Common name: Red and Black Rove Beetles
Scientific name(s): Various Paederus sp. and some related species in the Staphylindae family.
Description: Small, elongated, ant-like beetles with tiny wings, usually 1cm or less in length. Most species are black with a red thorax and a red band across the abdomen, and blue or green iridescence on the wing-covers.
Geographic distribution: Found worldwide.
Habitat: Adults and young are predators of other invertebrates, and usually encountered in the garden. However, they can be found inside houses when attracted to lights.
Pest status: Female Red and Black Rove Beetles, and to a lesser extent males, have a highly toxic poison in their haemolymph. If the beetles are crushed against the skin, the toxin will cause a rash or severe blistering after 12-36 hours (Paederus dermatitis, or dermatitis linearis). If the toxin is accidentally transferred to the eye, it can result in serious conjunctivitis.
Some beetle outbreaks are severe – one forced the evacuation of a community in the Northern Territory. Since the beetles are attracted to lights, they’ve also caused outbreaks of Paederus dermatitis in factories, hospitals, and army camps.
Treatment: Protective gloves when gardening are a basic precaution. A surface spray is a potential barrier against them entering a house, but despite their small wings rove beetles can fly well, and intact fly screens would be needed on all windows.