Bessbug (Passalus cornutus)

Also called patent leather beetles.  Bessbugs are semi-social insects, living in groups in rotten logs.  They dig galleries, or tunnels, through the logs as they are eating.  These insects stridulate back and forth to each other for communication, but will emit a more audible squeak when disturbed.  Adults care for their young by prechewing decaying wood and mixing it with saliva for the grubs.  Larvae may take up to a year to develop before molting into pupae, and then into adults. 

Availability: These need to be ordered and will be available after spring break.

Housing: Keep in a container with a supply of damp, slightly decaying wood (oak is preferred).  Make sure the wood has not been treated with any chemicals.  A bucket or aquarium would work best to house your beetles in.  A moistened paper towel will insure proper humidity.  You can add several inches of soil or mud to the container for the beetles to burrow through, if the wood pieces are not large enough.

Food: The beetles will eat the decaying wood (or more precisely the microbes living on the decaying wood) that you put in to their containers.