Learning About Bessbugs

Care Info: Bessbugs

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Bessbug Care

Bessbug Care

• Bessbugs are also known as short-horned stag beetles, Odontotaenius disjunctus or Passalus cornutus. They live happily in captivity when they are provided with damp, slightly decaying wood, which they eat. They prefer oak (any species) but will also thrive on elm. They like to burrow in and under slightly damp wood and paper.
• Your beetles arrived with a generous supply of wood packed under a wet paper towel. The wood will last several weeks. The paper towel must be kept moist. Use a spray bottle to dampen without soaking.
• If you move your beetles to a larger habitat, be sure to keep it humid. You may want to use a kitchen sponge instead of a paper towel. Bessbugs will thrive in a terrarium mulched with sawdust or small chips of oak or elm. They are happiest when hidden in a woody burrow.
• You can collect slightly rotting wood from a forest floor or woodpile. Slightly rotting is generally indicated by flaking, loose bark, sawdust and softness, which indicate that bacteria (harmless to humans) have attacked a fallen branch or tree.
• Sometime during the school year or over the summer, your bessbugs will die of old age. Like all insects, their lives are short.

Safety Tips for Handling Bessbugs

• Bessbugs don’t bite, but sometimes they might pinch a little when they are afraid. Handle them gently! Bessbugs travel slowly. Wash your hands before and after handling bessbugs, for your safety and for theirs. Lift bugs by their abdomens (back section). To keep them from running off, lay bugs belly up in a shallow box. Be gentle. Don’t rush.

Simple Science: Bessbugs

Ready to learn more about your bessbugs? There’s so much you can discover about these friendly beetles…


Bessbug Lifecycle

Simple Science: Bessbug Life Cycle

How does a bessbug get from a tiny egg to an adult beetle? Read about the different stages of a bessbug’s growth. Then students can color, cut and create their own version of the bessbug life cycle.
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Bessbugs Anatomy

Simple Science: Bessbug Anatomy

Learn all the parts of your bessbugs! You’ll even learn what part is a mandible. Worksheet and answer key.
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Bessbug Fun Facts

Simple Science: Bessbug Fun Facts

Did you know that bessbugs like to eat rotting wood? It’s really true! Odd, interesting and humorous facts about bessbugs, plus a quiz sheet for testing your new knowledge.
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Bessbug Observe & Draw

Simple Science: Observe and Draw a Bessbug

Learn to look and record like a scientist! Students build observation and drawing skills with this activity.
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Bessbug Test of Strength

Simple Science: Bessbug Test of Strength

How much weight can a bessbug pull? How will two bessbugs compare in their strength? Everyone’s favorite bessbug activity. Full set of teacher instructions plus student worksheet.
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Bessbug Light/Dark Experiment

Simple Science: Bessbug Light/Dark Experiment

Do bessbugs prefer a light or dark habitat? Make predictions, perform a simple test and record your findings. Appropriate for early elementary. Full set of teacher instructions plus student worksheet.
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Fun Stuff: Bessbugs

Bessbug activities that are just for fun!


Bessbug Word Scramble

Fun Stuff: Bessbug Word Scramble

Ready for a real challenge? Cut out letters that make up the bessbug’s names, both common and scientific. Then try to make new words out of the available letters. A great individual project—also fun to do in teams!
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