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Beetles for kids
Beetles are truly fascinating creatures, no other insect group can boast more species than beetles do. There are believed to be in excess of 300,000 different species existing around the world. To put this into context, Beetles account for 20 percent of all living organisms.
Beetles can range in size from as small as 1mm to as large as 15cm. When we first think of beetles, we usually think of an entirely black insect. However beetles are found that are very colourful and quite beautiful.
Even today, new species of beetles are still being found. Biologists have a name for all beetles, they call them Coleoptera.
Do Beetles Fly?
Yes, the majority of Beetles can fly having two pairs of wings. The front pair of wings are tougher than than the back pair and are often called shields. Being made from a material called "Chitine" they are tougher and more rigid, these are not really effective as wings, but protect the "real" more delicate wings underneath them.
There are a few species of ground beetles that have lost the ability to fly having become more accustomed to running. Some have even fused their wing cases, or shields, together to make stronger "armour" and offer them greater protection.
Beetle just before take off
Flight of the June Bug
Did you know that Beetles account for about 40% of all insects?
Where do Beetles live?
Beetles are very adaptive insects and different species of beetles make their home in quite varied places. For example some water beetles live in ponds, some live on the ground and some in bushes and trees. In fact almost anywhere you can think of that has water, vegetative foliage, roots, or decaying plant matter is a likely home to one type of beetle or another.
picture sourced from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
Did you know that Beetles are found almost everywhere except near the Poles and in the oceans?
Stag Beetle Facts for Kids
One of the most widely known beetles are those called Stag Beetles and there are literally hundreds of species of Stag Beetles in the world. The Stag Beetle gets its name from the insects large mandibles which resemble the antlers a stag.
The European Stag Beetle lives in broad leaved woodlands where its larva feed on rotting wood and roots. While this beetles larva live for 3 to 5 years, the adults generally on survive between May and August.
Most peoples perception of a Stag Beetle is a large black beetle with fierce looking jaws. However, Stag Beetles come in many shapes and sizes and colours.
picture sourced from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
Did you know that the scientific name for a Stag Beetle is Lucanidae?
How long do beetles live?
A beetles lifespan includes 4 stages. From an egg to larva to pupa to adult. However, when trying to determine how long a beetle lives, it is generally accepted that the time spent in an egg does not count. Just as with chickens, we only start counting an insects age from the moment it emerges from its egg.
In reality, the lifespan of any individual beetle will depend on the environment surrounding it. If all conditions are perfect, then it may only spend a couple of years developing as a larva. Different species of beetle also have different lifespans as adults, some of only a few weeks some of several years.
Stag beetle life cycle diagram sourced from Wikipedia
Did you know that all beetles start life as grubs?
What do Beetles Eat?
Each species of beetle will have its own particular food sources and dietary needs. However many eat plant material. Some species specialise and will only certain leaves or seeds. Some beetles, such as the Bark beetle feed on the starches and sugars found in the bark and sapwood of trees. Other beetles such as the Ambrosia beetle, cultivate fungal gardens.
There are beetles that prey on other insects and others that will eat just about any form of meat that they can find.
Caterpillar Hunter Beetle
Did you know that all beetles have chewing mouthparts?
Bright Red Beetle.
Did you know that insects blood is normally green? Because insect blood doesn't need to transport oxygen around its body, it contains no haemoglobin - which is what gives blood a red colour in people.
Are Beetles Harmful?
Most beetles are harmless to people. However, they are some species that can inflict harm on a person, or on a persons belongings or on their food. An example of a beetle that can cause physical harm to a person is a Bombardier Beetle. This beetle can eject an extremely hot spray that can burn a persons skin. The Bombardier Beetle uses this as a defence mechanism against predators such as ants, spiders and even frogs.
Another beetle that can cause harm is the Blister Beetle. These little beetle's are about 2.5cm in length. Their bodies contain a substance called cantharidin which causes blistering of the skin. Some say that it feels like receiving a nettle sting.
Picture credit: Wikipedia
A small beetle at about 15 millimetres in length and 10 millimetres wide.
In its native Japan, this beetle is of little harm as it is controlled by natural predators. However, in America it is considered a huge pest to many plants such as roses, hops and grapes. It is believed that the Japanese Beetle appeared in America around 1916 when accidentally imported with a shipment of Iris bulbs.picture sourced from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
Boll Weavill Beetle
The Boll Weavill is a beetle that feeds on cotton buds and flowers.
This small insect measures about 6 millimetres, but was responsible for devastating the cotton industry in the American South during the 1920s.picture sourced from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
Can Beetles See?
The fact is that Beetles cannot see very well - at least not in the same way as we can. They have compound eyes, which means that they have eyes that are actually made up of smaller parts. It is believed, that this allows beetles to see flowers differently than us.
Beetles probably see less of the color that we see, but instead see flowers as being much more patterned which is understood to lead the beetle more easily to the centre of the flower.picture sourced from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
Whiplash Rove Beetle
This is an interesting Beetle in that it is known to cause skin rashes and even severe dermatitis in some people.
The Rove Beetle is from a large family of beetles and are known to have existed in the Triassic period some 200 miilion years ago.
Click on the image to read an interesting article on this beetle and the reaction it caused on someone who recently came into contact with it......did you know that it is believed to be 12 times more poisonous than cobra venom?
How do Beetles defend themselves?
Beetles have developed a number of ways to try to defend themselves from predators. These include such things as camouflage, toxicity and mimicry.
Some types of Longhorn Beetles have developed to look like wasps. While other beetles have developed hair or scales to make them look like inedible things such as bird dung.picture sourced from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
Giant Longhorn Beetle
The Longhorn Beetle can bite through a pencil with one snap of its powerful jaws - this might hurt if you let your finger get in the way.
But generally, provided that you are careful around them, beetles are harmless to people.
When threatened this beetle produces a loud hissing noise.
The Giant Longhorn beetle is quite rare living in quite a limited habitat..
The anatomy of a beetle
Like most other insects, beetles bodies are divided into three sections these being the head, the thorax and the abdomen.Fiddler beetle diagram sourced from Wikipedia
The Elephant Beetle - Video
Rhino Beetle - from Youtube
The African Dung Beetle - video from National Geographic
Did you know that an insects skeleton is on the outside of its body? - it is called an exoskeleton?