With over 400,000 species living on Earth, various types of beetles make up a significant portion of the planet’s biodiversity. Each type possesses unique characteristics, such as armored exoskeletons and varied diets.
This article dissects the huge Coleoptera order and lists the top species for each suborder. Let us embark on a journey of discovery through the vast world of beetles worldwide.
Beetles, belonging to the order Coleoptera, are the largest group within the animal kingdom. Remarkably, they account for about 25% of all known life forms, with nearly 400,000 species described to date.
The Coleoptera order is divided into four suborders: Archostemata, Myxophaga, Adephaga, and Polyphaga. Archostemata, the smallest suborder, encompasses traditional and ancient species of beetles.
Myxophaga, on the other hand, includes tiny beetles primarily associated with an aquatic lifestyle. Next, Adephaga is a suborder mainly containing ground and water beetles exhibiting predatory habits.
Finally, the largest of all, Polyphaga, includes around 90% of all the beetle species, boasting diverse species ranging from ladybugs to weevils.
In this list, we included families from each suborder. one for Archostemata, one for Myxophaga, two for Adephaga, and 13 for Polyphaga.
Reticulated beetles sport a rectangular form and somewhat elongated shape, typically measuring 1 to 1.5 inches.
Their bodies have hardened plates, which display an intricate pattern of ridges and pits, giving them a cross-hatched appearance - a feature for which they are named.
Cupedidae is a relatively small family with around 30 known species. These beetles generally live under the loose bark of dead trees or logs in forested areas.
Skiff Beetles are tiny residents of freshwater habitats, often nestled amidst algae or stones. Distinctively, they span a mere length of 0.04 to 0.08 inches, with less than 30 described species globally.
Their compact bodies boast a streamlined shape and gleaming texture, a design tailor-made for a life spent skimming beneath the water's surface.
This type of beetle employs a natural form of scuba gear, carrying a reservoir of air beneath their wing cases to stay submerged and out of sight.
Ground beetles are diverse insects, with over 40,000 species found worldwide, including in North America. These creatures have dark-colored bodies that can appear metallic in certain lighting conditions.
Moreover, they are often difficult to spot during the day as they seek shelter under rocks, logs, and leaf litter. When night comes, they become more active.
Ground beetles and their larvae feed on smaller invertebrates, like slugs, snails, and caterpillars, which helps keep pests in check.
Apart from their role as predators, ground beetles have unique defense mechanisms to protect themselves from danger3.
Some species emit a foul odor to deter predators, while others, like the Bombardier Beetle, spray a hot, toxic chemical from their bodies for self-defense. However, these defense mechanisms do not pose any threat to humans.
Tiger Beetles are a diverse group of insects, with approximately 2,600 species worldwide. Their striking and vivid metallic colors and intricate patterns on their bodies set them apart from other beetles.
Interestingly, these types of beetles are named after their hunting style, which resembles a tiger's. They are known for their incredible speed and ability to thrive in sandy beaches, grasslands, high-altitude mountains, and lush rainforests.
Although beautiful, Tiger Beetles eat small arthropods such as ants, spiders, and caterpillars. They use their strong mandibles to catch their prey, employing a highly effective chase-and-catch strategy.
If you observe Tiger Beetles, you may see them standing on their hind legs. This strategy helps them avoid overheating on hot sand.
Ladybugs, also called Ladybird Beetles or lady beetles, display striking colors, from red and black to a mosaic of yellows, oranges, and pinks. These colors warn predators that these beetles are not an easy target2.
There are approximately 6,000 species of ladybugs worldwide. North America alone is home to nearly 500 of them.
These hardy insects have adapted to various environments, including cities, suburbs, grasslands, agricultural fields, riverbanks, and forests.
One of their most impressive abilities is their knack for regulating pest populations, particularly aphids. A single beetle can consume up to 5,000 aphids over its lifetime. Interestingly, the larvae of these beetles are also predatory.
However, Ladybird Beetles presents some challenges. For example, the Harlequin Ladybird has disrupted the ecosystem and displaced native species.
