Beetle: Groups, Morphology and Reproduction

He Beetle beetle Is an insect belonging to the order of Coleoptera. It is characterized by using its legs to create and push balls or balls of excrement that later will use to feed itself or its larvae.

The scientific name of the beetle is Scarabaeus viettei or Scarabaeus laticollis . In some Andean regions it is also known as Acatangas. These beetles generally have an oval shape, two pairs of wings, legs with great force, compound eyes and chewing mouth pieces between which are the jaws.

Ball-bearing beetles kneading a manure

The beetle family, to which the beetle belongs, is given different names throughout the world. In Colombia, for example, they are known as cucarrones, while in Venezuela they are called congorochos. In other countries they call them sanjuaneros, ladybugs or weevils, among others.

The beetle players live on all continents of the planet, except in Antarctica. Their habitats are very different, as they can be found in farmland, forests, prairies, and even deserts, although they do not prefer extremely dry or cold climates.

Beetle groups and feeding

The beetles are divided into three basic groups, depending on how they use the manure they find:

On the one hand, there are those that form balls of manure and make them roll away from the pile. Then they dig holes in the ground and bury the balls there. They use the balls to deposit their eggs or to chew them later.

There is also a group of ballistic beetles that build tunnels underneath the pile of excrement. There they bury the extracted excrement, as if it were a treasure.

Finally, there are those beetles that live directly in the piles of manure and do not form dung balls or dig tunnels.

Unlike other types of beetles, which feed on fruits, fungi or live plants, ballerina beetles find all the necessary nutrients in the excrement of other animals.

This is because, when a large animal chews and swallows plants or some other type of food like meat, some pieces pass through the digestive tract without decomposing completely. The beetle uses this type of waste and feeds on the nutrients found there.

Most of the beetle players will prefer the manure of herbivorous animals, that is, that they eat only plants; But there are also some who will use and eat the excrement of omnivorous animals, who feed on both meat and plants.

Thanks to the great smell that has developed, the beetle driller will find more easily excrement and piles of dung.


The beetle belongs to the coleopteran insect family, being classified inside this in the order of the superior insects or those that have a complete metamorphosis. This kind of metamorphosis consists of four phases and is known as holometabolism. The developmental stages are, in sequential order: embryo, larva, pupa and imago (adult specimen).

In addition, the beetle belongs also to the superorder endopterigoto, which includes all the insects that completely carry out the last three phases and that develop the wings in the stage of the pupa.


Coleoptera have about 375,000 different insect species. This order contains more species than any other in the animal kingdom, which entails finding specimens belonging almost anywhere on planet earth. Exceptions are the oceans and Antarctica, although the vast majority will be found in tropical forests.

The earliest fossilized specimen dates back 265 million years and belongs in the late Paleozoic era, during the geological time scale known as Permian. This specimen was found in 1995.

Coleoptera have different sizes. There are specimens that measure around 0.3 millimeters and others that reach 15 centimeters, as is the case of the goliath beetle or the hercules beetle.

They can communicate with both chemical signals, using pheromones, and through auditory or visual signals.

The borer beetle shares this order along with other kinds of beetles such as the hercules beetle, which has tongs that can measure between 2 and 5 centimeters in length.

The hercules beetle has great strength compared to the size of its body, because it manages to load the equivalent of 850 times its body weight. The beetle, for its part, is capable of carrying about 1140 times its body weight.

Body structure of the beetle borer (morphology)

Although there are differences in body size between different beetle species (from 2mm to 30mm), all of them generally have three well differentiated body segments: head, thorax and abdomen.

The size also varies depending on which group they belong to, whereas the ball beetles that inhabit the excrement stacks are usually smaller and longer than those that form manure balls or those that dig tunnels.

The color of the beetle is very diverse and varies depending on the species. Most are black or have dark tones, but some, such as the rainbow ball beetle ( Phanaeux vindex ) Have a wide range of bright and metallic colors. These more colorful species are found mainly in the tropics.


The beetle has in its head sclera, united by sutures, that form a solid ensemble. These sclerites resemble an armor, as they form part of the exoskeleton (or outer skeleton) of the beetle and protect it from the environment.

In addition to this cuirass, the beetles have a pair of compound eyes, antennae on the sides of the head and various mouthparts, among which are the jaw characteristics. These buccal parts (jaws, jaws, and lip) have been adapted in a way that allows the beetle to properly obtain and absorb nutrients from the excrement.


The thorax of the beetle players, as in different coleopteran species, is composed of three segments, known as protórax, mesothorax and metathorax. The prothorax is visibly differentiated and houses the first pair of forelegs or legs. The second pair of legs is found in the mesothorax, which is attached directly to the metathorax. Finally, the metathorax houses the third pair of legs.

