View previous topic | View next topic


Page 2 of 5
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next

2310.  Thu Nov 27, 2003 7:41 pm Reply with quote

Beetle specialists are called coleopterists. There are about 2,000 of them scattered across the globe, which is isn't very many when you discover there are 500 myrmecologists (ant specialists) who only have 8,000 species to worry about.

On the other hand, if all all the world's coleopterists were to turn up in South Kensington armed with boxes of stainless steel pins they could knock the re-pinning job off in a couple of months.

2315.  Thu Nov 27, 2003 7:55 pm Reply with quote

The article in the Sunday Times was written by AA Gill, an unlikely candidate for crypto-coleopterist. He became fascinated when he brought a couple of specimens back from the Makarikari salt pans in the middle of the Kalahari, amazed that anything could survive in such hostile conditions. They turned out to be identified beetle no 450, 001 - Carabidae pogonus gillae (Gill's salt beetle).

Gill is very good on beetles:

They do just what they say on the box... beetles embody all the talents of the middle classes. They are not aristocratic, vain esoterics, like butterflies and moths, or communists, like ants and bees. They're not filthy, opportunistic carpbetbaggers like flies. They are professional, with a skill. They're built for a job, and get down to it without boastfulness or hysteria. And there is nowhere that doesn't sooner or later, call in a beetle to set up shop and get things done.

2316.  Thu Nov 27, 2003 8:13 pm Reply with quote

Ever wondered how you collect beetles? Rest easy - all you need is a 'pooter':

This from an excellent site run by an amateur herpetologist called Frog

This is a glass or plastic bottle with a cork or rubber stopper through which two glass tubes pass. One tube is a mouthpiece. It is bent over at right angles and passes just through the cork. The other tube is straight, but it passes to nearly the bottom of the bottle. On its outer end a piece of flexible rubber tubing is attached. The end of this tubing is placed near the insects to be collected while sucking sharply on the mouthpiece. The bugs will be drawn into the bottle. To prevent eating the insects yourself, a piece of cotton or cheesecloth can be placed in the mouthpiece.

The cheesecloth is a nice touch. Especially if you're sucking up bombadier beetles.

2321.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 2:52 am Reply with quote

Ah, Signor Mennochio un'accoglienza calda!

Thanks for the update on beetle numbers. The insect encyclopaedia from which my factoids were drawn was published in 1986. If 150,000 species have been identified in the last 15 years, that's an average beetle-discovery rate of 1.1415 beetles an hour.

It would be quite interesting to see a graph on this. If only we knew how many beetles had been identified in 1699, or for that matter how many beetles Aristotle described....

The AA Gill quote is top-notch and has been entered into the QI QUotations file.

Might Gill be a good guest on the BBC4 QI?

Jenny. On Bombadier beetles. The unofficial QI position on the creationism v evolutionism debate (wrangle?) is that the Theory of Evolution is (and will always remain) just that a theory. By its very nature, it can never become a Law because, though it appears to describe events, it cannot predict them.

Apart from the rage and tedium inevitably generated by taking one side or another, QI prefers to keep an open mind...just as we do (as you know) on God.

Incidentally, I think there's a typo in the first sentence of your post which might be worth correcting...

Last edited by JumpingJack on Fri Nov 28, 2003 2:56 am; edited 1 time in total

2323.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 2:53 am Reply with quote

Well...some of us do.

2324.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 3:00 am Reply with quote

Male beetles are frequently smaller than females, but have larger feet.

They use these to grip the elytra and thorax of their spouses when mounting them.

My source does not say whether or not they take their socks off.

s: ERI

2326.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 3:17 am Reply with quote

More detail on bombardier beetles.

The chemical spray that the bombardier beetle releases from the nozzle at the tip of its abdomen is boiling hot and has a blistering effect on the skin. Much of the liquid is converted into an cloud of irritant gas, resembling a tiny puff of smoke.

This is enough to frighten off both ants and toads.

The beetle's resemblance to a miniature gun-turret is further increased by its ability to swivel and shoot with remarkable accuracy in any direction: sideways, forwards or backwards, and by the fact that the spray is released in regular pulses. The insect can continue firing for quite a long time before it runs out of ammo.

Apart from its spray, the rest of the bombardier beetle is non-toxic. Certain mice grab the beetles and jam their business ends into the sand into which their weapon discharges harmlessly (and helplessly) as the mice eat the beetle from the head downwards.

s: ERI

2327.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 3:17 am Reply with quote

Interesting to wonder whether the mice evolved this ability, or whether it is learned...

2329.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 3:34 am Reply with quote

Spanish Fly should really be called Spanish Beetle.

Two families of beetles the Oedemeridae and the Meloidae (such as the South African oil beetles Mylabris oculata) produce cantharidin a deadly poisonous chemical they use to protect their eggs.

Cantharidin is highly toxic - a few mg are sufficient to kill a human being - but it much sought after as the active ingredient of the supposed aphrodisiac 'Spanish Fly' (normally extracted from the European beetle Lytta vesicatoria).

Death by aphrodisiac may in fact be much commoner than once thought.

