Episode 74 – Railroad Worm: More Brilliant Than a Locomotive

“And today we’re talking about a worm that’s more radiant than a locomotive. But more on that later.”


The railroad “worm” is actually a beetle that goes through multiple metamorphic stages like a butterfly.

  • They start off as eggs that are laid in groups on the ground and encircled by the momma.
  • They lay about 50 eggs at a time.
  • The larval stage is what we think of when we think of the railroad worm.
  • Larvae and little short-legged cylinders with two segmented antenaes and simple single lense eyeballs.
  • They come in a variety of colors and they have shiney exoskeletons.
  • They also have some unique visual elements that we’ll talk about later.
  • The pupa stage takes around 12 days for ladies and up to 35 days for males.
  • Adult males are nasty beetles.
    • Beetles of the genus range in size.
    • They are typically brown or black.
    • They have large 12 segmented antennas that look like feathers, or palm frawns.
    • They have long, thin, curved mandibles.
  • Females remain in larvae form.
    • They are brown to light tan.
    • Adult females are slightly different from actual larvae, with an ooporus for laying eggs.

Measure Up

Male length – Members of the genus can be as long as 35 mm (1.3 inches) – How many make railroad worm beetles go into the length of Florida (500 miles)? Hint: Craig Reid of the band The Proclaimers wrote “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” in 45 minutes. He would walk 1000 miles to fall down at your door but he won’t spend a full hour telling you about it. Answer: 22,990,628.6 beetles

Female Length – 2 inches – How many female railroad worms go into the height of Britton Hill, the highest elevation in Florida (345 feet)? Hint: Britton Hill is in Walton County in Florida’s panhandle. Walton county is named after Colonel George Walton, Jr., the son of George Walton, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. George Walton studied hard as a teen even though his uncle forbid him to study, believing a studious boy was an idle nerd. He studied anyway and eventually became one of the most successful lawyers in colonial America. Answer: 2,070 females

Fast Facts

  • Both males and females are most active at night and love hanging out in wet soil. Same.
  • Females hide in burrows during the day.
  • Males find mates by following female pheromones.
  • Females taste bad and want everyone to know through visual signals we will talk about later.