I don’t think I’ve written about click beetles on this blog, so it’s about time, because it’s a large insect family and I’ve seen at least a dozen different species at Mount Pisgah. 

In fact, earlier this week on a 70 degree day, one flew into my arm, fell, and landed on the trail at my feet. I didn’t notice at the time that it was a click beetle. Usually, you can see their distinctive m-shaped “shoulders.” That’s where, on the underside, a mechanical pin-and-groove joint is located, which produces the sound that gives the beetle its name.  

Yes, this centimeter-long insect has a built-in Swiss army knife tool, which it deploys when it becomes stuck upside down (this one landed on its feet). The beetle can flex the joint between its thorax and abdomen and spring the bodily pin from its housing to launch itself into the air up to 25 times as high as its body length, while making a clicking sound. 

Selatosomus festivus, is more colorful than most click beetles, and that may be why the species name is so joyful. It wasn’t always that way: The species used to be categorized as a subspecies of Selatosomus cruciatus, And yes, the root word of that species name can mean pain or torture (think of the cruciatus curse from Harry Potter) but in this case it refers to the cross-shaped dark mark on the abdomen. 

Festive click beetles are found only on the west coast of the U.S. and Canada. There’s very little information about the species online. To me, that spells opportunity. Keep your eyes open for these striking insects! 

Stay curious!

See more of Karen’s work here.


Profile of another Selatosomus species: http://10000thingsofthepnw.com/2022/06/15/selatosomus-suckleyi/. Accessed 4/5/24.

Informative paper about the body-flipping mechanism: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116849/. Accessed 4/5/24.