Cantharidin is also harvested from beetles by the pharmaceutical industry. It is highly effective as a wart-remover.

s: ERI s: s:

Last edited by JumpingJack on Sun Nov 30, 2003 3:29 am; edited 1 time in total

2330.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 3:50 am Reply with quote

The larvae of the leaf beetle Polyclada flexuosa are so poisonous that the San Bushmen of the northern Kalahari desert use them to tip their hunting arrows.

They dig out the cocoons (inside which the larvae can remain dormant for several years) from the sand, where they are buried as much as three feet deep, and squeeze the contents of up to ten larvae onto the arrow.

The poison is applied to the foreshaft of the arrow, not to the tip itself, to avoid the hunter accidentally scratching himself. The poison can retain its potency for up to a year.


Frederick The Monk
2332.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 4:40 am Reply with quote

The short circuit beetle (of the bostrichid family) gnaws holes in lead-sheathed telephone cables, allowing moisture to enter and hence causing electrical short circuits. Adds a whole new spin to the phrase 'eat lead and die'.

The smallest insects in the world are hairy winged beetles (family Ptilidae) and the fairyflies (parasitic wasps of the family Mymaridae), which measure only about .001 inch and can easily fly through the eye of a needle.

The Egyptian scarab is ther world's strongest insect, capable of lifting 850 times its own weight.

During the building of the Panama Canal a doctor performed an emergency operation using the light given off by a large luminous click beetle (Pyrophorus notiluca) because all other sources of light had failed.

The shiny wing covers of metallic woodboring beetles were collected by the thousands and used by the ancient Incas to make ceremonial costumes.

Two hundred seventy-eight Japanese beetles were once counted on a single apple.

The African Goliath beetle, Goliath goliath, is the heaviest beetle (insect) in the world and weighs 100 grams (3.5 ounces) - the same as 33 pennies.


2334.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 6:02 am Reply with quote

Can't have a beetle thread without the oblig quote from JBS Haldane:

What has the study of biology taught you about the Creator, Dr. Haldane? Im not sure, but He seems to be inordinately fond of beetles.

And I'll pile on some beetle names from
Ytu brutus Spangler, 1980 (water beetle)
Enema pan (Fabricius), 1775 (rhinoceros beetle)
Colon rectum Hatch, 1933 (leiodid beetle) Also Colon grossum Hatch, 1957, Colon monstrosum , and others

2344.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 10:27 am Reply with quote

Incidentally, I think there's a typo in the first sentence of your post which might be worth correcting...

Reminds me of the old joke about the new arrival at the Pearly Gates announcing himself as 'it is I', and St Peter groaning 'Oh God - another bloody English teacher...'

Do you want me to tell you why there should be a comma after 'which' in your sentence? I thought not.

If you check out this website, you will find many beetles served as what they describe as 'a salty and unusual snack' from rural Thailand:

The first fossils related to modern beetles are from the Lower Permian of Moravia (about 275 million years ago). Coleoptera in a more precise sense first appear in the Upper Permian (about 250 million years ago).

The smallest beetle is Nanosella fungi - Ptiliidae - 0.25 mm and weight 0.4 mg

Some species of wood-boring beetles (Cerambycidae and Buprestidae) have the longest recorded life cycle. Eburia quadrigeminata (Cerambycidae), when feeding in dry wood, may have its development so greatly slowed that adults emerge from furniture and flooring many years after manufacture. The record in a birch bookcase is 40 years. Records for Buprestis aurulenta range from 26-51 years

These and other fascinating beetle facts in

2346.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 10:37 am Reply with quote

According to the University of Florida book of Insect Records ( not all beetles breed fast.

Perhaps fortuitously, among these is the tsetse fly, Glossina palpalis, which only produces 6-12 larvae in its lifetime. The louse fly only produces 4-5 larvae in its lifetime. Although these flies are not related, they have evolved very similar feeding and reproductive strategies. Both feed on mammalian blood and give birth to live young. Females produce one egg at a time, and nurture it in a uterus, where it feeds on a 'milk gland' inside the mother. When it is born, the larva pupates almost immediately, so in beetle terms it is like giving birth to teenagers. Thus although the reproduction rate is low, the survival rate is very high because of the degree of protection involved.

Dung beetles, especially scarabeid beetles of the genus Phanaeus produce about six offspring in their lifetime. The young are nurtured in elaborate brood chambers in which each egg is placed on a ball of dung on which the growing larva feeds, and encapsulated in clay which protects the larva from predators. The low rate of reproduction is probably because of the time and effort needed to raise each larva (sounds like humans, doesn't it?)

Source - University of Florida Book of Insect Records, chapter 17

2350.  Fri Nov 28, 2003 11:31 am Reply with quote

Yum, yum:

Cochineal extract is a coloring extracted from the eggs of the cochineal beetle, which lives on cactus plants in Peru, the Canary Islands, and elsewhere. Carmine is a more purified coloring made from cochineal. In both cases, the actual substance that provides the color is carminic acid. These colorings, which are extremely stable, are used in some red, pink, or purple candy, yogurt, Campari, ice cream, beverages, and many other foods, as well as drugs and cosmetics. These colorings have caused allergic reactions that range from hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. It is not known how many people suffer from this allergy. [...] Natural or synthetic substitutes are available. A label statement should also disclose that, Carmine is extracted from dried insects so that vegetarians and others who want to avoid animal products could do so.


Page 2 of 5
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next

All times are GMT - 5 Hours

Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group