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Darkling beetles (also known as darkening beetles) are a family of beetles found worldwide, estimated at more than 20,000 species. Many of the beetles have black elytra. Darkling beetles eat both fresh and decaying vegetation. Major predators include birds, rodents, sunspiders, and lizards. The larval stages of several species are cultured as feeder insects for captive insectivores, and include the very commonly known mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) and superworms (Zophobas morio), and the lesser-known mini mealworms (Tenebrio obscurus).

Some species live in the dry Namib desertmarker and have evolved modifications that help them collect water from the fog that condenses on their elytra.

Raising darkling beetles from larvae through adulthood can be a rewarding biology project for lower school educators.


This family of beetles may be identified by a combination of features, including :
  • An 11-segmented antenna which may be filiform, moniliform, or weakly clubbed.
  • First abdominal sternite entire and not divided by the hind coxae.
  • Eyes notched by a frontal ridge.
  • Tarsi have four segments in the hind pair and 5 in the fore and mid legs (5-5-4.) The tarsal claws are simple.
Image:Buprestid_nagerhole_bronze.jpg|A Coelometopine from IndiaImage:Tenebrionid sal.jpg|A Platynotine from IndiaImage:Alogenius cavifrons.jpg|A Pitted Darkling Beetle from Namibia

Notable species

Tribolium castaneum
Tenebrio molitor is commonly used as food for terrestrial amniotes kept in terraria. Zophobas morio, or Superworm, is another commonly used live food insect among reptile keepers and is notable due to it being slightly larger and containing smaller amounts of chitin than Tenebrio molitor. Tribolium castaneum is a popular laboratory animal and model organism, especially in studies of intragenomic conflict and population ecology studies. These two, along with other Tribolium species (e.g. T. confusum, T. constructor) and Gnathocerus cornutus, are pests of cereal and flour silo and other storage facilities.

In North America, species of the genus Eleodes are known as darkling beetles, particularly the species called the pinacate beetle or desert stink beetle.

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