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All About Beetles

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Ben has a life-long fascination with animals. Whether they crawl, run, fly, swim or slither, his interest in them never ceases.

What Are Beetles?

Beetles are genuinely fascinating creatures; no other insect group can boast more species than beetles do. There are believed to be more than 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 1 mm to as large as 15 cm. When we first think of beetles, we usually think of an entirely black insect. However, beetles are often very colorful and quite beautiful.

Even today, we occasionally find new species of beetles. Biologists have a name for all beetles, and they call them Coleoptera.

Beetle

A Jewel Beetle

A Jewel Beetle

Do Beetles Fly?

Yes, the majority of beetles can fly. Most beetles have two pairs of wings. The front pair of wings are more robust than the two back wings. The front wings and are often called shields. These "shields," are made from a material called "Chitin" which makes them sturdier and more rigid. Consequently, these "shields" are not that 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 as they have become more accustomed to running. Some have even fused their wing cases, or shields, together to make stronger "armor" and offer them better protection.

Direct Flight:

  • Mayflies have a single pair of direct flight wings.
  • Dragonflies have two pairs of direct flight wings.
  • The wing muscles insert directly at wing bases.
  • Gives a higher degree of flexibility in flight (making it 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

Indirect flight: muscles make thorax oscillate in most insects.

Indirect flight: muscles make thorax oscillate in most insects.

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. Almost anywhere you can think of that has water, vegetative foliage, roots, or decaying plant matter is likely home to one type of beetle or another.

How Long Do Beetles Live?

A beetle's lifespan includes four 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 insect's 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.

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.

What Do Beetles Eat?

Each species of beetle will have its particular food sources and dietary needs. However, many eat plant material. Some species specialize and will only eat specific leaves or seeds. Beetles, like 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.

Some beetles prey on other insects and others that will eat just about any form of meat that they can find.

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

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 made up of smaller parts. It’s thought 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 readily to the center of the flower.

Beetle Compound Eyes

A diagram describing a beetles compound eyes

A diagram describing a beetles compound eyes

Are Beetles Harmful?

Most beetles are harmless to people. However, they are some species that can inflict harm on a person or a person's belongings or their food. An example of a beetle that can cause physical damage to a person is a Bombardier Beetle. This beetle can eject a scalding spray that can burn a person's skin. Bombardier Beetles use this as a defence mechanism against predators such as ants, spiders, and even frogs.

Bombardier Beetle

beetles-for-kids

Blister Beetle - A Harmful Beetle

Another insect that can cause harm is a Blister Beetle. These little beetles are about 2.5 cm 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 six 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

Another beetle that can cause harm is the Blister Beetle. These little beetle's are about 2.5 cm 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.

Different Varieties of Blister Beetles

Various types of Blister beetles.

Various types of Blister beetles.

Japanese Beetles - A Harmful Beetle

Popillia japonica

A small beetle at about 15 millimeters in length and 10 millimeters wide.

In its native Japan, this beetle is of little harm, being controlled by natural predators. However, in America, it is considered a massive pest to many plants such as roses, hops, and grapes. It’s thought 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 millimeters but was responsible for devastating the cotton industry in the American South during the 1920s. 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.

A variety of Weavils

A variety of Weavils

Whiplash Rove Beetle - A Potentially Harmful Beetle

An exotic 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 is known to have existed in the Triassic period some 200 million years ago.

Rove Beetles

Rove Beetles

Rove 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 several 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 appear unpalatable and something to avoid.

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.

Comments

Digory LM on April 04, 2014:

Great lens! Thanks for putting it together.

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on January 18, 2014:

@RoadMonkey: Thank you.

RoadMonkey on January 16, 2014:

Beetles are fascinating! Some really interesting information here.

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on November 20, 2013:

@tonyleather: Thank you so much for your visit.

tonyleather on November 20, 2013:

Fascinating and so informative. Very educational. Thank you!

rattie lm on October 03, 2013:

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 (author) from Redcar on September 19, 2013:

@anonymous: Thank you.

anonymous on September 18, 2013:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on September 16, 2013:

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

stick-man lm on September 16, 2013:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on September 03, 2013:

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

WinWriter on September 03, 2013:

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 (author) from Redcar on August 28, 2013:

@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.

Jackie Jackson from Fort Lauderdale on August 28, 2013:

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 (author) from Redcar on August 17, 2013:

@happy-birthday: Thank you.

Birthday Wishes from Here on August 17, 2013:

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

Pat Goltz on August 10, 2013:

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 (author) from Redcar on August 04, 2013:

@Elaine Chen: Butterfly farms are such great fun.

