12 Unbelievable Beetle Species

Close-up on coleopteras

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Believe it or not, beetles represent 40 percent of all known and described insect species, a staggering statistic that's only overshadowed by another statistic: they represent about 25 percent of all life on Earth.

Due to the sheer magnitude of the species, it's not surprising to learn that there's great diversity within the order of Coleoptera, from the pincer-like mandibles of stag beetles to the gem-like hardened forewings, called elytras, of jewel beetles (pictured).

Continue on to learn more about the strange and sometimes beautiful world of beetles.

Ladybird beetles

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Let's start our brief crash course into the most remarkable Coleopteras with a look at one of the most well-known and adorable beetle species: the ladybird beetle.

Commonly known as ladybugs, these small, polka-dotted beauties are natural pest controllers — they love to feast on aphids and other insects that threaten gardens, orchards and crops.

Despite the vital role they play in agriculture, sometimes ladybirds can seem like pests themselves. During the winter months, these otherwise solitary beetles can be found cozying up to each other in massive clumps called "aggregations." These seasonal gatherings can sometimes frustrate humans since they will often gravitate in large numbers in warm houses, but these massive indoor infestations are essentially harmless. Ladybirds don't carry diseases, nor do they damage structures or lay eggs indoors.

Cockchafers

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Also known as doodlebugs or maybugs, cockchafers belong to the genus Melolontha and are easily identified by the distinctive "leaves" protruding from their antennae.

These flamboyantly coiffed beetles once existed in great numbers throughout Europe, and their voracious appetites made them a common agricultural nuisance. That is, until the rise of widespread pesticide use in the mid-20th century, which caused their numbers to experience a dramatic decline.

Despite their near eradication, tighter regulation of the pest control industry beginning in the 1980s has allowed cockchafer populations to gradually recover in some regions.

Jewel beetles

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Named for their shimmering iridescent appearance, jewel beetles of the Buprestidae family are without a doubt some of the world's most beautiful Coleopteras.

Because of this, the glossy, hardened forewings of these wood-boring insects have a long history of being used in jewelry, embroidered textiles and other decorative arts. The most common examples of the ancient craft of "beetlewing" can be found in Asian countries like China, Japan, India, Thailand and Myanmar.

Colorado potato beetles

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The brilliant orange-yellow colors and vivid patterns found on the Colorado potato beetle are certainly gorgeous, but that striking appearance belies their status as one of the most notorious pests of the potato plant.

Over the past century, farmers have tried many different kinds of pesticides to combat the beetles' voracious appetites, but due to their ability to rapidly build up resistance to chemicals, nearly all major insecticides have proven ineffective against them.

Giraffe weevils

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Endemic to Madagascar, giraffe weevils are named in honor of their elongated necks, which evolved for fighting and building elaborate nests.

As a sexually dimorphic species, female giraffe weevils have a somewhat shorter neck than males, but otherwise they look quite similar with their black limbs and bright red elytras.

Golden tortoise beetles

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With it's surreal gold-metallic and translucent elytra, this gorgeous beetle will change the way you think about insects.

It's important to note that there are two beetle species that go by the name "golden tortoise beetle." Although they both belong to the Cassidinae subfamily of tortoise beetles, they are very different.

The one pictured here is Aspidimorpha sanctaecrucis, which is endemic to Southeastern Asia. The other golden tortoise beetle, which is known scientifically as Charidotella sexpunctata, is found throughout the Americas.

Tiger beetles

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Tiger beetles are a group of about 2,600 insects distinguished by their bulging eyes and long, spindly legs, which allow them to run incredibly fast. One species, the Australian tiger beetle, can run up to 5.6 mph, making it the fastest known insect in the world.

Of course, there are some downsides to the tiger beetle's intense need for speed. According to BBC Earth, "at top speed, [the beetle's] visual system cannot keep up, and it has to slow down to see anything."

Namib desert beetles

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Unlike the other beetles mentioned, this species is remarkable not for its appearance, but for the fascinating way it survives in one of the most arid regions of the world, the Namib desert.

By situating its long hind legs to prop up its bumpy, hydrophilic back in the air, the Namib desert beetle is able to collect water rolling in on the damp breezes of the desert's early morning fog. Scientists inspired by the hydrophilic properties of the beetle's bumpy back are developing groundbreaking technology that can can harvest water from the air.

Flower chafers

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While you might assume a beautiful beetle like this was named "flower chafer" due to its colorful, vibrant appearance, that's not the case. Flower chafers get their name from their appetite for flowers — not the petals or stems, but the plant's pollen, nectar and fruit.

There are more than 4,000 species of flower chafers (many of which have yet to be described), and while a number of them are quite eye-catching, some of them are more subdued in appearance.

Longhorn beetles

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Longhorn beetles are named for their extremely long antennae, which are reminiscent of the massive horns of longhorn cattle. They're quite striking in their imago state, but as larvae, they can be major pests. These roundheaded borers, as they are called, are experts at burrowing into wood and destroying living trees, wooden homes and untreated lumber.

Of all 26,000 species of longhorns, the rare titan beetle (Titanus giganteus) is generally considered to be the largest insect in the world. Known to grow up to 6.5 inches in length, this massive beetle's mandibles are powerful enough to snap a pencil in half.

Stag beetles

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The term "stag beetle" is usually used as the common name for the most recognizable member of the species' family — Lucanus cervus (pictured). However, there are actually 1,200 different stag beetles species, all of which exhibit some form of the distinctive mandibles seen here.

As a sexually dimorphic species, a male stag beetle is equipped with a set of impressive pincer-like mandibles that are used to fight other males when competing for a mate. While the mandibles of a female stag beetle are notably smaller, they can still pack quite a painful bite if you're not careful.

Dogbane beetles

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Found throughout eastern North America, these beautiful beetles boast shiny, metallic hues and spend their days looking lovely and munching on a diet of their namesake, dogbane.

The dogbane beetle belongs to the massive family of leaf-eaters known as Chrysomelidae, making it a distant cousin to the pesky Colorado potato beetle.