Beetle

For other uses, see Beetle (disambiguation).
Suborders
Adephaga
Archostemata
Myxophaga
Polyphaga
See subgroups of the order Coleoptera

Beetles are one of the main groups of insects. Their order, Coleoptera (meaning "sheathed wing"), has more species in it than any other order in the entire animal kingdom. Forty percent of all described insect species are beetles (about 350,000 species), and new species are regularly discovered. Estimates put the total number of species — described and undescribed — at between 5 and 8 million. This is why, when J. B. S. Haldane, a British geneticist, was asked what his studies of nature revealed about God, he replied, "An inordinate fondness for beetles".

Beetles can be found in almost all habitats, but are not known to occur in the sea or in the polar regions. They have a major impact on the ecosystem in three ways: feeding on plants and fungi, breaking down animal and plant debris, and eating other invertebrates. Certain species are agricultural pests in some areas, for example the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), while other species are important controls of agricultural pests, for example the lady beetles (family Coccinellidae) consume aphids, fruit flies, thrips, and other plant-sucking insects that damage crops.

Anatomy

Overview of the dorsal anatomy of a Beetle

Bearing in mind the wide diversity and number of species the anatomy of beetles is quite uniform. Beetles are generally characterised by a particularly hard exoskeleton, and the hard wing-cases (elytra) which tend to cover the hind part of the body and protect the second wings, the alae. The elytra are not used in flying, but generally must be raised in order to move the hindwings. In some cases the ability to fly has been lost, characteristically in families such as Carabidae and Curculionidae. After landing, the hindwings are folded below the elytra.

In a few families, both the ability to fly and the wing-cases have been lost, with the best known example being the "glowworms" of the family Phengodidae, in which the females are larviform throughout their lives.

The bodies of beetles are divided into three sections, the head, the thorax, and the abdomen, and these in themselves may be composed of several further segments.

The eyes are compound, and may display some remarkable adabtability, as in the case of the Whirligig beetles (family Gyrinidae), in which the eyes are split to allow a view both above and below the waterline. The dorsal appendage aids the beetle in stalking prey.

Antennae can vary greatly and may be filiform, claviform, flabellate or genticulate.

Oxygen is taken in via a tracheal system: this takes air in through a series of tubes along the body which is then taken into increasingly finer fibres. Pumping movements of the body force the air through the system. Although beetles have blood, it is not used for oxygen transference, although a heart is present.

Development

Larva of the cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha)

Beetles are endopterygotes with complete metamorphosis. The larva of a beetle is often called a grub and represents the principal feeding stage of the life-cycle.

The eggs of beetles are minute but may be brightly coloured, they are laid in clumps and there may be from several dozen to several thousand eggs laid by a single female.

Once the egg hatches the larvae tend to feed voraciously, whether out in the open such as with Ladybird larvae, or within plants such as with leaf beetle larvae.

As with lepidoptera, beetle larvae pupate for a period, and from the pupa emerges a fully formed beetle or imago.

In some cases there are several transitory larvae stages and this is known as hypermetamorphosis; examples include the blister beetles (family Meloidae).

Physiology

There are few things that a beetle somewhere will not eat, even inorganic matter may be consumed.

Some beetles are highly specialised in their diet; for example, the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) opts almost entirely to colonize plants of the potato family (Solanaceae). Others are generalists, eating both plants and animals. Ground beetles (family Carabidae) and rove beetles (family Staphylinidae) are entirely carnivorous and will catch and comsume small prey such as earthworms and snails.

Decaying organic matter is a primary diet for many species, this can range from dung which is consumed by coprophagous species such as the scarab beetles (family Scarabaeidae), to dead animals which are eaten by necrophagous species such as the carrion beetles (family Silphidae). The beneficial impact to the general ecology of these two activities is huge.

Various techniques are employed by many species for retaining both air and water supplies. Predaceous diving beetles (family Dytiscidae) may be the most common example, they employ a technique of retaining air when diving between the abdomen and the elytra.

Reproduction

The larval period of beetles varies between species but can be as long as several years. Adults have an extremely variable lifespan, again, from weeks to years.

