African black beetle in horticulture

Page last updated: Tuesday, 26 October 2021 - 7:21am

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African black beetle (Heteronychus arator), is native to southern Africa. It has been present in Western Australia since the 1930s and occurs in the wetter coastal regions.

This beetle can affect the establishment of a range of horticultural crops, and both adult and larval stages can be pests.

This article provides information on the identification, life cycle and management of African black beetle.


The adult beetle is the main pest stage. The soil-dwelling larval stage is present for only three to four months each year.

Adult beetles are economically important because they attack a wide range of plants including:

  • pasture, particularly newly-sown ryegrass and perennial grasses such as couch and kikuyu
  • barley, triticale and wheat, but oats is not attacked as readily
  • irrigated and dryland summer forage such as millet and maize
  • turf
  • many vegetable crops, most importantly potatoes
  • grapevines, olives and trees in truffle orchards
  • ornamental plants and newly-planted trees such as blue gums.

 Larvae are less economically important but can damage turf and underground crops, notably potato tubers.


Contact information

Alison Mathews
+61 (0)8 9777 0122