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COLEOPTERA, Elateridae -- <Images> & <Juveniles>


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The family is largely phytophagous, and the larvae of most species are major crop pests. However, a considerable number of genera have species that are predaceous on insects rather than being phytophagous. Because the larvae are largely soil inhabiting, they feed on such other soft-bodied insects as they find. Thus, scarabaeid grubs are among the most frequent prey. Monocrepidius pallipes Esch. is an important natural enemy of white grubs in Fiji and has not been found to attack sugarcane, while M. exsul Sharp preys on grubs but also is destructive to young sugarcane in the pacific Islands (Williams 1931). Pyrophorus luminosus Ill. is the "cucubano" of the West Indies, which serves as a natural control of various cane grubs of the family Scarabaeidae. It has been imported to several tropical areas for biological control of scarabs. Several species occur in decaying wood where they prey on larvae of different xylophagous insects (Clausen 1940/62).


Most species are are small and dull colored, with a few exceptions. Adults are usually nocturnal and phytophagous, and of little economic importance. Howver, they may enter structures and cause damage to wood products. The larvae, known as wireworms, are saprophagous, but some species are also agricultural pests. There are some predators of other insect larvae. There are also bioluminescent species; e.g.,, Pyrophorus.


The larvae are elongated, cylindrical or flattened, and possess a thick integument. Some species complete development in one year but most spend 3-4 years in the soil, where they feed on decaying vegetation and the roots of plants, and often cause damage to a variety of agricultural crops. Elaterids are able to quickly locate food by following carbon dioxide gradients from plant material in the soil, and they are able to recover from the effects of pesticides. Thus, it is often difficult to reduce a problematic field infestation.


Larvae of some South American species inhabit burrows in termite mounds where they utilize bioluminescence to attract flying prey.


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References: Please refer to <biology.ref.htm>, [Additional references may be found at: MELVYL Library]


Doane, J. F., Y. W. Lee, N. D. Westcott & J. Klingler. 1975. "The orientation response of Ctenicera destructor and other wireworms (Coleoptera: Elateridae) to germinating grain and to carbon dioxide". Canadian Entomologist 107 (12): 12331252. 


Majka, C. G. & Paul J. Johnson. 2008. "The Elateridae (Coleoptera) of the Maritime Provinces of Canada: faunal composition, new records, and taxonomic changes" (PDF excerpt). Zootaxa 1811: 133. 


Parker, W. E. & Julia J. Howard. 2001. "The biology and management of wireworms (Agriotes spp.) on potato with particular reference to the U.K.". Agricultural and Forest Entomology 3 (2): 8598. 


Schneider, M. C., M. C. Almeida, SPolicena Rosa, C. Costa & D. Maria Cella. 2006. "Evolutionary chromosomal differentiation among four species of Conoderus Eschscholtz, 1829 (Coleoptera, Elateridae, Agrypninae, Conoderini) detected by standart staining, C-banding, silver nitrate impregnation, and CMA3/DA/DAPI staining". Genetica 128 (13): 333346. 


Van Herk, W. G. & Robert S. Vernon. 2007. "Soil bioassay for studying behavioral responses of wireworms (Coleoptera: Elateridae) to inecticide-treated wheat seed". Environmental Entomology 36 (6): 14411449.


Van Herk, W. G., R. S. Vernon, J. H. Tolman & H. Ortiz Saavedra. 2008. "Mortality of a wireworm, Agriotes obscurus (Coleoptera: Elateridae), after topical application of various insecticides". Journal of Economic Entomology 101 (2): 375383. 


Vernon, R. S., W. Van Herk, J. Tolman, H. Ortiz Saavedra, M. Clodius & B. Gage. 2008. "Transitional sublethal and lethal effects of insecticides after dermal exposures to five economic species of wireworms (Coleoptera: Elateridae)". Journal of Economic Entomology 101 (2): 365374.