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All About Beetles

Updated on May 12, 2018
Ben Reed profile image

Ben has held a life-long interest in language and has a special interest in the expressions, phrases and idioms that contribute to its use.

What Are Beetles?

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.

Beetles Collage

Beetle Fact

Did you know that Beetles account for about 40% of all insects?

Do Beetles Fly?

Yes, the majority of beetles can fly. Most beetles have two pairs of wings. The front pair of wings are tougher than than the back pair and are often called shields. These "shields" are made from a material called "Chitin" which makes them tougher and more rigid. Consequently, these "shields" 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.

Direct Flight:

  • Mayflies have a single pair of direct flight wings
  • Dragonflies have two pairs of direct flight wings
  • wing muscles insert directly at wing bases
  • gives a greater degree of flexibility in flight(easier to change direction)

Indirect Flight:

  • all other insects have adopted this mode of flight
  • muscles attach to the thorax rather than to the wings
  • the thorax deforms in shape, moving the wings

Beetle Flight Mechanisms

Direct flight: muscles attached to wings. Large insects only
Direct flight: muscles attached to wings. Large insects only | Source
Indirect flight: muscles make thorax oscillate in most insects.
Indirect flight: muscles make thorax oscillate in most insects. | Source

Dung Beetle Taking Flight - Slow Motion Video

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.

Beetle Fact

Did you know that Beetles are found almost everywhere except near the Poles and in the oceans?

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.

Japanese Beetle Life Cycle

Life-cycle of the Japanese beetle. Larvae feed on roots underground, while adults feed on leaves and stems.
Life-cycle of the Japanese beetle. Larvae feed on roots underground, while adults feed on leaves and stems. | Source

Beetle Fact

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 specialize 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.

Beetle Fact

Did you know that all beetles have chewing mouthparts?

Beetle Body Structure

Beetle body structure, using cockchafer. A: head, B: thorax, C: abdomen. 1: antenna, 2: compound eye, 3: femur, 4: elytron (wing cover), 5: tibia, 6: tarsus, 7: claws, 8: mouthparts, 9: prothorax, 10: mesothorax, 11: metathorax, 12: abdominal sternit
Beetle body structure, using cockchafer. A: head, B: thorax, C: abdomen. 1: antenna, 2: compound eye, 3: femur, 4: elytron (wing cover), 5: tibia, 6: tarsus, 7: claws, 8: mouthparts, 9: prothorax, 10: mesothorax, 11: metathorax, 12: abdominal sternit | Source

Beetle Fact

Did you know that an insects skeleton is on the outside of its body? - it is called an exoskeleton?

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 colour 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.

Beetle Compound Eyes

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.

Bombardier Beetle

Bombardier Beetle Attack - Video

Blister Beetle - A Harmful Beetle

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 cantharidine which causes blistering of the skin. Some say that it feels like receiving a nettle sting.

Blister Beetle Facts:

  • larvae undergo 6 stages of development
  • the larvae are carnivorous (feeding on other insects including bees)
  • vary in size from 1 cm to 2.5 cm in length

Different Varieties of Blister Beetles

Beetle Fact

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.

Japanese Beetles - A Harmful Beetle

Popillia japonica

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.

Boll Weavil Beetle - A Harmful Beetle

The Boll Weevil 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 1920's. The Boll Weavil lays its eggs inside cotton bolls and the larvae eat there way out.

There are many varieties of Weavi, most are small and considered to be pests as they can damage and kill crops.

Weavil

A variety of Weavils
A variety of Weavils

Whiplash Rove Beetle - A Potentially Harmful 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 million years ago.

Rove Beetles

Longhorn Beetles

Top Left: Longhorn Beetle looking like a wasp. Bottom:  Giant Longhorn Beetle.
Top Left: Longhorn Beetle looking like a wasp. Bottom: Giant Longhorn Beetle.

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.

Giant Longhorn Beetle - A Fearsome Bite

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.

I hope that you have enjoyed this article

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    • Digory LM profile image

      Digory LM 

      4 years ago

      Great lens! Thanks for putting it together.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      4 years ago from Redcar

      @RoadMonkey: Thank you.

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 

      4 years ago

      Beetles are fascinating! Some really interesting information here.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      4 years ago from Redcar

      @tonyleather: Thank you so much for your visit.

    • profile image

      tonyleather 

      4 years ago

      Fascinating and so informative. Very educational. Thank you!

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 

      4 years ago

      So now, all I have to do is find out which of them caused the amazing blisters on my legs when out gardening the other day......

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @anonymous: Thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Fascinating stuff! 40% really and green blood? Really good lens.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @stick-man lm: Thank you for your visit.

    • stick-man lm profile image

      stick-man lm 

      5 years ago

      love beetles, they are super cool! My favorite ones are the weevles.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @WinWriter: Thank you for your visit and comments - always greatly appreciated.

