Also known as skipjacks, spring beetles and snapping beetles, some 7,000 click beetle species are found throughout the world. Slender and shiny, with elongated bodies, most click beetles range between 2.5 mm to 18 mm, just under a quarter of an inch. Brown or black in color, click beetles exhibit little or no ornamentation, except for some tropical species, that are brightly colored or luminescent.
As to their curious names, click beetles earned their monikers from an acrobatic trick they perform when threatened by predators. Click beetles, when touched, fall dramatically on their backs and play dead. In order to right themselves after imminent threats pass, click beetles hook special spines into notches on their abdomens. Releasing the spines produces a clicking sound, propelling the beetles into the air, sometimes several inches.
Nocturnal, click beetles are attracted to exterior lights at night and may wander indoors, but do not threaten to infest homes or cause structural damage. Click beetles are a plant feeder, so they can also damage crops, by eating leaves. Click beetle larvae, also known as wireworms, are armed with a hard exoskeleton and live underground from two to six years, wreaking havoc on the seeds, underground stems and roots of crops.
A North American species, called the Eyed Elator click beetle, can be larger than 1.75 inches and sport black and white spots on their backs that look like eyes. One genus, Pyrophorus, lives in the tropical Western Hemisphere emitting a greenish and red-orange light. A grouping of several of these lit up beetles can provide sufficient light for reading and has also provided enough lighting to perform surgeries in emergency situations.