Tok Tokkie Beetles

These conspicuous members of the large family of darkling beetles are stout, heavy-bodied and wingless, with a tough outer casing. Their habit of knocking loudly on the ground at intervals has given their name to a children’s game (knocking on front doors and then running away). The beetle makes the noise by raising its abdomen and then bringing it down on the surface of the ground several times in quick succession.

The tapping is a form of communication between both sexes. The male initiates the tapping and is answered by a receptive female. After a prolonged exchange of signals, the pair finally make contact and mate. The females lay single eggs, each about 6mm long, which they place in a shallow hollow in the ground. The long, yellow larvae that hatch live in the soil.

The mature tok tokkie beetle scavenges on a variety of plant and animal debris. The Tenebrionidae family to which this insect belongs is very large, with at least 3 500 species in southern Africa. Tok tokkie beetles can be found happily tapping away on Sibuya Game Reserve.

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