Rain or Shine, They Will Be Around

Note: This Spring, Living With Insects will feature guest contributors.  Contributors are identified with a by line and you can follow links to all posts by a contributor. Below is the first of the guest posts.

by sarahakbarifard

The weather this January (2012) in Lafayette, Indiana has been a little whack. One day it is a glorious sunny day, then the next day it is pouring rain, then a couple days later we have four inches of snow on the ground. Completely bizarre if you ask me. But if we humans are puzzled by this weather, I have to wonder how the insects that surround us react to it. At least we are able to put a fluffy coat on or slip some rain boots on but insects can do nothing of the sort.

There are some insects that actually thrive with rain, such as the Rain Beetles.  Rain Beetles are large beetles, that range from black to reddish brown, and are closely related to scarabs. Unluckily for us in Indiana, we don’t see these critters in action. Rain Beetles are typically found along the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon and California, and Northern Mexico. There are published records of them from Alaska and Utah, but these have been shown to be erroneous.

 Surprisingly, many Rain Beetles will not fly unless it is raining. That is absolutely crazy to me!  Rain Beetle larvae are herbivores that feed on the roots of plants including orchard trees.  Adult Rain Beetles do not feed, and live off food stored as larvae.

Female and Male Rain Beetles
Photo: Doug Barrett

Unlike the Rain Beetles, most insects must seek shelter from the rain or other harsh weather conditions. When a downpour starts many insects will scurry to find to a quiet and cool place as soon as they can. Many insects will go in hiding under leaves, trees, and even behind rocks.  In January in Indiana, most insects avoid the bad weather altogether by going into diapause and wait until Spring  to resume their activities.

Even though Indiana weather should currently be colder with more snow, the insects must adapt, just as we humans do. Hopefully it is not bothering them too much, and they are enjoying the warmer winter just as much as we are!

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15 Responses to Rain or Shine, They Will Be Around

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  2. jade says:

    When reading this article I had a few questions. How long can your average rain beetle live? I wouldnt think they would have a long life if in their adult phase they do not eat. Also, do you think that a lot of insects have died off due to this crazy weather we are having? It seems to me that they would because the weather is so up and down that they probably can’t handle it.

  3. Andrew says:

    This is a very good topic to bring up about the weather considering how wild it has been this Winter (If we can even call it a Winter with how warm it has been). You would think that the rain would harm the Rain Beetle’s wings, so it is pretty amazing to hear that they only fly in rain. The fleeing from weather strikes home with me because I live in the country and we always have mice in the Winter and once the crops are cut because they need a place to live. I am guessing that is the same idea. What other insects enjoy the rain?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wow. I never really considered how this warm, unpredictable winter would effect insects. I wonder how this will effect insect populations in spring. Will some insects become confused during the winter and resurface and ultimately die or do they know to wait until spring? That will be interesting to observe. Also, that’s odd that most Rain Beetles won’t fly unless it’s raining. I did not know that!

  5. Nolan says:

    Before reading this, I was never aware of how insects could possibly survive under inconsistent weather. Due to the irregular weather cycles we face in Indiana, will this heavily decrease insect populations in the spring? Will this cause confusion among insects in Indiana and disrupt or delay diapause? Additionally, I am quite curious to why Rain Beetles only fly when its raining. Nevertheless, Rain Beetles are very fascinating and unique as they are the only insects that only fly when it is raining.

  6. Anonymous says:

    After reading this article, I kind of see myself as a tad bit ignorant hahaha… i always wondered what happened to insects during the winter i didn’t know if they migrated or all just died during winter. To learn that many insects and bugs go into dispause is new to me and glad this article could educate me.

  7. I thought this article was very interesting because I never would of thought an insect would prefer to fly in the rain. I know that this weather has produced weird effects on insects and have caused them to do things they would normally would not do. I know most insects will seek shelter when it rains because they cannot fly in it or live in it. It is interesting they live off food stored in their larvae and do not need to look for food as an adult. I would like to see one in person.

  8. Andrew Parson says:

    I was very intrigued when reading this post. Why is it that the rain beetles seek out the rain, and are they just as active during more acceptable weather or are they at their most active during the rain? I also would be interested to hear how they fly around in the rain with it falling on the them as they are airborne. I would think that this inhibits their ability to breath with all the water covering their bodies.

  9. Stephen says:

    I found this article particularly interesting. Before reading this, I had wondered what effect this crazy weather (with the dramatic highs and lows in such rapid succession) was having on local plant life. I had wondered if some plants we going to bloom and then refreeze and die. I hadn’t even considered the effect on the local bugs as well. It makes you wonder if some insects have prematurely come out of their diapause only to die shortly when the inclement weather returns. I also wondered what effect this will have on the amount of bugs in the warmer weather (Will they return sooner? Will there be less bugs in the summer months compared to average?)

  10. Karli says:

    I never even thought about the insects being affected by this bad whether, as I was too busy complaining about it myself. It does make me wonder what insects think about all of this whacky weather. The Rain Beetle sounds like a very interesting creature, and makes me curious of a few things. For example, how do they fly better while it’s raining? You would think that the rain would slow down their performance and make them more tired. It also makes me wonder what they would do on a beautiful spring day, considering they wouldn’t be flying around. All together though, it was an interesting article, and really got me thinking outside the box!

  11. Rachel P. says:

    I had never considered how the weather and daylight affected insects the way they do. This weather is confusing to me and I can’t imagine how confusing it would be to the insects as well.

    Also, the rain beetles are very interesting insects! The fact that they only fly in rain is opposite of what you would consider “normal” behavior for an insect in rain. In the article you linked to from The Straight Dope website, it mentioned the rain beetles in California and how they fly very seldom, maybe even only once in their lifetime, because it rains very rarely. Is their wing development different than other insects because they are rarely? How do they keep balance when they get hit with rain drops?

    I enjoyed reading this article that I can relate to concerning the weather and learned about a very cool bug!

  12. Saen Liu says:

    I have never thought about that the changes in weather will affect insects. It is very surprised to know that the adult rain beetles don’t feed and they just rely on the food they stored as larvae!! I thought that the insects will die without food intake. In addition, I think that rain beetles are very interesting. They cannot fly until raining. Does it mean that the rain beetles were born to know flying? The weather does affect insects the way they do. However, this article has totally changed my idea about the insects. This article is very interesting!

  13. Megan Hall says:

    I was shocked to learn that there are certain insects that live to be out in the rain. I hate the rain and as soon as I feel one drop I grab my umbrella or head inside. It is somewhat difficult for humans to adapt to the frequently changing weather, so I cant imagine what insects feel like. Is there any research that shows the beetles are adapting well to the changing weather? Could the weather cause these insects to become endangered? This may be the first time I have thought this deeply about beetles. What a great article!

  14. Cristian Carreon says:

    It’s amazing how insects can easily adapt to the changing environment, especially in Indiana. I never knew that the weather can control how insects act such as the beetles that fly only when it rains. Everyone knows that most bugs will run and hide when it rains, these beetles apparently haven’t gotten the memo.

  15. Mario Cosey says:

    I never knew there was an insect that would only fly if it was raining outside! That and other things in the article were quite interesting. I am a big fan of raining weather, so rain beetles and I would get along just fine. I do wonder how this up and down weather is affecting them and other insects. It must be confusing for them since we are experiencing different weather almost every day. I also wonder how the Rain Beetle manages to fly when the down pour is really heavy.

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