Although they do not pose a significant threat to humans, they may bite or release a pungent yellow fluid when threatened.
Related Read: Ladybug Facts.
The Scarab Beetle is a fascinating species in one of the largest families worldwide. They have unique, clubbed antennae and come in various colors and sizes.
Some scarab beetles are as small as a pinhead, barely reaching a millimeter, while others can grow to 6.3 inches.
These adaptable beetles are found in various habitats, including lush forests, expansive grasslands, harsh deserts, and thriving farmlands.
One of the types of Scarab beetles is the Dung beetle, known for its unusual reproductive strategy. These beetles lay their eggs in a small hole in the ground after rolling a ball of animal dung into it, providing their offspring with a nutrient-packed environment.
Some Scarab beetles engage in a rare behavior called 'brood care,' which involves looking after their young ones.
Dung Beetles have the unique ability to shape dung into balls. These insects live everywhere except Antarctica, with over 5,000 species. This known type of beetle prefers rolling dung balls, either for food or as a nest for their offspring.
Despite their unremarkable appearance, they contribute to soil health and nutrient recycling. They improve soil structure and drainage, indirectly benefiting the health of forests and farmlands.
Dung beetles primarily feed on feces from herbivores and omnivores, providing them with a reliable food source and helping them manage the fly population.
Using dung as food and nesting material leaves fewer opportunities for flies to lay their eggs, reducing the spread of fly-borne diseases.
Some dung beetles can also navigate using the stars, including the Milky Way.
Read more: Dung Beetle Facts.
Longhorn beetles have a vibrant mix of colors and signature 'longhorns;’ their antennae are often as long or longer than their body. These elongated beetles look eye-catching and can live in dense forests and agricultural lands.
During the larval stage, longhorn beetles feed on wood and make their homes in dead trees, logs, and stems. This behavior helps break down deadwood and cycle nutrients back into the soil.
However, it also makes these beetles a potential pest, as they can cause significant damage to trees in commercial forests and plantations.
It's worth noting that under this family is the world's largest beetle, the Titan Beetle (Titanus giganteus), a South American resident measuring up to 6.6 inches in length.
Click Beetles belong to a large family of beetles that can launch into the air by clicking. This family has over 10,000 species worldwide sporting shades of brown or shiny black.
Notably, certain members of this family have bright colors and even emit bioluminescence.
As their name implies, Click Beetles can produce a distinct 'click' sound by snapping the first section of their thorax into the second. This sound startles the predator, giving the beetle a chance to escape.
Additionally, if they end up upside down, they can flip back to their original position using the exact mechanism.
Jewel Beetles, also known as metallic wood-boring beetles, live everywhere. They belong to the Buprestidae family, which has more than 15,500 species.
One of their most remarkable features is their hardened forewings, or elytra, which reflect light and produce a stunning variety of colors, such as emerald, sapphire, and gold.
The larvae of this type of beetle feed on the nutrients in tree bark. However, this feeding habit can harm the host tree, causing its decline. However, when they age, adult Jewel Beetles switch to a nectar, pollen, and plant sap diet.
While some view these beetles as pests, they maintain ecological balance by contributing to deadwood decomposition.
Weevils from the Curculionidae family have elongated snouts that are as long as their bodies1. These snouts drill into plants and provide a safe place for female weevils to lay eggs inside the hollowed-out plant tissue.
These beetle families have over 60,000 species distributed worldwide. Despite their size, which is usually below half an inch, they have adapted to occupy various niches in the ecosystem.
Their food preferences vary among species. Some weevils eat grains, roots, leaves, or seeds, which causes conflict with humans since they attack crops.
For instance, the Boll Weevil is notorious for damaging cotton crops in the United States. Like the Vine Weevil, other weevils are a menace to vintners and gardeners.
Despite their damaging effects on crops, weevils break down plant material and recycle nutrients into the ecosystem.
You may spot Stag Beetles during summer evenings. This beetle species has antler-like mandibles, which are more prominent in males, resembling those of a stag.
