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Beetles beetles everywhere! Well almost.

Here Nigel Grinsted tells us about these incredible insects.

You may think there are more species of butterflies, bees or ants in the world but in fact there are over 400,000 species of beetle, more than any other animal. And scientists think there may be at least another 400,000 species still to be discovered! They're mostly dull in colour, small and harmless – and they live in secluded places chewing rotten wood and vegetation – so we just don't see them often.

UK Beetles

Starting here in the UK, there are over 4,200 beetle species. But only 59 butterfly species. There are all the well known beetles like Ladybirds, Stag Beetles, Woodworm (several species), Deathwatch Beetle and Carpet Beetles (three types). The male Stag is the largest in the UK at 7.5cm long. It is quite rare but London is a stronghold.

Predatory Larvae

Like all insects, beetles grow when they are in larval (caterpillar) form. They generally feed on a wide range of organic material, depending upon the species. Some are predators, eating slugs, snails and other invertebrates.

Beetle Pests

As you would expect, some species are serious pests such as the Elm Bark Beetle which isn't a pest itself but it spreads the sac fungi which causes Dutch Elm Disease which killed 70% of Elms in the UK in the 1970s.

Most of a beetle's life is as a larva. The Stag Beetle larva can live up to seven years underground feeding mainly on rotting wood. And it can grow to 11cm long!

Bright Beetles

Most UK beetles are dullish in colour but there are exceptions:

  • Snowdon Beetle
  • Wasp Beetle
  • Ant Beetle
  • Banded Sexton Beetle

Key beetle facts:

  • They are insects.
  • They are harmless to humans.
  • The scientific name (order) for beetles is Coleoptera.
  • They have two pairs of wings.
  • The front pair of wings is hardened into protective wing cases.
  • Two beetles vie for the largest beetle in the world award: the Titan Beetle and the male Hercules Beetle. However more than half the Hercules's length is its plier like horns. The Titan Beetle is hornless. Their length is around 190mm – that's 20mm shorter than the width of an A4 page. In other words – massive!
  • Both are found in the Central America region.
  • Incredibly the larva of the Titan Beetle has never been found! That's amazing! Judging from boreholes found in wood they estimate that it's up to 300mm long and 50mm in diameter.
  • The smallest known beetle is a type of Featherwing Beetle only discovered in 1999 in Nicaragua. It's only 0.325mm long. That's minuscule.
  • Beetles haven't been found in the Arctic or Antarctica (yet?).

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