Beetles - Interesting Facts

  • Common expressions using beetles:
    • Really grubby (referring to beetle larvae living in the dirt)
    • Glow little glow-worm
    • Like a duck on a June Bug
  • Early Egyptians perceived the Earth as a bolus of feces, pushed through the universe by a dung beetle, and used this beetle as the image for their sun god, Khepera.

These beetles represented regeneration and renewal, as well as the soul emerging from the body, and images of Scarabs, or June Beetles, were always figured on mummy cases and were worn as jewelry on bracelets or pendants.

  • Another interpretation is that the dung rolling of beetles reminded the Eqyptians of the sun “rolling” across the sky each day.
  • Other Egyptian mythology and beetles:
    • Metallic wood boring beetles – the story of the goddess Isis bringing back to life the warrior Odyssus.
    • Click Beetles – their thorax is shaped like the shield of ancient soldiers
  • The Bombardier Beetles are capable of shooting jets of intense, burning acid at their attacker, with remarkable accuracy and at a rate of 500 to 1000 pulses of acid per second, and a temperature of 100 degrees Centigrade.
  • Dung beetles recycle animal manure. The male dung beetle gathers manure into a ball and offers it to a prospective mate, who judges his worth by the size of the ball of manure. If acceptable, the two beetles then roll the dung ball to a site where it is buried, thus giving them the name “dung rollers”. Eggs are laid and the beetle’s larvae eat this fine feast.
  • Dung beetles were imported into Australia to eliminate the droppings of millions of cattle that were beginning to ruin the land there.
  • One fourth of ALL known species of plants and animals are beetles. There are well over 330,000 different species of beetles.
  • Pound for pound the largest insect is a beetle, probably a Goliath Beetle from New Zealand. It may grow as large as 4.4 inches long and weigh 3.5 oz. In length, a South American species of long-horn beetle is well over 6 inches long.
  • Some of the tiniest of insects in the world are beetles – the “feather-winged” beetles and the “battledore-wing fairy fly” beetles are smaller than some species of single celled protozoa.
  • Rhinoceros beetles are called that due to the extraordinary horns on the males. These are not their jaws, but are used only for fighting each other to lay claim to a female.

Beetles are the designated “state insect” in 8 states:

  • Ladybugs – Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio
  • Lightning Beetle – Pennsylvania
  • Firefly – Tennessee

Beetle larvae are commonly eaten in many countries:

  • In Ancient Rome beetle larvae of Stag Beetles and Long-horned Beetles were considered delicacies, tasting much like roasted almonds and an aroma of vanilla.
  • An Indian king considered certain kinds of roasted larvae to be the finest of desserts to serve to his guests.
  • Larvae of large weevils, June beetles, or long-horn beetles are staples in the diets of native peoples in South America, Australia, and Asia.
  • Tiger Beetles are used in Mexico, soaked in water or alcohol to ferment them, and served as a “stimulating” beverage.
  • Beetles may be used medicinally as well:
  • Cantharidin is extracted from Blister Beetles, and is used for removal of skin growths. In past times it was used as a diuretic, and some kinds even were packaged as a product used as an aphrodisiac, taken from the “Spanish Fly” beetle – Lytta vesicatoria. Cantharidin is highly toxic and potentially fatal if ingested.
  • Toxalbumin is a toxin removed from certain leaf beetles, and used by South African natives to make poison arrows.
  • Ladybird beetles once were dried and ground into powder, to be used to control toothaches under the name “Pulvis dentifricius” (tooth powder). Larvae of a weevil called Larinus also were used for toothaches, carried in a calamus around the neck. It was necessary to have only an uneven number of the larvae for it to be effective.

Rhinoceros beetles may be the strongest animals in the world, with some capable of lifting 850 times their own weight. Stag beetles are able to drag an object 120 times their own weight, ants can carry 50 times their weight, and honeybees fly along with pollen loads up to 24 times their weight.

  • Click Beetles are called this because of their ability to propel themselves into the air. A spine between two grooves on their underside allows them to “snap’ themselves as high as 6 inches if they somehow find themselves on their backs, eventually getting them back onto their feet.
  • Fire Flies really aren’t flies. They are beetles which have several segments of their abdomen that can produce light on demand. There are other kinds of beetles that can produce bright lights as well, such as the Click Beetles found in the American Southwest and tropical Latin America, on which there are two spots that produce light.