AskDefine | Define beetle

Dictionary Definition

beetle adj : jutting or overhanging; "beetle brows" [syn: beetling]


1 insect having biting mouthparts and front wings modified to form horny covers overlying the membranous rear wings
2 a tool resembling a hammer but with a large head (usually wooden); used to drive wedges or ram down paving stones or for crushing or beating or flattening or smoothing [syn: mallet]


1 be suspended over or hang over; "This huge rock beetles over the edge of the town" [syn: overhang]
2 fly or go in a manner resembling a beetle; "He beetled up the staircase"; "They beetled off home"
3 beat with a beetle

User Contributed Dictionary



Late bityl < bitelabiting”.




  1. Any of numerous species of insect in the order Coleoptera characterized by a pair of hard, shell-like, front wings which cover and protect a pair of rear wings when at rest.
  2. A type of mallet with a large wooden head.
  3. Nickname of two models of car made by Volkswagen.


Volkswagen car


  1. Moving away quickly, scurrying.
    He beetled off on his vacation.
  2. To loom over.
    The heavy chimney beetled over the thatched roof.

Extensive Definition

Beetles are a group of insects which have the largest number of species. They are placed in the order Coleoptera, which means "sheathed wing". The Coleoptera contains more described species than in any other order in the animal kingdom, constituting about 25% of all known life-forms. Forty percent of all described insect species are beetles (about 350,000 species while whirligig beetles simply carry an air bubble down with them whenever they dive.

Evolutionary history and classification

While some authorities believe modern beetles began about 140 million years ago, research announced in 2007 showed that beetles may have entered the fossil record during the Lower Permian, about 265 to 300 million years ago.
The four extant suborders of beetle are these:
These suborders diverged in the Permian and Triassic. Their phylogenetic relationship is uncertain, with the most popular hypothesis being that Polyphaga and Myxophaga are most closely related, with Adephaga as the sister group to those two, and Archostemata as sister to the other three collectively.
There are about 350,000 species of beetles. Such a large number of species poses special problems for classification, with some families consisting of thousands of species and needing further division into subfamilies and tribes.

Impact on humans


Many agricultural, forestry, and household insect pests are beetles. These include the following:

Beneficial organisms

  • Both the larvae and adults of some ladybirds (family Coccinellidae) are found in aphid colonies. Other lady beetles feed on scale insects and mealybugs. If normal food sources are scarce they may feed on other things, such as small caterpillars, young plant bugs, honeydew and nectar.
  • Ground beetles (family Carabidae) are common predators of many different insects and other arthropods, including fly eggs, caterpillars, wireworms and others.
  • Plant-feeding beetles are often important beneficial insects, controlling problem weeds. Some flea beetles of the genus Aphthona feed on leafy spurge, a considerable weed of rangeland in western North America.
Some farmers develop beetle banks to foster and provide cover for beneficial beetles.
Beetles of the Dermestidae family are often used in taxidermy to clean bones of remaining flesh.

Beetles in ancient Egypt and other cultures

Several species of dung beetle, most notably Scarabaeus sacer (often referred to as "scarab"), enjoyed a sacred status among the ancient Egyptians, as the creatures were likened to the major god Khepri. Some scholars suggest that the Egyptians' practice of making mummies was inspired by the brooding process of the beetle. Many thousands of amulets and stamp seals have been excavated that depict the scarab. In many artifacts, the scarab is depicted pushing the sun along its course in the sky, much as scarabs push or roll balls of dung to their brood sites. During and following the New Kingdom, scarab amulets were often placed over the heart of the mummified deceased.
Some tribal groups, particularly in tropical parts of the world, use the colourful, iridescent elytra of certain beetles, especially certain Scarabaeidae, in ceremonies and as adornment.