Elaine Chen on August 03, 2013:

these beetles images recall my last trip to Butterfly Farm

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on August 01, 2013:

@Loretta L: Thank you - very much appreciated.

Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on July 31, 2013:

This is a really unusual and fascinating lens.

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on July 26, 2013:

@Raymond Eagar: Those beetle larva get everywhere.

Raymond Eagar on July 26, 2013:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on July 21, 2013:

@RaniaCalvenea: Thank you.

RaniaCalvenea on July 20, 2013:

What a great list of beetles!

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on July 18, 2013:

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

Thomas F. Wuthrich from Michigan on July 18, 2013:

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.

lesliesinclair on July 07, 2013:

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.

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on June 30, 2013:

@anonymous: Thank you Tipi.

anonymous on June 29, 2013:

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. :)

TanoCalvenoa on June 15, 2013:

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 (author) from Redcar on June 06, 2013:

@jpmny999: Thank you.

jpmny999 on June 06, 2013:

Very interesting!

tok2gman on June 04, 2013:

Very interesting lens. Thank you for sharing.

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on June 02, 2013:

@Socialpro54 LM: Thank you.

Socialpro54 LM on June 02, 2013:

I learned something today! Nice lens

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on May 13, 2013:

@sheilamarie78: Beetles can be so varied.

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on May 13, 2013:

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

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on May 12, 2013:

Interesting creatures!

bornot2b1 on May 01, 2013:

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 (author) from Redcar on April 28, 2013:

@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.

anonymous on April 28, 2013:

Beetles are discussting

anonymous on April 25, 2013:

@anonymous: minecraft rocks

anonymous on April 25, 2013:

@anonymous: minecraft rocks

anonymous on April 25, 2013:

beetles rock

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on April 25, 2013:

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

webscribbler on April 24, 2013:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on April 22, 2013:

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

Mirrie from France on April 22, 2013:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on April 19, 2013:

@Elyn MacInnis: Thank you - very much appreciated.

Elyn MacInnis from Shanghai, China on April 17, 2013:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on April 05, 2013:

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

fifinn on April 04, 2013:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on April 04, 2013:

@Katyusha: Thank you.

Katyusha on April 03, 2013:

What a beautiful pictures.

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on March 29, 2013:

@anonymous: Thank you. very much appreciated.

anonymous on March 28, 2013:

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 (author) from Redcar on March 04, 2013:

@alenmic: Thank you.

alenmic on March 03, 2013:

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

anonymous on February 14, 2013:

Awesome work with the beetles! :)

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on February 08, 2013:

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

suepogson on February 07, 2013:

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 (author) from Redcar on February 01, 2013:

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

Beverly Lemley from Raleigh, NC on January 31, 2013:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on January 28, 2013:

@myamya: Thank you. Very much appreciated.

myamya on January 27, 2013:

Awesome lens, nicely done!

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on January 27, 2013:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on January 27, 2013:

@Sky Breeze: Thank you

Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on January 27, 2013:

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

May Matthew on January 24, 2013:

A beautiful and educational lens!

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on January 19, 2013:

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

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on January 19, 2013:

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 (author) from Redcar on December 05, 2012:

@missjensen: My granddaughter is fascinated by beetles too.

missjensen on December 05, 2012:

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

Avi Wolfson from Massachusetts on December 02, 2012:

Great lens!

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on November 23, 2012:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on November 23, 2012:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on November 23, 2012:

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

Spiderlily321 on November 21, 2012:

Very interesting and great lens! Thanks for sharing

UKMarkWilliam on October 31, 2012:

Too much interesting

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on August 24, 2012:

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

SailingPassion LM on August 24, 2012:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on July 16, 2012:

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

antoniow on July 16, 2012:

Great lens, nicely done! Squidlike

bloggerjon on July 05, 2012:

Interesting lens and such variety in the insect world

PeacefieldFarm LM on June 11, 2012:

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

anonymous on June 11, 2012:

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

anonymous on June 09, 2012:

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

JoseCassais on June 04, 2012:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on May 23, 2012:

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

Snakesmom on May 23, 2012:

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

Ben Reed (author) from Redcar on May 12, 2012:

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

simpsonia on May 12, 2012:

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

ninakreativa on April 30, 2012:

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 (author) from Redcar on April 28, 2012:

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

goo2eyes lm on April 28, 2012:

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

Beverly Lemley from Raleigh, NC on April 27, 2012:

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

ottoblotto on April 21, 2012:

Of course I would LOVE this lens!

flicker lm on April 20, 2012:

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

Brandi from Maryland on March 31, 2012:

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