Heteronychus arator

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Heteronychus arator
Heteronychus arator01.jpg
Heteronychus arator00.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Family: Scarabaeidae
Genus: Heteronychus
H. arator
Binomial name
Heteronychus arator
(Fabricius, 1775)

Heteronychus arator (hetero+onychus = 'variable claw', arator = 'ploughman') is a species of beetle in the subfamily Dynastinae (the rhinoceros beetles). It is commonly called African black beetle or black lawn beetle.[1] It is native to Africa and it is an introduced species in Australia, Norfolk Island and the North Island of New Zealand.[2]


It is a shiny black (or dark reddish brown) oval-shaped beetle 12-15 millimeters long. The head lacks a carina or tubercles, unlike some other scarabs. The clypeus is truncate with distinct lateral margins, and dentate with a denticle in the middle. Each mandible has 2-3 teeth on the outer edge and is visible when looking at the beetle from above. Each antenna is 10-segmented and ends in a 3-segmented club. On the underside of the head is a mentum with a rounded apex. Each eye is partially split by a glabrous (smooth) ocular canthus. The pronotum is smooth, convex and lacks punctures. The elytra have rows of shallow striae. The propygidium (dorsal plate of the second-last abdominal segment) has a pair of stridulatory bands. The hind legs have tibiae with truncate apices. All legs end in simple tarsal claws.[3]


Adults feed on stems of plants at or just below ground level, while larvae feed on organic matter and roots in soil.[1] This species may damage lawns and other turf, especially during the summer, as well as many crop plants, garden flowers,[4] trees and shrubs.[1] It prefers some plants over others: larvae gain more weight when feeding on ryegrass than on white clover or lotus.[5]


This species is infected by a small RNA virus. This virus develops in the cytoplasm of gut and fat body cells. It can also infect larvae of greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella) and some other insects, but cannot infect mice.[6]


  1. ^ a b c African black beetle (Heteronychus arator) - pest of viticulture. Archived 2011-03-20 at the Wayback Machine Western Australia Department of Agriculture. 2005.
  2. ^ "Heteronychus arator (African black beetle)". CABI Compendium. 2022. doi:10.1079/cabicompendium.27067. S2CID 253615399. Retrieved 2022-12-16.
  3. ^ "Heteronychus arator". keys.lucidcentral.org. Retrieved 2022-12-16.
  4. ^ African Black Beetle - Heteronychus arator. iLandscape.com.au, April 3, 2012.
  5. ^ King, P. D. (1977). "Effect of plant species and organic matter on feeding behaviour and weight gain of larval black beetle, Heteronychus arator (Coleoptera: Sacrabaeidae)". New Zealand Journal of Zoology. 4 (4): 445–448. doi:10.1080/03014223.1977.9517968. ISSN 0301-4223.
  6. ^ Longworth, J. F.; Carey, G. P. (1976-10-01). "A Small RNA Virus with a Divided Genome from Heteronychus arator (F.) [Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae]". Journal of General Virology. 33 (1): 31–40. doi:10.1099/0022-1317-33-1-31. ISSN 0022-1317. PMID 978185.

Further reading[edit]