Monday 25 April 2022

Minibeast Monday - Getting to Know Your Beetles


About a quarter of all species of animal life on Earth are beetles, and there are getting on for half a million described species of them. That's a lot of beetles to sort out, so how is it done? Basically, by dividing them into smaller and smaller groups. Beetles form the order COLEOPTERA, a name coined by Aristotle about 2,350 years ago, meaning 'sheathed wing'. This refers to the fore wings of beetles which are hardened to protect the hind wings. These hard fore wings are called elytra, and distinguishes beetles from all other insects. The order COLEOPTERA is broken down into five suborders, one of which, PROTOCOLEOPTERA contains very old beetles, all of which are now extinct and there are two very small suborders: ARCHOSTEMATA which contains 45 species, and MYXOPHAGA which contains 65 species. The majority of the beetles that you meet, however, will either be in the suborder ADEPHAGA or the suborder POLYPHAGA, so let's have a look at those in more detail.


The ADEPHAGA is the smaller of the two suborders containing some 40,000 species of Ground and Water Beetles, which, as their name suggests, you'll either find running along the ground or swimming in water. (The technical difference between an Adephagan and a Polyphagan is in the way that its hind legs attach to its body.) The eleven extant families within the ADEPHAGA are:

Amphizoidae (troutstream beetles)

Aspidytidae (cliff water beetles)

Carabidae (ground beetles)

Dytiscidae (predaceous diving beetles)

Gyrinidae (whirligig beetles)

Haliplidae (crawling water beetles)

Hygrobiidae (squeak beetles)

Meruidae (Venezuelan waterfall beetle)

Noteridae (burrowing water beetles)

Rhysodidae (wrinkled bark beetles)

Trachypachidae (false ground beetles)


The POLYPHAGA contains all the other beetle species, and as there are over 350,000 other beetle species, the order is broken down into five infraorders:

Bostrichiformia (includes furniture beetles and skin beetles)

Cucujiformia (includes lady beetles, longhorn beetles, weevils, checkered beetles and leaf beetles)

Elateriformia (includes click beetles and fireflies)

Scarabaeiformia (includes scarab beetles, stag beetles, and dung beetles)

Staphyliniformia (includes rove beetles and water scavenger beetles)

The hyperlinks above have been collated from Wikipedia and will take you to the relevant beetle type. Last month, in Minibeast Monday, we looked at weevils. As you can see from the above, weevils are polyphagan beetles in the infraorder CUCUJIFORMA. As we continue to find more beetles on our Minibeast Monday safaris, I'll link back to this page so that you can see how they all fit together. These are the beetle books that are currently in the Build Your Own Nature Library

All the best,


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