To describe beetles in a very artistic manner, you would probably go with ‘the biggest insect in a shining armor’. Often seen in trees and shrubs, beetles come with apples and persimmons when we try to reap such fruits. As we have all seen, and most probably touched, these insects are distinctively known to have such exoskeleton or bones which will serve as a framework of their body- but just on the outside.
Like any other insects, beetles have the usual body parts. They are composed of a head, an abdomen with six legs, two pairs of wings, and a thorax. Nothing is really extraordinary about beetles compared to other insects, but they are found to have tough jaws. Now, we know, if you believe in the idea of evolution, those living things now have their current physical appearances for adaptation. From here we could get good hypotheses of what do beetles eat.
What does a beetle eat?
Some insects, such as mosquitoes, lice and bed bugs, feed on blood. Some feed on smaller insects and play the predator in the predator-prey biological relationship. Some feed on animal dung and carcasses. On the other hand, some insects are herbivores; just like the beetles. So, if ever you have thought that beetles most probably gnaw and eat hard objects, you are right. Their favorite meals include leaves, wood, and fruits. You will never have to wonder why you also reap beetles when you reap the fruits in your backyard now because you already know that as much as you want these fruits, they also want it.
But not all beetles only eat plants. Some of them eat plants and animals- or which you may call as omnivores. Some beetles, however, only eat a specific plant and nothing else! Cereal leaf beetles are good examples of this. They only consume cereal crops, hence, the name they have. It is also interesting to know that some of them feed on smaller preys, such as the rove beetles. These are the types of carnivorous beetles which feed on snails, earthworms, and other smaller living things around them. Some beetles, on the other hand, serves as a decomposer. Coprophagous beetles, which we commonly call as scarab beetles prey on dead plants and tree trunks while Necrophagous beetles, or carrion beetles, prey and on dead animals’ carcasses.
What to feed a pet beetle?
Because of their generalist eating habit, pet beetles such as rhinoceros beetles and ladybugs may be introduced to eating fruits, honey, live insects such as aphids and much more. There are specialized types of stores that you can even order and buy formulated feeds for your pet beetles.
If you own or planning to own a captive beetle, make it sure that you are mimicking its natural environment by placing leaves, twigs or bark in its cage. Beetles thrive in a humid environment so you have to occasionally spray a small amount of water to the leaves on its cage if it dries out.
Give your beetle adequate supply of water. Do not use bottle caps in giving them water. Using bottle caps may increase the chance that you pet beetles will drown on the water. Give them wet cotton balls or wet paper towel instead.
Now that we have shed light to some of the beetles’ physiology, let us deal with the different types of beetles next.
Research shows that there are approximately 12,000 kinds of beetles. Of course, it is impossible to name all of them in this article, but here are some common beetles that you might have seen in your backyard.
You might not believe it, but lady bugs are classified taxonomically under the order Coleoptera, making them a part of the beetle family. They grow up to 0.8-18 mm in length, and their wings come in different colors such as red, orange and scarlet, often adorned with black spots on them. Ladybugs, or ladybirds, or lady beetles, in some other countries, are helpful to the environment because they feed on green lice which we treat as pests.
Yes, fireflies are also considered as a part of Coleoptera, and they are those flying insects with seemingly twinkling light from their lower abdomen you see during twilight. Scientifically speaking, this mechanism is called bioluminescence, where fireflies produce cold light with colors varying from red or green or yellow to attract mates.
However, compared to other families under the same order, fireflies are soft-bodied. Others of its type prey on slugs and other smaller animals; while others feed on nectar or plant pollen. This makes them helpful in pollination and getting rid of excessive slugs in our garden.
Colorado potato beetles
Grows up to 10mm long, Colorado potato beetles are the most popular potato pest. Its physical appearance contains bright orange and yellow stripes which serve as their defense mechanism from predators. This type of beetle got its name from the smoky mountains where it was first discovered and from the food they eat. It became the most destructive potato pest in 1840.
Cereal leaf beetles
As stated earlier, cereal leaf beetles got their name from the food they consume. These 5 mm long beetle with vibrant blue wings and red legs are known to eat cereal crops such as barley and wheat. They can also strive with corn and wild oats, and make the farm itself their home. One of the characteristics of beetles is that they tend to settle in a place where they have abundant food, and of course, farmlands are the most conducive place for such. Cereal leaf beetles rapidly increase in number due to the favorable conditions of their environment.
Apparently, beetles can also affect humans in a negative way. Take the deathwatch beetle as an example. The ticking sound it makes to attract a mate has been associated with death for years. The belief that hearing the sound deathwatch beetles make is an omen for death and most likely, a sign that you will soon be dead has been infamous for years.
Where do beetles live?
Beetles are the most successful order in the insect world because of their ability to adapt to their environment. Beetles can live in almost all kinds of environment. They can live in the land, they can live underground and even in water! So as long as there is food that beetles eat in a particular place, beetles can actually live there!
Beetles have long been a part of the insect class. Some of them are beneficial to the abiotic and biotic components of the environment, and some of them are not. Others look at them as a destructive pest, a decorative gem, or a tasty meal. And, like the numerous benefits and the prowess of destruction that they have, if one would want to study about them, they will find out that beetles are wonderful insects whose existences create an undeniable aesthetics and challenge to biology, to science and to our world.