An Overview of the Coleoptera: Beetles
Asked what could be inferred about the work of the Creator from a study of His works, the British scientist J.B.S. Haldane is reported to have replied, that He has "an inordinate fondness for beetles." Some people suggest that Haldane never uttered these words, but no one can argue with the truth they contain.
Using sheer numbers as a criterion for success, beetles are the most successful animals on Earth. If a single example of every plant and animal species were placed in a row, every fifth species would be a beetle.
By the most conservative estimate, approximately 350,000 species of beetles have been described since 1758. That's an average of slightly more than four per day. Of the 27,000 species of insect in Britain, beetles are our third largest order with between 3,900 and 4,500 species.
Beetles, the largest group of insects, representing a fifth of all living organisms and a fourth of all animals, epitomise diversity. Nearly every biological strategy used by terrestrial animal life is represented in this remarkable group of animals.
The sheer size differences exhibited by beetles is phenomenal: the smallest species is less than a few millimetres long, whilst the largest beetle species, the Goliath Beetle is over 20cm in length. A large dung beetle in flight can be quite a dangerous critter: there have been many instances of a helmet-less motorcycle rider colliding with one, and the beetle actually knocking the human out cold!
Beetles are the order of insets known as the Coleoptera. Aristotle described and named them from the Greek koleon, "sheath", and pteron, "wing". This refers to their hard outer wing cases known as elytra. Beetles have 2 pairs of wings, and the elytra fold down to protect the delicate pair of membranous wings underneath. Many people do not realise that he majority of beetles can fly, and the loss of flight is a secondary evolutionary characteristic.
Beetles are not dangerous to humans: they carry no diseases and do not sting. The Blister Beetle does let off ...acid if distressed, which does burn human skin and a Longhorn beetle can bite through a pencil with one quick snap of its hugely powerful jaws, but with care and respect, a beetle will never harm a human...unless you let your little finger get to close to a Longhorn's jaws...