Beetles

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Beetles, known technically as coleoptera, form the largest order of insects, running to more than 350,000 different species worldwide and about 4,000 in Britain. Beetles are easy to recognise because their front wings form a tough cover for their bodies, like a suit of armour.

Most beetles can fly, but spend little time doing so. Leaving aside the water beetles that have chosen an aquatic life, their home is the ground and vegetation that serves as cover.

The largest British beetle is the stag beetle, most likely to be seen in early summer when the males fly around clumsily looking for mates.

The glow-worm is spectacular in another way: the female is wingless and at night produces a greenish light to attract males.

Tiger and ground beetles are fast-moving hunters that emerge at night to prey on other insects, some of which gardeners regard as pests.

Ladybirds are among the most colourful beetles and again useful to gardeners, because their young feed voraciously on aphids.

Other beetles are less attractive in their feeding habits, such as the dor beetle that feeds on dung, but no less useful because otherwise the countryside might be knee deep in the stuff.

All these are sizeable insects, but many beetles are very small, such as the soldier beetles found on flower heads.


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