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What is a Betsy Bug, as in... | Almanac.com

What is a Betsy Bug, as in...

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What is a Betsy Bug, as in the insult, “She’s crazy as a Betsy bug”?
Betsy bug, also called “Bessie bug” or “Bess bug,” refers to the 1.5-inch-long, shiny black beetle (Odontotaenius disjunctus), also called a patent leather beetle, horn beetle, horned passalus, or pinch bug. This insect likes humid climates, and can be found from Florida through Texas on up to Minnesota, Nebraska, and Massachusetts. It is considered harmless and beneficial, feeding on rotting wood.

The phrase “crazy as a Betsy Bug” may refer to the sounds that these insects make — at least 17 different types! As a mode of defense, adults will make a noise when disturbed (some say that it sounds like they are saying “Bessie”), created by rubbing parts of their hind wings against their abdomen. Larvae use a similar method to make sounds.

A similar saying, “crazy as a bedbug,” refers to a different insect — tiny, biting ones that lurk in linens and around baseboards. They leave nasty bites and can be extremely hard to get rid of. Bedbugs tend to zigzag across a surface, perhaps giving rise to the idea that they behave crazily.”

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