• Christopher Stephens, MSc

Beetle World Domination

Globally, One in Four Animal Species is a Beetle

A 10-lined June beetle in Nanaimo. This scarab is an impressive North American beetle.

Beetles might seem humble. From the delightful ladybug to monstrous rhinoceros and Goliath beetles of tropical renown, these well armored insects make their way across impossibly diverse terrain as most familiar elements of the natural world.

But for beetles, taking over the planet is no theoretical matter. Unlike science fiction scenarios of aliens or artificial intelligence conquering the globe, beetles see world takeovers as a "been there, done that" matter. Beetles are just one very specific type of insect, known to scientists as the species belonging to the order Coleoptera, which are insects with frontal wings that grow out as hard wing-cases known as elytra.

Beetles are trying everything and it is working. No less than 40 percent of all insect species are beetles. Most impressive of all is the fact that beetles, which occur on all continents save for Antarctica, make up a quarter of all living animal species on the planet. Yes, 25 percent of all animals are beetles! British Columbia, Canada contains an impressive variety of native beetles as well as numerous introduced species.

The adaptations of beetles are insanely diverse and often mirror survival strategies seen in much larger and smaller animals as they fill both rare niches in the global ecosystem and more familiar ecological roles. Some beetles chase and butcher small prey with the aid of spidery legs and dreadful mandibles, others recycle dung, some wrestle for territorial dominance and many others feed on plant parts of all types.

The author photographed the 10-lined June beetle pictured in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island where it is a common sight in summer, feeding on plant material and sometimes approaching lights, which can be a fateful activity for the large insect. Measuring over 1.5 inches in length, the 10-lined June beetle, a type of scarab beetle is a showy icon among beetles in North America. It also talks! By pressing its wings against its body, air is forced out to produce an annoyed sounding hiss that may startle first time handlers. The beetle can be picked up safely by hand if one wants to rescue it from a dangerous spot, but its legs are equipped with sharp hooks that may make disengaging the beetle gently something of a challenge!


 © 2020 by Christopher M. Stephens Consulting & Writing

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