Beetles make up a quarter of all the species on Earth, with more than 350,000 known types. Beetles are in the order coleoptera, which is further divided into four suborders. The Adephaga suborder includes ground, tiger, whirligigs and predacious diving beetles while the larger polyphaga suborder includes carrion beetles, water pennies, fireflies and the famous lady bugs.
Beetles are known for their hard, shelled bodies, but sometimes these shells are actually soft. Beetles can either have hairy or smooth bodies and are usually dark brown or black in color, although there are some that are blue, red and green. Full-grown beetles can be up to 8 inches in length.
The main components of a beetle's body are the antennae, mouth parts, wings and legs. Different species of beetles have different types of antennae, including thread-like, comb-like, saw-toothed, feather-like and clubbed. Some antennae are segmented and some are elbowed. The beetle's mandible, or jaw, is perfect for biting and chewing. They are usually very big and some species even use their mandibles for defense. Beetles have two sets of wings, a pair in the front and a pair in the back. The wings located in the back are soft and meant for flying. Beetles also have three pairs of legs, which are used for running, grabbing, digging and swimming.
The life cycle of a beetle is very complex and includes an egg, larva, pupa and adult stage. They also go through a complete metamorphosis. Adults take care of their larvae in certain beetle species. Both male and female beetles cooperate in the nest-building process. Most beetles usually complete their full life cycle and become adults in one to two years. However, there are some beetles that take 30 years to complete their life cycles.
Beetles are scavengers and hunters. They consume plants, dead animals, fungi and other small insects. Some beetles are parasitic, meaning they live off the blood of other mammals or insects.