Beetles may display some extremely intricate behaviour when mating. Smell is thought to play significant importance in the location of a mate.

Conflict can play a part in the mating rituals for example in species such as burying beetles (genus Nicrophorus) where localised conflicts between males and females rage until only one of each is left, thus ensuring reproduction by the strongest and fittest. Many beetles are territorial and will fiercly defend their small patch of territory from intruding males.

Pairing is generally short but in some cases will last for several hours. During pairing sperm cells are transferred to the female to fertilise the egg.

Parental care

As befitting such a large order, the parental care between species varies widely. It ranges from the simple laying of eggs under a leaf to scarab beetles, which construct impressive underground structures complete with a supply of dung to house and feed their young.

There are other notable ways of caring for the eggs and young, such as those employed by leaf rollers, who bite sections of leaf causing it to curl inwards and then lay the eggs, thus protected, inside.

Generally the number of eggs laid is an indicator of the level of parental care subsequently employed, as they are inversely proportional.

Predation

Beetles and larvae have evolved to employ a variety of different strategies for avoiding being eaten.

Many employ simple camoflage to avoid being spotted by predators. These include the leaf beetles (family Chysomelidae) that have a green colouring very similair to their habitat on tree leaves.

A number of longhorn beetles (family Cerambycidae) bear a striking resemblance to wasps, thus benefitting from a measure of protection. Large ground beetles by contrast will tend to go on the attack, using their strong mandibles to forcibly persuade a predator to seek out easier prey.

Many species, including lady beetles and blister beetles, can secrete poisonous substances to make them unpalatable.

Evolutionary history and classification

Beetles entered the fossil record during the Lower Permian, about 265 million years ago.

The four extant suborders of beetle are these:

These suborders diverged in the Permian and Triassic. Their phylogenetic relationship is uncertain, with the most popular hypothesis being that Polyphaga and Myxophaga are most closely related, with Adephaga an outgroup to those two, and Archostemata an outgroup to the other three.

The extraordinary number of beetle species poses special problems for classification, with some families consisting of thousands of species and needing further division into subfamilies and tribes.

See the article subgroups of the order Coleoptera for a complete list of families.

Impact on humans

Pests

Damage to beans by larvae of the common bean weevil, Acanthoscelides obtectus

There are several serious agricultural and household pests represented by the order, these include :

Beneficial organisms

Some farmers introduce beetle banks to foster and provide cover for beneficial beetles.

Scarab beetles in Egyptian culture

Ancient Egyptian scene depicting a scarab beetle

The scarab beetles (family Scarabaeidae) are coprophagous beetles.

It seemed to the ancient Egyptians that young scarab beetles emerged spontaneously from the burrow where they were born. Therefore they were worshipped as "Khepri", which means "he who came forth." This creative aspect of the scarab was associated with the creator god Atum. The ray-like antennae on the beetle's head and its practice of dung-rolling caused the beetle to also carry solar symbolism. The scarab beetle god Khepri was believed to push the setting sun along the sky in the same manner as the beetle with his ball of dung.

Many thousands of amulets and stamp seals have been excavated that depict the scarab. In many artifacts, the scarab is depicted pushing the sun along its course in the sky. During and following the New Kingdom, scarab amulets were often placed over the heart of the mummified deceased. The amulets were often inscribed with a spell from the Book of the Dead which entreated the heart to, "do not stand as a witness against me."

"Le Scarabée Sacré", the opening essay in Jean-Henri Fabre's famous Souvenirs Entomologiques, deals with the insect.

Collecting

Beetle collection at the Melbourne Museum, Australia

The study of beetles is called coleopterology, and its practitioners coleopterists. See the list of list of notable coleopterists for more information.

There is a thriving industry in the collection of wild caught species for amateur and professional collectors.


