10 Amazing Facts About Beetles from Insect Expert Stephen Marshall - Firefly Books Blog

Firefly Books Blog

10 Amazing Facts About Beetles from Insect Expert Stephen Marshall

  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Subscribe to this entry
  • Print
10 Amazing Facts About Beetles from Insect Expert Stephen Marshall


Much like the band that adopted their name, beetles are everywhere.

Aside from Antarctica, where there are no extant beetle species, it is possible to find these insects across every continent. At least 4 out of every 5 animal species alive today belong to the winged insect class known as Coleoptera, and there are around 400,000 named beetle species

The name Coleoptera comes from the Greek words for sheath (coleo) and wing (ptera), while “beetle” comes from the Old English word for “biter” and refers to the well-developed mandibles of most Coleoptera.

In his new book Beetles: The Natural History & Diversity of Coleoptera, Stephen A. Marshall doesn’t just discuss the linguistic history of these interesting insects, he also delves deep into their natural history, evolution, and behaviour in a must-have addition to any entomology library.

Here are 10 of the fascinating facts about beetles Marshall brings together in his new book.

1. The smallest beetles can barely be seen by the naked human eye.

The smallest beetles on earth are fungus beetles, which grow to be just one-third of a millimetre. In contrast, the largest beetles, such as the Chilean long-horned beetle and the Peruvian stag beetle, are more than 600 times the size of their tiny counterparts.

2. Beetles are a tough species to impress when it comes to mating.

Male beetles have developed elaborate physical adaptations including conspicuous antlers, giant mandibles, or bright bioluminescent lights that can be used to impress a mate. Some species use perfumes (pheromones) or serenade their potential mates with drumming or stridulation, a type of strumming. Others provide gifts in the form of nutrients, while still others undertake elaborate pre-mating rituals that include the male doing headstands and flips or hugging the female and caressing her antennae.

3. Beetles are the strongmen of the animal kingdom.

The Palmetto Beetle, a type of Tortoise Beetle, can withstand a pulling force that is equivalent to 148 times its body mass — comparable to a human withstanding a pull of 23,000 pounds.

4. Depending on where you are, that smell might just be a beetle.

Many beetles release strong smelling chemicals as a defence mechanism, none as strong as the Nicrophorus beetle. The scent that these orange and black beetles produce is so strong, that even the most iron-stomached entomologists rarely make the mistake of handling live Nicrophorus beetles twice.

5. The common firefly (Lampyridae) is actually a beetle.

Despite having the world fly in their name, these bioluminescent insects are actually beetles. Female fireflies, which are occasionally wingless, generally glow with a soft green or yellow-green light, while males flash more brightly to attract a mate but also to warn of danger.

6. Some beetles can change colour to suit their environmental conditions.

Dynastes Hercules, a type of large Neotropical scarab beetle, appears yellow when dry but transparent when wet. Several species of tortoise beetles will change colour from gold to red as a response to disturbance or just plain excitement.

7. There are around 20,000 aquatic beetle species but there are no beetles in the open ocean.

Though most water beetles have evolved to breathe underwater using spiracles or complex abdominal gills, very few marine beetles spend all or part of their lives submerged in salt water.

8. Dung beetles saved Australia’s pastures.

After cattle were introduced to Australia in 1788, there was a serious problem with their fecal matter not being removed or broken down by the native beetles that had evolved to break down marsupial dung. The introduction of exotic scarab beetles from Africa helped manage this smelly setback.

9. Bees and flies aren’t the only insects that love flowers.

Some beetles (including the Monkey Beetles pictured above) also love nectar and pollen, and a few species of flowers including aroids, magnolias, and water lilies actually generate heat to provide a cozy environment for visiting beetles.

10. Some beetles are carnivores.

Though most beetles feed on plants and fungi, there are a few rare species that hunt fish and amphibians. Two of the most unusual beetle hunters are the North American burying beetle that consumes snake eggs and the Old World ground beetle that lures frogs to their death.

Discover more books about insects and entomology here.


Get the book:

 Beetles: The Natural History & Diversity of Coleoptera

in Books Hits: 17414

Author Events   Firefly Books Fall 2021 Catalog PDF