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Meet the Beetles

by Gerry Bishop

There are more kinds of beetles on Earth than any other animal. But how much do you really know about them? 

Meet the Beetles
It’s liftoff! A scarab beetle (see photo) flaps its wings and rises into the air.

Beetles aren’t the best fliers in the insect world. But that doesn’t stop them from being among the world’s greatest success stories. Out of all the species of animals on our planet, three out of ten are beetles!

They crawl, fly, hop, and swim on every continent except Antarctica. You’ll find them in forests, deserts, prairies, mountain  regions, and even in your own backyard.

Some beetles look strange. Parts of their bodies may grow horns, crests, spikes, or brushes. Several beetles have long snouts, and many are wildly colorful.

Beetles do weird things, too. Some species eat dung, and a few even squirt out hot liquids. Isn’t it time you got  to know some of these amazing creatures?

BUGGY TRANSFORMERS
All beetles start off as eggs. Most then go through three big changes called complete metamorphosis (met-uh-MOR-fuh-sis). The small photos above show how this works for a ladybird beetle (also called  ladybug). Each beetle hatches from an egg as a larva. The larva eats and grows and becomes a pupa  (PEW-puh). Then, it emerges as an adult.

Meet the Beetles 

HOW BEETLES LOOK
More than 450,000 species of beetles have been discovered so far. They come in lots of different shapes, sizes, and colors.

GIRAFFE-NECKED WEEVIL
As far as shape goes, this beetle is one of the oddest. The male’s jointed neck is about three times longer than the female’s. The male uses it to roll a leaf into a tubeshaped nest. A female will lay an egg inside. 

TITAN BEETLE
One of the largest insects in the world, this beetle can be as big as a grownup’s hand. The world’s  smallest insect may be the feather-winged beetle (not shown). It could fit on the period at the end of
this sentence—with room to spare.

EUPHOLUS WEEVIL
Like a butterfly’s wings, a Eupholus (YOO-ful-us) is covered in tiny scales. The scales reflect light  differently. When the sun hits them just right, it turns the light parts a dazzling green and the other parts
a bright blue.

TRILOBITE BEETLE
Remember the shape of that ladybug larva above? A female trilobite beetle never becomes a pupa
and instead keeps her larval shape as an adult. 

FROG-LEGGED LEAF BEETLE
Many beetles are dull in color. But this one is downright flashy. When light hits it just right, its outer covering seems to glow with shiny green and red. The colors warn hungry predators that the beetle
tastes terrible.

Meet the Beetles

HOW BEETLES BEHAVE
When it comes to survival or finding mates, some beetles can be very tricky.

SCARAB BEETLE
Like your nose, the antennas on this male scarab can detect any smells floating by in the air. If he picks up the scent of a female beetle, off he flies in her direction.

BLOODY-NOSED BEETLE
You already met some beetles that use bright colors to fend off predators. When threatened, this beetle spits out a drop of yucky tasting red goop. Fair warning to all!

FIREFLY
Fireflies (also called lightning bugs) are beetles that use light instead of scents to find a mate. A male flashes a signal to any females that might be nearby. If a female likes what she sees, she’ll flash her own signal, saying, “Hey, come over here!” 

BROAD-NOSED WEEVIL
Many beetles survive by doing their best to hide from danger. Check out this weevil. It’s hiding in plain sight by blending in with those white patches on a tree trunk.

STAG BEETLES
If a male stag beetle meets another male, often he will face him and fight. Males use their horn-like body parts to try to flip each other away. Usually the one that is flipped just tumbles down, picks himself up, and crawls off.

Meet the Beetles

WHAT BEETLES EAT
Most beetles are plant-eaters, but some eat meat and some even eat poop!

GROUND BEETLE
During the day, this beetle hides in a hole in the ground (called a burrow). Then in the evening, it crawls out and goes hunting for insects, slugs, and other small creatures. Using its powerful jaws, it grabs its prey (a grasshopper this time) and drags it underground.

DUNG BEETLE
Yep—some beetles even eat poop. It is full of stuff that the pooper didn’t digest but would make good food for a beetle. 

CHECKERED BEE BEETLE
As a larva, this beetle feeds on young bees. But as an adult, it goes for the pollen in flowers. If it comes across small insects, it eats them, too!

MEET MORE BEETLES
Look on plants and under rocks and logs during the day. Or check out a light at night. You may come  across beetles that are even more amazing than the ones you met here!  

 

"Meet the Beetles" originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Ranger Rick magazine. Click here for a closer view of the photos.

 


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