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Extensive Definition

Beetles are a group of insects which have the largest number of species. They are placed in the order Coleoptera, which means "sheathed wing". The Coleoptera contains more described species than in any other order in the animal kingdom, constituting about 25% of all known life-forms. Forty percent of all described insect species are beetles (about 350,000 species while whirligig beetles simply carry an air bubble down with them whenever they dive.

Evolutionary history and classification

While some authorities believe modern beetles began about 140 million years ago, research announced in 2007 showed that beetles may have entered the fossil record during the Lower Permian, about 265 to 300 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 as the sister group to those two, and Archostemata as sister to the other three collectively.
There are about 350,000 species of beetles. Such a large number of species poses special problems for classification, with some families consisting of thousands of species and needing further division into subfamilies and tribes.

Impact on humans


Many agricultural, forestry, and household insect pests are beetles. These include the following:

Beneficial organisms

  • Both the larvae and adults of some ladybirds (family Coccinellidae) are found in aphid colonies. Other lady beetles feed on scale insects and mealybugs. If normal food sources are scarce they may feed on other things, such as small caterpillars, young plant bugs, honeydew and nectar.
  • Ground beetles (family Carabidae) are common predators of many different insects and other arthropods, including fly eggs, caterpillars, wireworms and others.
  • Plant-feeding beetles are often important beneficial insects, controlling problem weeds. Some flea beetles of the genus Aphthona feed on leafy spurge, a considerable weed of rangeland in western North America.
Some farmers develop beetle banks to foster and provide cover for beneficial beetles.
Beetles of the Dermestidae family are often used in taxidermy to clean bones of remaining flesh.

Beetles in ancient Egypt and other cultures

Several species of dung beetle, most notably Scarabaeus sacer (often referred to as "scarab"), enjoyed a sacred status among the ancient Egyptians, as the creatures were likened to the major god Khepri. Some scholars suggest that the Egyptians' practice of making mummies was inspired by the brooding process of the beetle. 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, much as scarabs push or roll balls of dung to their brood sites. During and following the New Kingdom, scarab amulets were often placed over the heart of the mummified deceased.
Some tribal groups, particularly in tropical parts of the world, use the colourful, iridescent elytra of certain beetles, especially certain Scarabaeidae, in ceremonies and as adornment.

Study and collection

The study of beetles is called coleopterology, and its practitioners are coleopterists. Coleopterists have formed organisations to facilitate the study of beetles. Among these is The Coleopterists Society, an international organisation based in the United States. Such organisations may have both professionals and amateurs interested in beetles as members.
Research in this field is often published in peer-reviewed journals specific to the field of coleopterology, though journals dealing with general entomology also publish many papers on various aspects of beetle biology. Some of the journals specific to beetle research are:
There is a thriving industry in the collection of beetle specimens for amateur and professional collectors. Many coleopterists prefer to collect beetle specimens for themselves, recording detailed information about each specimen and its habitat. Such collections add to the body of knowledge about the Coleoptera. Some countries have established laws governing or prohibiting the collection of certain rare (and often much sought after) species. One such beetle whose collection is illegal or restricted is the American burying beetle, Nicrophorus americanus.


General references

  • Poul Beckmann, Living Jewels: The Natural Design of Beetles ISBN 3-7913-2528-0
  • Arthur V. Evans, Charles Bellamy, and Lisa Charles Watson, An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles ISBN 0-520-22323-3
  • Entomological Society of America, Beetle Larvae of the World ISBN 0-643-05506-1
  • David Grimaldi, Michael S. Engel, Evolution of the Insects ISBN 0-521-82149-5
  • Ross H. Arnett, Jr. and Michael C. Thomas, American Beetles (CRC Press, 2001-2). ISBN 0-8493-1925-0
  • K. W. Harde, A Field Guide in Colour to Beetles ISBN 0-7064-1937-5 Pages 7-24
  • White, R.E. 1983. Beetles. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY. ISBN 0-395-91089-7

Cited references

See also

  • Heteroptera - insect suborder that is superficially similar to beetles

External links

sisterlinks Beetle
chafer in Arabic: خنفساء
chafer in Guarani: Lembu
chafer in Breton: C'hwil
chafer in Bulgarian: Твърдокрили
chafer in Catalan: Coleòpter
chafer in Chuvash: Нăрă
chafer in Czech: Brouci
chafer in Danish: Biller
chafer in German: Käfer
chafer in Estonian: Mardikalised
chafer in Modern Greek (1453-): Κολεόπτερα
chafer in Spanish: Coleoptera
chafer in Esperanto: Koleopteroj
chafer in Persian: قاب‌بالان
chafer in French: Coleoptera
chafer in Galician: Escaravello
chafer in Korean: 딱정벌레목
chafer in Ido: Koleoptero
chafer in Indonesian: Kumbang
chafer in Italian: Coleoptera
chafer in Hebrew: חיפושיות
chafer in Kannada: ದುಂಬಿ
chafer in Latin: Coleoptera
chafer in Lithuanian: Vabalai
chafer in Hungarian: Bogarak
chafer in Malagasy: Borera
chafer in Malay (macrolanguage): Kumbang
chafer in Dutch: Kevers
chafer in Japanese: 甲虫類
chafer in Norwegian: Biller
chafer in Norwegian Nynorsk: Biller
chafer in Polish: Chrząszcze
chafer in Portuguese: Coleoptera
chafer in Quechua: Suntu
chafer in Russian: Жесткокрылые
chafer in Simple English: Beetle
chafer in Slovak: Chrobáky
chafer in Slovenian: Hrošči
chafer in Serbian: Тврдокрилци
chafer in Finnish: Kovakuoriaiset
chafer in Swedish: Skalbaggar
chafer in Tamil: வண்டு
chafer in Thai: ด้วง
chafer in Turkish: Kın kanatlılar
chafer in Ukrainian: Твердокрилі
chafer in Chinese: 鞘翅目
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