    • profile image

      WinWriter 

      5 years ago

      We have several beetles in our yard - thank goodness they aren't that elephant beetle version! I don't think I could hold one in my hand like in the video!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @BritFlorida: Thank you. I think it always helps if you dispel the myths and add the facts about insects - makes them more interesting and less scary.

    • happy-birthday profile image

      Birthday Wishes 

      5 years ago from Here

      I have learned a few things here! My favorite beetle is the Rhino beetle. Thanks a lot for sharing another nice lens!!!

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 

      5 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      Some great info here. My little granddaughter is a bit 'girly' about any bugs but now I cantell her some fascinating facts - thank you!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @happy-birthday: Thank you.

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 

      5 years ago

      Very interesting. Thank you. I hope to see information about some of the species that you only listed by name so far, in the near future.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @Elaine Chen: Butterfly farms are such great fun.

    • Elaine Chen profile image

      Elaine Chen 

      5 years ago

      these beetles images recall my last trip to Butterfly Farm

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @Loretta L: Thank you - very much appreciated.

    • Loretta L profile image

      Loretta Livingstone 

      5 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

      This is a really unusual and fascinating lens.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @Raymond Eagar: Those beetle larva get everywhere.

    • Raymond Eagar profile image

      Raymond Eagar 

      5 years ago

      I have beetle larva in my fishing worm containers which I usually chuck out.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @RaniaCalvenea: Thank you.

    • profile image

      RaniaCalvenea 

      5 years ago

      What a great list of beetles!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @Swisstoons: Thank you so much for your kind words - very much appreciated.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 

      5 years ago

      Families of homeschoolers will really like this article. And the kids will be able to identify the critters you highlight here in the up close and personal photos.

    • Swisstoons profile image

      Thomas F. Wuthrich 

      5 years ago from Michigan

      I was a big beetle fan when I was a kid. There was one in particular which I found fascinating. It was huge, all black and had large powerful pincers. But ladybugs may be my favorite. To this day, I never fail to hold the door open for ladybugs. This is a Purple Star-deserving lens, I think. Wish I had one to hand out.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @anonymous: Thank you Tipi.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      I've been around stinging nettle, so will steer clear of your Blister Beetle and a few others as well and I don't think I'll be holding an Elephant Beetle and day soon....It was fun to revisit here, been a while and my memory fades but I know you have several additions to this great teaching tool...I like how you teach to naturally. :)

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 

      5 years ago

      When I was very small, I remember that I liked seeing ladybugs in my backyard. One day I was quite surprised when one flew away. I hadn't known that they could fly. I've always loved animals.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @jpmny999: Thank you.

    • profile image

      jpmny999 

      5 years ago

      Very interesting!

    • tok2gman profile image

      tok2gman 

      5 years ago

      Very interesting lens. Thank you for sharing.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @Socialpro54 LM: Thank you.

    • Socialpro54 LM profile image

      Socialpro54 LM 

      5 years ago

      I learned something today! Nice lens

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @sheilamarie78: Beetles can be so varied.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @bornot2b1: Yes - I remember back when everything seemed so simple, yet so fascinating as a kid.

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      Sheilamarie 

      5 years ago from British Columbia

      Interesting creatures!

    • bornot2b1 profile image

      bornot2b1 

      5 years ago

      My friends and I used to collect lots of pretty beetles as kids (the green/shiny ones a bit like the dogbane leaf, are one of our favorite (for they stayed around a bit longer). We kept them for a few hours, then let them go - didn't want them to be hungry!). We also tried to keep the lady bugs (not too successful, for they flied away so fast), but just to have the pretty creatures in our little hands for just a few seconds were enough happiness for us then... (simple kids!)

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @anonymous: We do tend to have a natural fear of beetles, insects and spiders and the like. But I find them fascinating and intriguing - even beautiful. Thanks for the visit.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Beetles are discussting

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      @anonymous: minecraft rocks

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      @anonymous: minecraft rocks

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      beetles rock

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @webscribbler: Its the fact that we can always learn something new that makes life interesting.

    • profile image

      webscribbler 

      5 years ago

      Way cool lens. Learned a bunch. Guess that just makes me a big kid who just loves learning new stuff.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @mirrie: Thank you so much - made my day...

    • mirrie profile image

      Mirrie 

      5 years ago from France

      I have just been showing my youngest your lens - and I think he may be your biggest fan! Brilliant lens

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @Elyn MacInnis: Thank you - very much appreciated.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 

      5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I love your beetle lens! You have so much information here! Totally cool.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @fifinn: I often thought of Beetles as little dinosaurs when I was a lad.

    • profile image

      fifinn 

      5 years ago

      interesting lens. When I was a little, I often playing beetle with my friends.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @Katyusha: Thank you.

