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Beetle Prepares For Flight (click to enlarge)
click to enlarge
Photo by:
Dorling Kindersley
Beetle, common name for any member of an order of insects, the most prominent characteristic of which are the elytra, the hardened, sheathlike front wings, which usually cover the entire abdomen when the insect is not in flight. In some beetles, such as the rove beetles, the elytra are short, covering only a portion of the abdomen. Some beetles are wingless. Beetles vary greatly in size. The largest is the Hercules beetle, which grows to 16 cm (up to 6.3 in) in length. Other species may be less than 0.1 cm (less than 0.04 in) long.
A picture of Stag Beetles
Photo by:
Dorling Kindersley
Although they also vary greatly in form, their basic anatomical structures are similar. Beetles undergo complete metamorphosis. The larvae may be sedentary blind grubs or agile predators. Some larvae change their form with each molt. All larvae have three pairs of legs on the thorax. The pupae are usually encased in a thin, light-colored skin with the legs free. The adults have biting mouth parts, in some cases enormously developed.

A picture of a Diving Beetle
Photo by:
Dorling Kindersley
The beetle order embraces more species than any other group in the animal kingdom. At least 250,000 species are known-more than one-quarter of all animal species. About 160 families exist. Although some families contain only one or two species, others, such as the weevil, contain 30,000 species-far more, for example, than all mammal species. The classification of this enormous number of forms is extremely difficult. The order is generally divided into four suborders, which are, in turn, subdivided into series and superfamilies.
A picture of Weevils
Photo by:
Dorling Kindersley
The families are further divided into subfamilies, and these are subdivided into tribes and genera. Some entomologists find still other groupings necessary to indicate the many relationships and differences among beetles.

Beetles vary widely in their habits and are found under the most diverse conditions. A few live in salt water, more in fresh water, and a small number breed in hot springs. Some beetles live under the bark of living and dead trees. Numerous beetles feed on the roots, wood, leaves, flowers, and fruit of living plants, causing great economic damage.

A picture of a Male Atlas Beetle
Photo by:
Dorling Kindersley
Some beetles, such as the ladybird beetle, prey on pest insects and thus are important in biological control. Others are scavengers, living on dung or dead animals. Some are parasitic and live in the nests of ants, bees, or termites, existing on food brought into the nest by the hosts or on the hosts themselves. Virtually every product of the animal or vegetable kingdom supplies some species of beetle with food.

Scientific classification: Beetles make up the order Coleoptera. The Hercules beetle belongs to the family Scarabaeidae. It is classified as Dynastes hercules.

Bark Beetle
Blister Beetle
Boll Weevil
Bombardier Beetle
Carpet Beetle
Caterpillar Hunter
Click Beetle
Ground Beetle
Japanese Beetle
June Bug
Ladybird Beetle
Leaf Beetle
Longhorned Beetle
Metallic Wood Borer
Rose Chafer
Stag Beetle
Tiger Beetle
Water Beetle
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"Beetle," MicrosoftЃ EncartaЃ Online Encyclopedia 2007 © 1997-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.