a realistic drawing of the austrospirachtha beetle. It has been colorized with a pink and dark red.

Austrospirachta, a double-agent

The story of a sneaky beetle with a very special rear end.


Picture yourself in Northern Australia, in a termite nest.

Actually, you are a worker termite. You walk around the colony, your body full of precious nutriments to share. You find a hungry friend, a fellow worker. It looks a bit weird, and its odor is slightly off, but nothing too out of the acceptable variation. After this brief check, you turn around to excrete a paste of pre-digested wood fibers from your anus, and feed your nestmate.

Well, my sweet social roach, you have just been duped! What you thought was a friend was a thief. What you thought was a termite was the butt of a beetle. A clever intruder, with a massive rear end taking the shape of your kin, and the smell of your family. Part of the many termitophilous rove beetles, this bandit is called Austrospirachtha. It belongs to an old lineage of guests in termite nests, dating back at least to the Cretaceous.

Such a long time spent at your side, sneakily adapting as you developped security checks, to live at the expense of your hard work.


Watson, J.A.L. (1973) ‘AUSTROSPIRACHTHA MIMETES , A NEW TERMITOPHILOUS COROTOCINE FROM NORTHERN AUSTRALIA (COLEOPTERA: STAPHYLINIDAE)’, Australian Journal of Entomology, 12(4), pp. 307–310. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-6055.1973.tb01678.x.

Zilberman, B. and Pires-Silva, C.M. (2023) ‘A new species and morphological notes on the remarkable termitophilous genus Austrospirachtha Watson from Australia (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae)’, Zootaxa, 5336(3), pp. 424–432. Available at: https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.5336.3.8.