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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rove beetles
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Suborder: Polyphaga
Infraorder: Staphyliniformia
Superfamily: Staphylinoidea
Family: Staphylinidae
Lameere, 1900
  • Aleocharinae
  • Apateticinae
  • Dasycerinae
  • Empelinae
  • Euaesthetinae
  • Glypholomatinae
  • Habrocerinae
  • Leptotyphlinae
  • Megalopsidiinae
  • Micropeplinae
  • Microsilphinae
  • Neophoninae
  • Olisthaerinae
  • Omaliinae
  • Osoriinae
  • Oxyporinae
  • Oxytelinae
  • Paederinae
  • Phloeocharinae
  • Piestinae
  • Proteininae
  • Protopselaphinae
  • Pselaphinae
  • Pseudopsinae
  • Scaphidiinae
  • Solieriinae
  • Staphylininae
  • Steninae
  • Tachyporinae
  • Trichophyinae
  • Trigonurinae

The rove beetles are a large family (Staphylinidae) of beetles, primarily distinguished by their short elytra that leave more than half of their abdomens exposed. With over 46,000 species in thousands of genera, the group is the second largest family of beetles after the Curculionidae (the true weevils). It is an ancient group, with fossil rove beetles known from the Triassic, 200 million years ago.

One well-known species is the Devil's coach horse beetle. For some other species, see List of British rove beetles.



As might be expected for such a large family, there is considerable variation among the species. Sizes range from 1 to 35 mm (1.5 inches), with most in the 2-8 mm range, and the form is generally elongate, with some rove beetles being ovoid in shape. Colors range from yellow to reddish-brown to brown to black. The antennae are usually 11 segmented and filiform, with moderate clubbing in some genera. The abdomen may be very long and flexible, and some types of rove beetles superficially resemble earwigs.

The Paederus species, such as the Nairobi fly, contain a potent toxin in their haemolymph which is highly irritating to the skin. Pederin is highly toxic, more potent than cobra venom.[1]


Rove beetles are known from every type of habitat that beetles occur in, and their diets include just about everything except the living tissues of higher plants. Most rove beetles are predators of insects and other kinds of invertebrates, living in forest leaf litter and similar kinds of decaying plant matter. They are also commonly found under stones, and around freshwater margins. Several types are known to live on ocean shores that are submerged at high tide, several species have adapted to live as inquilines in ant and termite colonies, and some live in mutualistic relationships with mammals whereby they eat fleas and other parasites, benefiting the host. A few species, notably those of the genus Aleochara, are parasitoids of other insects, particularly of certain fly pupae.

Although rove beetles' appetites for other insects would seem to make them obvious candidates for biological control of pests, and empirically they are believed to be important controls in the wild, experiments with using them have not been notably successful. Greater success is seen with those species (genus Aleochara) that are parasitoids.

Rove beetles of the genus Stenus are very interesting insects. They are specialist predators of small invertebrates such as collembola. Their labium can shoot out from the head using blood pressure. The thin rod of the labium ends in a pad of bristly hairs and hooks and between these hairs are small pores that exude an adhesive glue-like substance, which sticks to prey.[2]


Classification of the 46,275 (as of 1998) staphylinid species is ongoing and controversial, with some workers proposing an organization of as many as ten separate families, but the current favored system is one of 31 subfamilies, about 100 tribes (some grouped into supertribes), and about 3,200 genera. About 400 new species are being described each year, and some estimates suggest 3/4 of tropical species are as yet undescribed.


  1. ^ "Ectoparasites". Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp. Retrieved 2007-06-04.  
  2. ^ Piper, Ross (2007), Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals, Greenwood Press.

Important Works on Staphylinidae

For the Palaearctic Fauna the most up to date works are:

  • Lohse, G.A. (1964) Familie: Staphylinidae. In: Freude, H., Harde, K.W. & Lohse, G.A. (Eds.), Die Käfer Mitteleuropas. Band 4, Staphylinidae I (Micropeplinae bis Tachyporinae). Krefeld: Goecke & Evers Verlag, 264 pp.
  • Lohse, G.A. (1974) Familie: Staphylinidae. In: Freude, H., Harde, K.W. & Lohse, G.A. (Eds.), Die Käfer Mitteleuropas. Band 5, Staphylinidae II (Hypocyphtinae und Aleocharinae). Pselaphidae. Krefeld: Goecke & Evers Verlag, 381 pp.
  • Lohse, G.A. (1989) Ergänzungen und Berichtigungen zu Freude-Harde-Lohse "Die Käfer Mitteleuropas" Band 5 (1974), pp. 185-243 In: Lohse, G.A. & Lucht, W.H. (Eds.), Die Käfer Mitteleuropas. 1. Supplementband mit Katalogteil. Krefeld: Goecke & Evers Verlag, pp. 185-243.

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