These mandibles play a crucial role in wrestling matches during the mating season against other males.
Stag Beetles thrive in different environments, such as dense woodlands or urban gardens. Their preferred habitat is decaying wood, which serves as food for their larvae.
Likewise, the mother beetle lays eggs in or near rotting wood to provide a food source for her offspring. Adult beetles, on the other hand, consume tree sap and ripe fruit.
The lifespan of a Stag Beetle ranges from one to three years, depending on the species and environmental conditions.
With over 35,000 species, Leaf Beetles are one of the largest families. They come in various sizes, ranging from 0.04 to 0.71 inches, and display vibrant colors such as yellow, green, red, and blue.
This type of beetle uses their bright hues to warn predators about their toxicity. They feed on leaves, many of which are toxic to other creatures, allowing them to absorb and display the toxins externally.
They lay their eggs on leaves, and the hatched larvae feed on them until they're ready to pupate and transform into adults.
However, not all Leaf Beetles are harmless. The Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) and Striped Cucumber Beetle (Acalymma vittatum) are notorious crop destroyers.
Darkling beetles have evolved understated shades of black or brown, which have helped them to survive the moisture-laden rainforest canopy and arid deserts.
They are also known for a unique defensive behavior called "head-standing," which helps them ward off predators.
Moreover, Darkling beetles consume diverse organic matter, including decaying leaves, wood, fungi, seeds, and occasionally other insects. They act as nature's cleanup crew, recycling organic matter into the ecosystem.
Additionally, their larvae, commonly known as mealworms, are a food source for various animals. However, some mealworms have a reputation for damaging grain storage.
The Staphylinidae family is home to more than 63,000 species of beetles, commonly known as Rove Beetles. These types of beetles have elongated bodies and short elytra, which expose more than half of their abdomen.
Most of these beetles are black or brown, but a few species have vivid yellow or red streaks and mainly inhabit forests, fields, beaches, and decaying matter.
They typically measure less than 0.4 inches and have well-suited mandibles for hunting. Their varied diet includes insects, mites, spiders, and small invertebrates.
Rove Beetles defend themselves by lifting and bending their abdomen, which resembles a scorpion's pose. However, they don’t sting.
Fireflies, or lightning bugs, abound on warm summer nights. The Lampyridae family comprises over 2,000 species that can produce light. The grownups and their predatory beetle larvae, called "glowworms," emit bioluminescence.
These species use a distinctive pattern of light to communicate with potential mates. However, not all fireflies are luminescent; others, like the soldier beetles, cannot emit light.
Glowing beetles often live in warm, moist environments like marshes and ponds. They eat snails, worms, and other small insects during their initial stages.
Although the grownups usually feed on nectar and pollen, specific species stop feeding once they have matured.
The lifespan of these insects can differ significantly from a few months to a year, influenced by factors like species and environmental conditions.
The Passalidae family is home to Bess Beetles, found in forests worldwide. With around 500 species, these beetles have a shimmering armor that ranges from dark brown to black; some have a reddish-brown hue.
These robust creatures range in size from 0.8 to 1.7 inches and are a subtle yet beautiful addition to their woodland homes.
Their unique way of communication makes Bess Beetles stand out from other insects. They produce a symphony of sounds through the friction of their wings against their abdomen, known as "stridulation.”
These types of beetles display remarkable biparental care, a behavior uncommon in beetles. Both parents diligently feed their young pre-chewed wood.
Marvaldi, A. E., Sequeira, A. S., O'Brien, C. W., & Farrell, B. D. (2002). Molecular and morphological phylogenetics of weevils (Coleoptera, Curculionoidea): Do niche shifts accompany diversification?. Systematic Biology, 51(5), 761-785.
Hodek, I., Honek, A., & Van Emden, H. F. (2012). Ecology and Behaviour of the Ladybird Beetles (Coccinellidae). Wiley-Blackwell.
Rainio, J., & Niemelä, J. (2003). Ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) as bioindicators. Biodiversity & Conservation, 12(3), 487-506.