Interesting Facts About Beetles: Most Widely Eaten Insects

Beetles inhabit almost all ecological niches. This group includes some of our most reviled pests, as well as our most beloved bugs. Beetles form the order Coleoptera, in the superorder Endopterygota.
Their front pair of wings, hardened into wing-cases, elytra, distinguish them from other insects. The Coleoptera has about 400,000 species. It is the largest of all orders. It constitutes 25% of all known animal life-forms and almost 40% of described insects. New species are discovered frequently.
Beetles are the largest group of all known living organisms. Even with plants included, one in five living organisms is a beetle. By estimates, there are about three million beetle species. The Coleoptera is the largest order in the animal kingdom.
According to entomologist Stephen Marshall, you can find beetles in almost every place on the earth, from pole to pole. They live in terrestrial and freshwater aquatic habitats, from beaches to mountaintops, deserts to tundras, and from grasslands to forests.
You can find beetles on some of the most remote islands. It is alleged that the British geneticist (and atheist) J. B. S. Haldane said that God must have an “inordinate fondness for beetles.” Perhaps this accounts for their presence in every corner of Earth.
Here are six interesting facts about beetles:
1. Beetles communicate in various ways, including the use of pheromones. For instance, the mountain pine beetle secretes a pheromone to attract other beetles to the tree. The mass of beetles overcomes chemical defenses of the tree.
The beetles secrete an anti-aggregation pheromone once the defenses of the tree have been exhausted. The species also stridulate to communicate.
2. Beetles were most probably the first insects to pollinate flowers. Most beetle-pollinated flowers large, greenish or off-white. They’re usually dish-shaped or flattened, with pollen very accessible, although some may have traps to keep the beetle longer. In addition, the flowers are heavily scented. Scents may be fruity, spicy, or similar to decaying organic material.
3. The beetle-like creatures in the fossil record date back to the Permian Period (about 270 million years ago). True beetles – the ones that resemble modern-day beetles – appeared around 230 million years ago.
Beetles already existed before the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea. They survived the K/T extinction event. Scientists believe that the event doomed the dinosaurs. So, how did the beetles withstand such extreme events and survive for so long? As a group, beetles can remarkably adapt to ecological changes.
4. Have you seen beetles that glow in the dark? Some beetle species produce light. A chemical reaction involving an enzyme known as luciferase produces their bioluminescence. Fireflies have a light organ on the abdomen that flashes signals to attract mates. Glowworms have many light organs, running down the sides of the abdominal and thoracic segments. Sometimes glowworms have an extra light organ on the head that glows red! Tropical click beetles also have a pair of oval light organs on the thorax and another light organ on the abdomen that produces light.
5. Beetles are the most widely eaten insects. About 344 beetle species are used as food, usually at the larval stage. The rhinoceros beetle and the mealworm (the larva of the darkling beetle) are commonly eaten.
6. In some countries, people use fighting beetles for gambling and entertainment. They exploit the mating competition and territorial behavior of some species of large beetles.
In the Chiang Mai district, northern Thailand, people catch male Xylotrupes rhinoceros beetles in the wild and train them for fighting. They hold females in a log to stimulate the fighting males with pheromones. The fights may be competitive and involve gambling property and money.

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