Beetles are an important part of ecosystems all over the world today. They are photophobic creatures (classified as order, Coleoptera and class, Insecta) that perform many important tasks such as scavenging, pollenization, eating other insects that are dangerous to humans, and eating the dung of many animals, preventing a buildup of toxic waste materials in the environment. Some species have been known to be pests that eat up flowers and fruit; Some species are elaborately colored and are kept as pets, while other species such as the beetles in Australia perform important tasks such as helping to control environmental hazards caused by cattle ranches. Other beetles can chew through lead, zinc, timber, or whole fields of cotton. The spotted cucumber beetles devour the entire cucumber plants and can spread bacterial diseases to the plants they attack. The Kalahari Desert’s leaf beetle produces a toxin strong enough to fell an antelope and the American burying beetle can lift 200 times its weight. On the other hand, beetles such as ladybugs are the first line of defense against insect pests such as aphids. Gardeners, farmers, and fruit-growers release thousands of them into gardens, fields, and orchards to help protect the plants. If it weren’t for beetles, acting as harvesters, caterpillars and other pests would devour thousands of acres of crops and forest trees a year. Beetles are so important that, if a beetle species is endangered, scientists see it as an early warning sign that significant environmental change is occurring.
Beetles are resilient creatures with many interesting behaviors and adaptations. For example, the ladybug’s wings are bright red-orange signaling to predators that they are extremely distasteful and dung beetles care for their grubs by making and leaving little balls of dung for them. Beetles are extremely sensitive to the types of materials which are safe for them to consume and some species are able to symmetrically produce circularly polarized light from the molecules in their hardened wings. Circular polarization is when the tip of an electromagnetic field vector displays a circular pattern as time progresses and, in animals such as beetles, is related to the bioluminescence seen in one of earths’ most recognizable beetles, the fireflies that light up summer evenings.
Another example of something in nature that has circular polarization is starlight. This phenomenon is very important to understand when it comes to making advances in biotechnology, such as bio-identifiers, which are currently being used to detect viral and bacterial infections in animals, and in creating new inventions modeled after nature.
Many scientists believe that beetles are evolution’s biggest success story with 250,000 species described and thousands of species still undiscovered. Beetles presently account for about 1 in 4 of the known animal species in existence.
These fascinating creatures have been around since the Mesozoic era, the age of the dinosaurs, when flowering plants were proliferating. They were the primary pollinators of this era and most likely encouraged the explosion of color and fragrance that occurred during this time period.