Some of these legs have specialized to dig tunnels or roll the manure balls, depending on the species and the group to which the beetle belongs.

The beetle shows the wings and elytra in the thorax and abdomen. The elytra are the first pair of wings of the beetle. These are modified, rigid and mesothoracic wings that can not be folded. They are used as protection for the thorax, abdomen and shelter the second pair of wings that the beetle uses to fly.

Not all beetle species can travel long distances in the air and it is more common to find them traversing the ground with their legs. In some species, the first pair of wings is solidified, which makes it impossible for the beetle to be able to deploy its second pair of wings to fly and drift in the atrophic of the wings.


The abdomen is the third major segment in the body of the beetle. The upper part is covered by the elytra and the lower part forms the belly. In males, the abdomen is composed of 10 distinct segments, while in females it is 8 or 9.

The segments in the abdomen are more flexible than the thorax and the head, which allows the beetle better movement. In the abdomen, in addition, is the reproductive apparatus or genitalia.

Depending on their habitat, the beetle may have differences between species. In some of them, the male has horns on the head or thorax.

Those species that inhabit places like the desert have developed hairs on their legs, which facilitates them to move through the sand. Finally, we know of species of ball bearer beetles that use the light reflected by the moon and the light of the constellations to orient themselves.


The beetle reproduces sexually. During mating seasons, females release pheromones or generate strong sounds that attract the attention of males. Subsequently a short courtship ritual is generated that will lead to mating, moment where the male will climb the back of the female.

After mating, the female will deposit a single egg per ball of manure. These balls are usually buried in holes created by both beetles. The female, then, will remain next to the dung ball, polishing, giving shape and avoiding the growth of molds harmful to the larvae that will soon be born.

In some cases the female will maintain her place next to the ball of manure until the larva's birth.

Environmental impact

The beetle plays a prominent role in agriculture. Thanks to the collection and subsequent burial of excrement by this species, the quality of the soil is increased, as it is provided to the soil of essential nutrients that result in a better structure.

In addition, beetle beetles are highly prized because they protect various types of livestock by removing manure that could serve as a breeding site for pests such as flies.

In habitats such as tropical forests, the beetle also helps the growth of new trees. When an animal eats some fruit, it ingests seeds that will end up in its excrement. This is where the beetle enters the action, using the excrement that contains the seeds and in many cases spreads or buries with the ball of manure, making the seeds can germinate.

In culture

The beetle has been part of the culture of different human societies and peoples. It has appeared as much in the mythology, traditions, rituals, as in the literature throughout the world.

Ancient Egypt

In Ancient Egypt, the beetle or Scarabaeus sacer Was associated with the resurrection and the god Khepri, who represented the rising sun and constant transformation. From there is derived the name that the Egyptians gave, in hieroglyphics, to the beetle borer:"ḫpr"that means"to transform".

The ancient Egyptians watched the boulder beetle move the dung ball to the place of burial. They associated this with the movement of the sun (also spherical) across the sky and to the myth of the god Khepri, who believed they pushed the sun down to the underworld, and every morning made it emerge (from this movement derives its name:"kheper "Which means"to emerge").

The beetle has an important place in Egyptian culture. Appears in the call Book of the Dead And in the Amduat , Or the book of those who are in the underworld. When the ancient Egyptians performed mummifications, they placed an amulet shaped like a beetle on the body, in order to generate a counterweight during what they considered the final judgment.

However, amulets shaped like a beetle were not only used in mummification. They were also one of the most popular symbols, being used in many situations and rites. Some pharaohs even incorporated the name of the beetle into his name.

In the literature

The beetle appears in various literary pieces throughout history. For example, Hans Christian Andersen , Author Danish, mentions to the beetle player in its text"The beetle player".

On the other hand, Franz Kafka , In the novella Metamorphosis Tells us how Gregory Samsa awakens a morning turned into a monstrous insect. In one section of the story, one of the characters associates Samsa with a beetle.

The renowned American author Edgar Allan Poe Uses it as the center point in the story The Gold Bug . This story tells the adventure of Legrand, Jupiter and the narrator to find a golden beetle that seems to be the key to finding a hidden treasure.


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  6. John Roach. News National Geographic. (July 2, 2003). Dung beetles navigate by the moon, study says. Retrieved from
  7. Edgar Allan Poe (1843) The golden bug. U.S. Obtained from
  8. Christoph Benisch, (2007). Beetle Morphology. Retrieved from

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