    • Katyusha profile image

      Katyusha 

      5 years ago

      What a beautiful pictures.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @anonymous: Thank you. very much appreciated.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      My god...I have so many great lens to show my grandson! You have every topic and thing we are interested in! I think one of his first words was 'bug' and 'ant'

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @alenmic: Thank you.

    • alenmic profile image

      alenmic 

      5 years ago

      Great lens...I love to collect insects and animals info. for my little son. Thanks so much.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      Awesome work with the beetles! :)

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @suepogson: Thank you. There are some stunning beetles out there.

    • suepogson profile image

      suepogson 

      5 years ago

      Great lens! Those dogbane leaf beetles are stunning! There are sometimes some bright gold beetles where I live (El Salvador, Central America) which are quite similar.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @BLemley: Thank you. I very much appreciate the blessing.

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 

      5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Fantastic! I will definitely be featureing this on my Insects in the Garden lens ~ Terrific! SquidAngel blessed! B : )

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @myamya: Thank you. Very much appreciated.

    • profile image

      myamya 

      5 years ago

      Awesome lens, nicely done!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @flinnie lm: Thank your visit and blessing - always appreciated.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @Sky Breeze: Thank you

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 

      5 years ago from Alabama USA

      I enjoyed reading this wonderful lens on beetles. Blessed by Squid Angel flinnie.

    • Sky Breeze profile image

      May Matthew 

      5 years ago

      A beautiful and educational lens!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @BarbRad: Thank you for your visit - always appreciated.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      5 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I seem to find beetles everywhere, and most I find aren't in my field guides. Thanks for sharing more information. Kids love bugs of all kinds, and would enjoy reading this.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @missjensen: My granddaughter is fascinated by beetles too.

    • missjensen profile image

      missjensen 

      5 years ago

      My son adores beetles, he is forever bringing them inside the house. At least I'll have some idea of what they are now lol Warmest Regards Miss Jensen

    • aviwolfson profile image

      Avi Wolfson 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great lens!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @Spiderlily321: Thank you for your visit. I am pleased that you enjoyed it.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @Spiderlily321: Thank you for your visit. I am pleased that you enjoyed it.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      5 years ago from Redcar

      @Spiderlily321: Thank you for your visit. I am pleased that you enjoyed it.

    • Spiderlily321 profile image

      Spiderlily321 

      5 years ago

      Very interesting and great lens! Thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      UKMarkWilliam 

      5 years ago

      Too much interesting

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @SailingPassion LM: Thank you - your comments are always appreciated.

    • SailingPassion LM profile image

      SailingPassion LM 

      6 years ago

      another great lens - thanks. Looking forward to reading plenty more :-)

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @antoniow: Thank you for your visit and comment - always appreciated.

    • profile image

      antoniow 

      6 years ago

      Great lens, nicely done! Squidlike

    • bloggerjon profile image

      bloggerjon 

      6 years ago

      Interesting lens and such variety in the insect world

    • PeacefieldFarm LM profile image

      PeacefieldFarm LM 

      6 years ago

      My children and I love watching insects, and learning more about them. Thanks for the great lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      I have! I usuually don't like beetles, especially the flying Japanese ones-but this is a great lenS!

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      I'm glad we don't have most of these beetles around here, especially the Giant Longhorn Beetles, yikes! :)

    • JoseCassais profile image

      JoseCassais 

      6 years ago

      I like beetles. They are very interesting creatures with a nice design.

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @Snakesmom: Its great when you can learn something new every day and there is so much to know about Beetles.

    • Snakesmom profile image

      Snakesmom 

      6 years ago

      Such a cute lens about beetles, learn something new everyday!

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @simpsonia: It would be very different world without beetles. Thanks for the visit.

    • profile image

      simpsonia 

      6 years ago

      Where would we be without beetles? Love this lens, great job!

    • ninakreativa profile image

      ninakreativa 

      6 years ago

      Great lens, with so many beautiful pictures of colorful beetles. Some of them seem really scary, but in general, they are all very amazing creatures :)

    • Ben Reed profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Reed 

      6 years ago from Redcar

      @goo2eyes lm: Thank you for stopping by - and thank you for the blessing.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 

      6 years ago

      i saw the dung beetles in action. just came back to share the angel blessings. hope to come back soon.

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 

      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Very cool! Great info and pictures ~ great videos! B : )

    • ottoblotto profile image

      ottoblotto 

      6 years ago

      Of course I would LOVE this lens!

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 

      6 years ago

      I really enjoy learning about the behavior of all kinds of critters. Thanks!

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 

      6 years ago from Maryland

      My family and I just sat and watched all the beetle videos...that Elephant Beetle is amazing! :) Thanks for making this fun lens! :)

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