betsy bug n Also bess bug, bessy ~, betty ~; occas bess beetle, betsy ~; for addit spp see quots [Prob orig in the form bess or bessy bug, imitative of the hissing stridulation produced by the insect when disturbed, but the forms have been much affected by assoc with hypocoristic forms of Elizabeth] chiefly Sth, S Midl
A large black beetle of the genus Odontotaenius, usu O. disjunctus, which is native to most of the eastern US—often in phr crazy as a betsy bug very crazy. Also called horn beetle n 1, horn bug n 1, old granny Bess n, patent-leather beetle n
1847 (1848) Furber 12 Mths. Volunteer 144 TN, They [=centipedes] are mingled in color . . their jaws, or hooks, with which they bite, are, in appearance, like those of a beetle or “bess-bug,” but large, strong and sharp. 1874 Trammell Ça Ira 85 GA, Nay, it may even come to this, . . that you never heard of a show in all your life, nor ever saw anything that you thought more wonderful than a betsy-bug or a snapjack. 1883 Youth’s Companion 56.527 Sth [Black], Dat ghos’ was de bigges’ an’ mos’ powerfullest ‘Bessy Bug’ ebber I see! 1892 Smith Farm & Fireside 314 GA, He had every curious bug he could find. Betty bugs and June bugs and tumble bugs, and the devil’s riding horse, and the devil’s darning needle, and a green snake, and a thousandleg, and a lot of herbs. 1893 Californian Illustr. Mag. 4.787 sAppalachians, He mus’ be crazyer ’n er betsey bug. 1910 Blatchley Coleoptera IN 908, This well-known species, commonly known as the “horn” or “bess-beetle,” occurs abundantly throughout the State. 1910 (1911) Harris Eve’s Husband 234 TN, A young congressman has to . . encourage them [=his constituents] to ask for little things like sample betty-bugs to eat other bugs, garden seed. . . The Government furnishes the betty-bugs. 1931 Randolph Ozarks 101, The approved treatment for earache is to prick a “betsy-bug” with a pin, and put a drop of its blood in the ear. 1937 (1977) Hurston Their Eyes 90 FL [Black], Fifteen dollars? I god you’se as crazy as uh betsy bug! Five dollars. 1944 Harper’s Mag. 188.373/2 IA, He always lived over the crick from us. . . Crazy as a betsey bug most of the time. 1946 PADS 6.5 eNC (as of 1900–10), Bessie bug. . . A handsome black bug whose habitat is rotten wood. It is about one inch long. To children it seems to say “Bessie” when touched with a blade of grass. . . Common among children. c1960 Wilson Coll. csKY, Betty (or Betsy) bug—any large beetle. “Jimmy caught a Betsy bug and put it down my back.” 1964 Borror–DeLong Intro. Insects 382, These beetles are called by a variety of names—bessbugs, betsy-beetles [etc.]. 1965–70 DARE (Qu. R5) Inf AR42, Betsy bug; (Qu. R30, . . Kinds of beetles; not asked in early QRs) Infs KY28, 47, Bess bug; AR5, 48, 51, KY34, Bessy bug; AR48, 52, GA84, KY28, LA2, 10, 15, SC46, TN6, Betsy bug. 1967 DARE FW Addit wNC, Crazy as a bess bug. c1974 Jones Ozark Hill Boy 42 AR (as of c1930), I personally have been subjected to . . besse bug blood for earache. 1981 Broaddus Coll. ceKY, Bess bug. 2009 Aiken Std. (SC) 18 Mar sec C 2/1, One of the things I put on the list was a bessie bug. It took him roughly eight seconds to produce one. 2014 Indiana Gaz. (PA) 14 Nov 9/3, Seventh-grade life science students at Purchase Line High School created a lab in which the Bess bug pulled a washer.