Gallery

References

Journals


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Taken in the plural, bracelets is often use as slang for handcuffs. There is a thriving industry in the collection of wild caught species for amateur and professional collectors. Having newborn babies wear an azabache (a gold bracelet or necklace with a black or red coral charm in the form of a fist), is believed to protect them from the evil eye. See the list of list of notable coleopterists for more information. Mal de ojo, or evil eye, is believed to result of excessive admiration or envious looks by others. The study of beetles is called coleopterology, and its practitioners coleopterists. Azabache Bracelets are part of latin culture having great significance.

"Le Scarabée Sacré", the opening essay in Jean-Henri Fabre's famous Souvenirs Entomologiques, deals with the insect. The origin of the term 'bracelet' is from the Latin 'brachile' meaning 'of the arm', via the Old French 'barcel'. The amulets were often inscribed with a spell from the Book of the Dead which entreated the heart to, "do not stand as a witness against me.". Although the term armlet may be technically similar, it is taken to mean an item that sits on the upper arm: an arm ring. During and following the New Kingdom, scarab amulets were often placed over the heart of the mummified deceased. Made from ordinary glass that is about 1/4 - 1/8 inch in width, they are worn in groups so that arm movement causes them to make a pleasant sound rather like the clinking of wind chimes. In many artifacts, the scarab is depicted pushing the sun along its course in the sky. In India, glass bangles are common.

Many thousands of amulets and stamp seals have been excavated that depict the scarab. They can be smooth, textured or set with stones. The scarab beetle god Khepri was believed to push the setting sun along the sky in the same manner as the beetle with his ball of dung. Bracelets that are in solid form, usually some metal, are referred to as bangles or bangle bracelets. The ray-like antennae on the beetle's head and its practice of dung-rolling caused the beetle to also carry solar symbolism. Tennis bracelets continued to be worn by various tennis stars like Serena Williams and Gabriela Sabatini. Therefore they were worshipped as "Khepri", which means "he who came forth." This creative aspect of the scarab was associated with the creator god Atum. The 'tennis bracelet' incident sparked a new name for the item and sparked a huge jewelry trend.

It seemed to the ancient Egyptians that young scarab beetles emerged spontaneously from the burrow where they were born. She was wearing an elegant, light in-line diamond bracelet, which accidentally broke and the match was interrupted to allow Chris to recover her precious diamonds. The scarab beetles (family Scarabaeidae) are coprophagous beetles. Open. Some farmers introduce beetle banks to foster and provide cover for beneficial beetles. 1 woman tennis player and the winner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, was playing in the U.S. There are several serious agricultural and household pests represented by the order, these include :. According to Diamond Bug, in 1987 Chris Evert, the former World No.

See the article subgroups of the order Coleoptera for a complete list of families. The in-line thin diamond bracelet that features a symmetrical pattern of diamonds is called a tennis bracelet. The extraordinary number of beetle species poses special problems for classification, with some families consisting of thousands of species and needing further division into subfamilies and tribes. These sports bracelets are also known otherwise as 'baller id bands', 'wristbands' or 'baller bands'. Their phylogenetic relationship is uncertain, with the most popular hypothesis being that Polyphaga and Myxophaga are most closely related, with Adephaga an outgroup to those two, and Archostemata an outgroup to the other three. Its success has led to the use of these 'awareness' bracelets as low cost tools for information campaigns and charity projects. These suborders diverged in the Permian and Triassic. The recent use of colored silicone rubber as a material for producing sports bracelets was popularized by Nike and Lance Armstrong through the Yellow Livestrong band.

The four extant suborders of beetle are these:. In the late 1980s, "snap bracelets" -- felt-covered metal bracelets that curved around one's wrist when gently hit against it -- were a popular fad. Beetles entered the fossil record during the Lower Permian, about 265 million years ago. Bracelets are also used for medical and identification purposes, such as allergy bracelets and hospital tags. Many species, including lady beetles and blister beetles, can secrete poisonous substances to make them unpalatable. Bracelets can be manufactured from cloth or metal, and sometimes contain rocks, wood, and/or shells. Large ground beetles by contrast will tend to go on the attack, using their strong mandibles to forcibly persuade a predator to seek out easier prey. A bracelet is an article of clothing or jewelry which is worn around the wrist.

