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Beetles

About 40% of all described insect species are beetles. Some estimates put the total number of species, described and un-described, at as high as 100 million, but a figure of one million is more widely accepted. The largest family is commonly thought to be the weevils or snout beetles. They are found in all major habitats, except marine and the polar regions. Some are nonspecialist detritus feeders, breaking down animal and plant debris; some feed on particular kinds of carrion such as flesh or hide; some feed on wastes such as dung; some feed on fungi, some on particular species of plants, others on a wide range of plants. Some are generalist pollen, flower and fruit eaters. Some are predatory, usually on other invertebrates; some are parasites. Many of the predatory species are important controls of agricultural pests. Beetles are also the prey of various invertebrates and vertebrates, including other insects, fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. All insects’ bodies are divided into three sections: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen.

Great Diving Beetle

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The Great Diving Beetle, is a large aquatic diving beetle native to Europe and northern Asia, and is particularly common in the UK & Ireland. The Great Diving Beetle, true to its name, is a rather sizable insect. The larvae can grow up to 60 millimeters (2.4 in) in length, while the adults are generally between 27–35 millimeters (1.1–1.4 in). These beetles live in fresh water, either still or slow running, and seem to prefer water with vegetation. They are dark-coloured (brown to black) on their back and wing cases (elytra) and yellow on their abdomen and legs. The male’s wing cases are shiny, while those of the female are finely grooved. A voracious predator, this beetle hunts a wide variety of prey including small fish & tadpoles. They are able fliers, and fly usually at night. They use the reflection of moonlight to locate new water sources. This location method can sometimes cause them to land on wet roads or other hard wet surfaces. Before they dive, they collect air bubbles in their wing cases. The jaws of a great diving beetle are strong compared to their body size & if you see one, don’t pick it up because it will bite you

Cockchafer Beetle

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This handsome chap is the common Cockchafer Beetle, also referred to as the May bug, the Spang beetle or the Billy Witch, is a large beetle (15 – 20mm) that is usually seen in late Spring and early Summer. They are attracted to artificial light and often come indoors through open windows or even down chimneys. It has a life span of only 5 – 7 weeks, however the larvae lives under the ground for 3 – 4 years. Because of their long development time as larvae, Cockchafers only appear in a cycle of every 3 or 4 years. Males can easily be distinguished from the females by counting the number of ‘leaves’ on their remarkable antler or fan-like antennae, male’s sport seven ‘leaves’ while females have only six. These leafy antennae can detect pheromones, enabling males to find females even in the dark. Cockchafers were once highly abundant until pesticide use in the mid 20th Century almost obliterated them. Thankfully they have been making a comeback since the 1980’s with the regulation of pesticides. In the pre-industrialized era, the main mechanism to control their numbers was to collect and kill the adult beetles, thereby interrupting their life cycle. In ancient Greece, young boys used to catch the unwitting cockchafer, and tether it by tying a thread around its feet, amusing themselves by watching the poor chap fly aimlessly around in spirals. NOTE: Please click here for an oil painting of the Cockchafer Beetle that was created using Photoshop CS6.

Red Palm Weevil

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The Red Palm Weevil is a species of snout beetle also known as the Asian Palm Weevil. The adult beetles are relatively large, ranging between two and five centimeters long, and are usually a rusty red colour. Weevil larvae can excavate holes in the trunk of a palm tree up to a meter long, thereby weakening and eventually killing the host plant. As a result, the weevil is considered a major pest in palm plantations. Originally from tropical Asia, the Red Palm Weevil has spread to Africa and Europe, reaching the Mediterranean in the 1980s. It was first recorded in Spain in 1994, and in France in 2006. Additional infestations have been located in Malta and Italy, and there are suspect reports suggesting that it has established along the Mediterranean coast of Portugal as well. Researchers also suspect that it has established in Morocco, Algeria and other North African countries. The Red Palm Weevil usually infests palms younger than twenty years. While the adult causes some damage through feeding, it is the burrowing of the larva into the heart of the palm that can cause the greatest mortality of trees. The adult female lays approximately two hundred eggs on new growth in the crown of the palm, at the base of young leaves, or in open lesions on the plant. The larva will feed on the soft fibers and terminal buds, tunneling through the internal tissue of the tree for about a month. The larvae leave the tree and form a cocoon built of dry palm fibers in leaf litter at the base of the tree. The total life cycle takes about 7–10 weeks. Currently, the pest is reported in almost 15% of the global coconut-growing countries and in nearly 50% of the date palm-growing countries. In these photos, if you look closely, you will notice that this beetle is carrying hundreds of babies under her head. The larval grub is considered a delicacy in much of Southeast Asia. “Sago Delight” or “Fried Sago Worms” are considered a speciality in Malaysia, although versions of this dish can be found in many Southeast Asian countries, where it is regarded as a delicacy. Sago grubs have been described as creamy tasting when raw, and like bacon or meat when cooked. They are often prepared with sago flour. In New Guinea, sago worms are roasted on a spit to celebrate special occasions.