Stink Beetles

Facts, Identification, & Control

Scientific Name

Genus Eleodes


What Do They Look Like?

Beetles in the genus Eleodes are known by the common names stink beetles, darkling beetles, or clown beetles. The common name clown beetle comes from the beetle’s habit of standing on its head and assuming a defensive posture when disturbed. Stink beetles are not stink bugs and are different from the brown marmorated stink bug and the kudzu bug.

  • Body: Adult stink beetles have oval-shaped bodies. The desert stink beetle, Eleodes caudiferus, is a very distinctive looking stink beetle since the rear of its abdomen looks like it has a long, extended projection.
  • Color: Their bodies are primarily jet black to dark brown.
  • Size: They range from about 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches long.

How Did I Get Stink Beetles?

Stink beetles, not to be confused with stink bugs, may move into houses in search of food, shelter, or warmth in winter. They could also accidentally crawl inside through an open door or window during hot weather. Unlike many other beetle species, this group cannot fly, so they typically come indoors via ground-level entrances.

How Serious Are Stink Beetles?

Stink beetle larvae consume seeds and infest crops, creating considerable damage. In their adult form, the pests feed on decaying materials and rarely harm gardens. When threatened, some species defend themselves by releasing a strong-smelling liquid from its back end, while others simply scurry away. Chemicals in this secretion may irritate the skin, eyes, and mouth. However, the insects do not bite, sting, or damage homes.

The western United States is home to approximately 120 stink beetle species. Therefore, this group of beetles has a great deal of diversity among its members. Stink beetles are occasional invaders that infrequently wander into homes or other structures during the summer months.

Signs of Infestation

Seeing adult beetles is the most obvious sign of an infestation.

How Do I Get Rid of Stink Beetles

What You Can Do

If you need to deal with stink beetles in the house, some common tips include:

  • Insecticides are rarely necessary for control. The use of exclusion techniques and removal of beetle habitats near homes are better ways to manage stink beetles.
  • Do not use vacuums to remove stink beetles. The defensive odor they produce may at times remain on anything it touches for weeks.
  • Be careful if you disturb a stink beetle. Their spray may cause a burning and irritating sensation if it comes into contact with your eyes or mouth.
What Orkin Does

Your local Orkin technician is trained to help manage stink beetles and similar pests. Since every building or home is different, your Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Orkin can provide the right solution to keep stink beetles in their place…out of your home, or business.

Behavior, Diet, & Habits

Most predators avoid stink beetles since some species raise up their rear end and either ooze or spray a pungent, smelly secretion at the predator. However, only about 30 percent of the Eleodes beetle species are capable of expelling this type of secretion. The other species either escape by running away and hiding under ground litter, or mimicking the behavior of raising up their rear end and making their predator think they are going to get sprayed.

What Do They Eat?

Primarily, stink beetles eat decayed organic debris from grasses, broad-leaved plants, and other decaying vegetation. The larval stages of some species are commercial crop pests in the Midwest.

Where Do They Live?

Stink beetle habitats include a variety of locations including:

  • Decaying vegetation
  • Open sand dunes
  • Under logs, shrubs, & stones
Geographic Range

Stink beetle population sizes and species are more abundant in states located west rather than east of the Mississippi River.

Life Cycle

As with other beetle species, stink beetles go through four stages of development in their life cycle:

  1. Egg
  2. Larva (grub)
  3. Pupa (cocoon)
  4. Adult