Study and collection

The study of beetles is called coleopterology, and its practitioners are coleopterists. Coleopterists have formed organisations to facilitate the study of beetles. Among these is The Coleopterists Society, an international organisation based in the United States. Such organisations may have both professionals and amateurs interested in beetles as members.
Research in this field is often published in peer-reviewed journals specific to the field of coleopterology, though journals dealing with general entomology also publish many papers on various aspects of beetle biology. Some of the journals specific to beetle research are:
There is a thriving industry in the collection of beetle specimens for amateur and professional collectors. Many coleopterists prefer to collect beetle specimens for themselves, recording detailed information about each specimen and its habitat. Such collections add to the body of knowledge about the Coleoptera. Some countries have established laws governing or prohibiting the collection of certain rare (and often much sought after) species. One such beetle whose collection is illegal or restricted is the American burying beetle, Nicrophorus americanus.


General references

  • Poul Beckmann, Living Jewels: The Natural Design of Beetles ISBN 3-7913-2528-0
  • Arthur V. Evans, Charles Bellamy, and Lisa Charles Watson, An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles ISBN 0-520-22323-3
  • Entomological Society of America, Beetle Larvae of the World ISBN 0-643-05506-1
  • David Grimaldi, Michael S. Engel, Evolution of the Insects ISBN 0-521-82149-5
  • Ross H. Arnett, Jr. and Michael C. Thomas, American Beetles (CRC Press, 2001-2). ISBN 0-8493-1925-0
  • K. W. Harde, A Field Guide in Colour to Beetles ISBN 0-7064-1937-5 Pages 7-24
  • White, R.E. 1983. Beetles. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY. ISBN 0-395-91089-7

Cited references

See also

  • Heteroptera - insect suborder that is superficially similar to beetles

External links

sisterlinks Beetle
beetle in Arabic: خنفساء
beetle in Guarani: Lembu
beetle in Breton: C'hwil
beetle in Bulgarian: Твърдокрили
beetle in Catalan: Coleòpter
beetle in Chuvash: Нăрă
beetle in Czech: Brouci
beetle in Danish: Biller
beetle in German: Käfer
beetle in Estonian: Mardikalised
beetle in Modern Greek (1453-): Κολεόπτερα
beetle in Spanish: Coleoptera
beetle in Esperanto: Koleopteroj
beetle in Persian: قاب‌بالان
beetle in French: Coleoptera
beetle in Galician: Escaravello
beetle in Korean: 딱정벌레목
beetle in Ido: Koleoptero
beetle in Indonesian: Kumbang
beetle in Italian: Coleoptera
beetle in Hebrew: חיפושיות
beetle in Kannada: ದುಂಬಿ
beetle in Latin: Coleoptera
beetle in Lithuanian: Vabalai
beetle in Hungarian: Bogarak
beetle in Malagasy: Borera
beetle in Malay (macrolanguage): Kumbang
beetle in Dutch: Kevers
beetle in Japanese: 甲虫類
beetle in Norwegian: Biller
beetle in Norwegian Nynorsk: Biller
beetle in Polish: Chrząszcze
beetle in Portuguese: Coleoptera
beetle in Quechua: Suntu
beetle in Russian: Жесткокрылые
beetle in Simple English: Beetle
beetle in Slovak: Chrobáky
beetle in Slovenian: Hrošči
beetle in Serbian: Тврдокрилци
beetle in Finnish: Kovakuoriaiset
beetle in Swedish: Skalbaggar
beetle in Tamil: வண்டு
beetle in Thai: ด้วง
beetle in Turkish: Kın kanatlılar
beetle in Ukrainian: Твердокрилі
beetle in Chinese: 鞘翅目

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

arachnid, arthropod, beetle-browed, beetling, bug, caterpillar, centipede, chilopod, daddy longlegs, digester, diplopod, fly, hang out, hang over, harvestman, hexapod, impend, impend over, impendent, impending, incumbent, insect, jut, jutting, larva, lean over, lowering, macerator, maggot, masher, millepede, millipede, mite, nymph, overhang, overhanging, overhung, pending, poke, potato masher, pouch, pout, project, project over, projecting, protrude, pulp machine, pulper, pulpifier, scorpion, smasher, spider, stand out, superincumbent, tarantula, thrust over, tick
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