A number of longhorn beetles (family Cerambycidae) bear a striking resemblance to wasps, thus benefitting from a measure of protection. These include the leaf beetles (family Chysomelidae) that have a green colouring very similair to their habitat on tree leaves. Many employ simple camoflage to avoid being spotted by predators. Beetles and larvae have evolved to employ a variety of different strategies for avoiding being eaten.

Generally the number of eggs laid is an indicator of the level of parental care subsequently employed, as they are inversely proportional. There are other notable ways of caring for the eggs and young, such as those employed by leaf rollers, who bite sections of leaf causing it to curl inwards and then lay the eggs, thus protected, inside. It ranges from the simple laying of eggs under a leaf to scarab beetles, which construct impressive underground structures complete with a supply of dung to house and feed their young. As befitting such a large order, the parental care between species varies widely.

During pairing sperm cells are transferred to the female to fertilise the egg. Pairing is generally short but in some cases will last for several hours. Many beetles are territorial and will fiercly defend their small patch of territory from intruding males. Conflict can play a part in the mating rituals for example in species such as burying beetles (genus Nicrophorus) where localised conflicts between males and females rage until only one of each is left, thus ensuring reproduction by the strongest and fittest.

Smell is thought to play significant importance in the location of a mate. Beetles may display some extremely intricate behaviour when mating. Adults have an extremely variable lifespan, again, from weeks to years. The larval period of beetles varies between species but can be as long as several years.

Predaceous diving beetles (family Dytiscidae) may be the most common example, they employ a technique of retaining air when diving between the abdomen and the elytra. Various techniques are employed by many species for retaining both air and water supplies. The beneficial impact to the general ecology of these two activities is huge. Decaying organic matter is a primary diet for many species, this can range from dung which is consumed by coprophagous species such as the scarab beetles (family Scarabaeidae), to dead animals which are eaten by necrophagous species such as the carrion beetles (family Silphidae).

Ground beetles (family Carabidae) and rove beetles (family Staphylinidae) are entirely carnivorous and will catch and comsume small prey such as earthworms and snails. Others are generalists, eating both plants and animals. Some beetles are highly specialised in their diet; for example, the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) opts almost entirely to colonize plants of the potato family (Solanaceae). There are few things that a beetle somewhere will not eat, even inorganic matter may be consumed.

In some cases there are several transitory larvae stages and this is known as hypermetamorphosis; examples include the blister beetles (family Meloidae). As with lepidoptera, beetle larvae pupate for a period, and from the pupa emerges a fully formed beetle or imago. Once the egg hatches the larvae tend to feed voraciously, whether out in the open such as with Ladybird larvae, or within plants such as with leaf beetle larvae. The eggs of beetles are minute but may be brightly coloured, they are laid in clumps and there may be from several dozen to several thousand eggs laid by a single female.

The larva of a beetle is often called a grub and represents the principal feeding stage of the life-cycle. Beetles are endopterygotes with complete metamorphosis. Although beetles have blood, it is not used for oxygen transference, although a heart is present. Pumping movements of the body force the air through the system.

Oxygen is taken in via a tracheal system: this takes air in through a series of tubes along the body which is then taken into increasingly finer fibres. Antennae can vary greatly and may be filiform, claviform, flabellate or genticulate. The dorsal appendage aids the beetle in stalking prey. The eyes are compound, and may display some remarkable adabtability, as in the case of the Whirligig beetles (family Gyrinidae), in which the eyes are split to allow a view both above and below the waterline.

The bodies of beetles are divided into three sections, the head, the thorax, and the abdomen, and these in themselves may be composed of several further segments. In a few families, both the ability to fly and the wing-cases have been lost, with the best known example being the "glowworms" of the family Phengodidae, in which the females are larviform throughout their lives. After landing, the hindwings are folded below the elytra. In some cases the ability to fly has been lost, characteristically in families such as Carabidae and Curculionidae.

The elytra are not used in flying, but generally must be raised in order to move the hindwings. Beetles are generally characterised by a particularly hard exoskeleton, and the hard wing-cases (elytra) which tend to cover the hind part of the body and protect the second wings, the alae. Bearing in mind the wide diversity and number of species the anatomy of beetles is quite uniform. .

