It's time for today's edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

It's time for today's edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

It's time for today's edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!

This little guy is a horned passalus (Odontotaenius disjunctus), also known as the patent-leather beetle or bess beetle! These beetles are pretty stout, measuring as much as an inch and half long and capable of pulling 50 times their own weight. But when it comes to the horned passalus' quirks and features, that's just barely scratching the surface!

If you want to find one of these beetles, your best bet is to look under a rotting hardwood log. These beetles are saproxylic, which is a lightning-round spelling bee word that means they eat wood. What's remarkable is that they live in family groups, something that's not often seen among beetles. A pair of these beetles will live with their offspring and defend their log home from intruders.

Even more remarkable: these beetles communicate with one another! They rub their hindwings against their abdomens to produce different sounds, and this species in particular can produce 14 distinct sounds, all of which are believed to have different meanings! They also make squeaking noises if you annoy one; for example, by holding it in order to take macro shots of its face.

Although the horned passalus has some pretty impressive mandibles, it's said that they seldom bite. This one didn't bite me even though it was clearly annoyed with my photo shoot, which speaks pretty highly of their easy-going nature!

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends. This series of posts is made possible thanks to the support of VMNH Corporate Partner Carter Bank & Trust (

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

map of Virginia and surrounding areas

Please Visit Us Soon


Tuesday - Saturday: 10am - 4pm
Sunday - Monday: Closed


$10 for ages 18-59
$5 for ages 3-17, seniors 60+, and college students
FREE for children under 3, museum members, and members of ASTC participating institutions

My 4 year old son loves going to the museum. The exhibits are educational, interactive and kid-friendly.

Beth Deathrage

Hear More  arrow