Description & Statistics
Adults and immatures of Histeridae are found in association with decaying animal or vegetable matter, which suggested that they were principally scavengers. But it is becoming generally recognized that many species are predaceous on various insects (Geden 1984, 1990; Geden & Axtell 1988a; Geden & Stoffolano 1987; Geden et al. 1987a, 1988; Legner 1971a, Legner & Olton 1970). Coleoptera and Diptera larvae constitute the bulk of their prey. A few species live in the open and attack immature stages of Chrysomelidae and Lepidoptera. The larvae of species of a considerable number of genera are limited in their host preferences to the immature stages of wood inhabiting Coleoptera, principally of the Scolytidae and other soft bodied insects found in or beneath bark (Balduf 1935). Struble (1930) recorded adults of Plegaderus nitidus Horn as being predaceous on eggs of Dendroctonus, and those of Platysoma punctigerum Lec. feed on a variety of insects found under bark. The latter species places its eggs along the sides of the bark beetle egg galleries. This hatch in 10-14 days, and larval development is complete in 4-6 weeks, followed by a pupal stage of 10-14 days. There are two generations per year, the overwintering brood of adults ovipositing in May and the second brood emerging from July onwards. The larvae are active searchers and feed on many insects in addition to Dendroctonus larvae (Clausen 1940/1962).
Histeridae are a large family with more than 3,502 identified species by 2000. They are frequent in tropical and subtropical climates. Important diagnostic characters include geniculate and capitate antennae that are folded into a pronotal groove at repose. The legs short and retracted, the foretibia is fossorial, the middle tibia frequently has long spines. The males have a hyaline membrane between the claws of fore tarsi. The abdomen has 5 visible sternites; elytra do not cover the entire abdomen so that the apical two tergites are visible from above. Elytra are usually striate and punctate.
Histeridae are predators that inhabit animal dung and carrion where they feed on other insects. Some species are found in ant and termite nests. The family is important in the natural control of synanthropic filth breeding Diptera, and the importation of one Hister species into Fiji is credited with a significant reduction in housefly breeding (see section on Medical/Veterinary Entomology).
Plaesius javanus Er., in both larval and adult stages, is predaceous on larvae and pupae of the banana borer, Cosmopolites sordida Germ., in Java. It was introduced into Fiji for control of this pest, and satisfactory results were secured in those areas where bananas are grown under uncultivated conditions. Attempts were made to introduce it into Australia, Hawaii, Uganda, Formosa and some West Indian islands, but success was achieved only in Australia (Clausen 1940/1962). The life cycle of this predator is long, taking almost one year, and the adult beetles are very long lived even in the absence of food. Hister bimaculatus L. was introduced into Hawaii from Germany in 1909 for horn fly control.
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