Certain species are agricultural pests in some areas, for example the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), while other species are important controls of agricultural pests, for example the lady beetles (family Coccinellidae) consume aphids, fruit flies, thrips, and other plant-sucking insects that damage crops. They have a major impact on the ecosystem in three ways: feeding on plants and fungi, breaking down animal and plant debris, and eating other invertebrates. Beetles can be found in almost all habitats, but are not known to occur in the sea or in the polar regions. Haldane, a British geneticist, was asked what his studies of nature revealed about God, he replied, "An inordinate fondness for beetles".

S. B. This is why, when J. Estimates put the total number of species — described and undescribed — at between 5 and 8 million.

Forty percent of all described insect species are beetles (about 350,000 species), and new species are regularly discovered. Their order, Coleoptera (meaning "sheathed wing"), has more species in it than any other order in the entire animal kingdom. Beetles are one of the main groups of insects. The Coleopterist (UK).

Harde, A Field Guide in Colour to Beetles ISBN 0706419375 Pages 7-24. W. K. Thomas, American Beetles (CRC Press, 2001-2).

and Michael C. Arnett, Jr. Ross H. Engel, Evolution of the Insects ISBN 0521821495.

David Grimaldi, Michael S. Entomological Society of America, Beetle Larvae of the World ISBN 0643055061. Poul Beckmann, Living Jewels: The Natural Design of Beetles ISBN 3791325280. Large ground beetles (family Carabidae) are predators of caterpillars and, on occasion, adult weevils, whereas smaller species attack eggs, small caterpillars, and other pest insects.

While both adult and larval lady beetles found on crops prefer aphids, they will, if aphids are scarce, use food from other sources, such as small caterpillars, young plant bugs, aphid honeydew, and plant nectar. The larvae of lady beetles (family Coccinellidae) are often found in aphid colonies. Citrus long-horned beetle. Asian long-horned beetle.

It is most usual for death watch beetle attacks to originate in timber of large dimensions, and it is thought that the actual introduction of the pest into buildings takes place at the time of construction. It attacks hardwoods such as oak and chestnut, and always where some fungal decay has taken or is taking place. The death watch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) is of some considerable importance as a pest of wooden structures in older buildings in Britain. The spread of the fungus by the beetle has led to the devastastation of elm trees in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, notably North America and Europe.

They are important elm pests because they carry Dutch elm disease (the fungus Ophiostoma ulmi) as they move from infected breeding sites to feed on healthy elm trees. The elm bark beetles, Hylurgopinus rufipes and Scolytus multistriatus (in the family Scolytidae) attack elm trees. Crops are destroyed and the beetle can only be treated by employing expensive pesticides, many of which it has begun to develop immunity to. As well as potatoes, this can be any one of a number of plants from the potato family (Solanaceae) such as nightshade, tomato, aubergine and capsicum.

Adults mate before overwintering deep in the soil, so that when they emerge the following spring, females can lay eggs immediately, once a suitable host plant has been found. The Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) is a notorious pest of potato plants. Myxophaga contains about 100 described species in four families, mostly very small, including skiff beetles (Hydroscaphidae) and minute bog beetles (Sphaeriusidae). Archostemata contains four families of mainly wood-eating beetles, including reticulated beetles (Cupedidae) and telephone-pole beetles (Micromalthidae).

In these beetles the testes are tubular and the first abdominal sternum (a plate of the exoskeleton) is divided by the hind coxae (the basal joints of the beetle's legs). Adephaga contains about 10 families of predatory beetles, includes ground beetles (Carabidae), predacious diving beetles (Dytiscidae) and whirligig beetles (Gyrinidae). These beetles can be identified by the cervical sclerites (hardened parts of the head used as points of attachment for muscles) absent in the other suborders. Polyphaga is the largest suborder, containing more than 300,000 described species in more than 170 families, including rove beetles (Staphylinidae), scarab beetles (Scarabaeidae), blister beetles (Meloidae), stag beetles (Lucanidae), and true weevils (Curculionidae).

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