but if there’s one insect you want to avoid swatting, this could be it!

Would you be able to identify a rove beetle?

Common name: Red and Black Rove Beetles

Scientific name(s): Various Paederus sp. and some related species in the Staphylindae family.

Description: Small, elongated, ant-like beetles with tiny wings, usually 1cm or less in length. Most species are black with a red thorax and a red band across the abdomen, and blue or green iridescence on the wing-covers.

Geographic distribution: Found worldwide.

Habitat: Adults and young are predators of other invertebrates, and usually encountered in the garden. However, they can be found inside houses when attracted to lights.

Pest status: Female Red and Black Rove Beetles, and to a lesser extent males, have a highly toxic poison in their haemolymph. If the beetles are crushed against the skin, the toxin will cause a rash or severe blistering after 12-36 hours (Paederus dermatitis, or dermatitis linearis). If the toxin is accidentally transferred to the eye, it can result in serious conjunctivitis.

Some beetle outbreaks are severe – one forced the evacuation of a community in the Northern Territory. Since the beetles are attracted to lights, they’ve also caused outbreaks of Paederus dermatitis in factories, hospitals, and army camps.

Treatment: Protective gloves when gardening are a basic precaution. A surface spray is a potential barrier against them entering a house, but despite their small wings rove beetles can fly well, and intact fly screens would be needed on all windows.

Daniel Heald, technician and entomologist.

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