All That Glitters May Be Beetles

Nov 22, 2013

All that glitters may be beetles--jewel beetles.

You'll want to attend the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on Saturday, Nov. 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. to bask in the theme, "Beauty and the Beetles."

The museum, located on the UC Davis campus in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, houses nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live "petting zoo" and a gift shop. The open house is free and open to the public. The museum is people friendly, family friendly and bug friendly. 

And the beetles?

"Beetles are awe inspiring because they are so different,” said Fran Keller,  who is completing her requirements this year for a doctorate in entomology. She studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

“As a human, I and the 7 billion people on the planet are only one species, Homo sapiens," Keller said. "But the insect Order Coleoptera, or beetles, has more than 360,000 species. Beetles have the greatest diversity of all the insects. Butterflies are big and showy, but beetles can be. too. On a ladybug, which is really a beetle and not a bug, those red and black spotted front wings are called elytra. Beetle elytra are not used for flying so beetles actually fly with one pair of wings. But those elytra help protect them because they can be very tough and sometimes incredibly flashy to warn off predators.”

Keller  said that “If you can think of an ecological  niche there is probably a beetle there taking advantage of the resources. Believe it or not, there is a beetle that is a parasite and lives in the butt of a beaver. Beetles are truly amazing and although I am partial to the flightless, black tenebrionids, I do collect and appreciate the beauty of all beetles. Okay, maybe I don't collect the beaver butt parasite beetle but wow, who would have thought beetles would be there!”

Keller, who noted that Darwin was an avid beetle collector and enthusiast, acknowledged that she has many "favorite groups of beetles," but "one of my favorites has to be the jewel beetles. Most of them are pests but they are very stunning, hence the name jewel beetle. There are so many different types of beetles that we know of or that have been described but there are still so many that await discovery."

So, all you beetle fans and would-be beetle fans, head over to the Bohart Museum on Saturday afternoon. There will be arts and crafts for the youngsters (and adults, too, if they wish!) Find out more here