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Beetle diversity
These three provide but a few examples of the great diversity of beetles in the order Coleoptera. Top photo — Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, family Chrysomelidae. Photo credit: USDA Agricultural Research Service/Scott Bauer. Middle photo — eyed click beetle, Alaus oculatus, family Elateridae. Photo credit: Leslie Mertz. Bottom photo — boll weevil, Anthonomus grandis, family Curculionidae. Photo credit: USDA Agricultural Research Service.
Click here to see examples of more beetles!

Insect Identification Key
Order Coleoptera: the beetles

Based on your answers to the questions, you have identified your insect as being in the order Coleoptera!

Members of this order include: a huge diversity of beetles, including ladybugs, fireflies, junebugs, stag beetles, weevils, burying beetles, rove beetles, click beetles, rose chafers, and many others. In fact, there are more identified species of beetles — some 350,000! — than there are insects in any other order.

Etymology: Coleoptera comes from the Greek words koleos, which means sheath, and ptera, which means wings. This refers to the hardened forewings, which are known as elytra in beetles.

General characteristics:
• two pair of wings, the forewings or elytra, and the hind wings
• hardened elytra that conceal larger, membranous hind wings when the insect is not in flight
• elytra that meet together in a straight line down the back when the insect is not in flight
• chewing mouthparts
holometabolous metamorphosis (egg — larvapupa — adult)

Number of species worldwide: more than 350,000 known species (this is the largest insect order by far)

Click here to see examples of more beetles!

Classification :
Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Class Insecta
         Order Coleoptera

For a list of all of the orders in this key, click here: List of Orders.

Classification note: Do not be fooled by common names, which can lead you astray when you are identifying insects. For instance, fireflies aren’t flies and ladybugs aren’t bugs: Both are beetles. The true flies are in the order Diptera, and the true bugs are in the order Hemiptera.

Oops! If this doesn’t appear to be the order for your insect, go back through the key and look more carefully at your insect while answering the questions again. Your perseverance will reward you!

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Unless noted otherwise, photographs on this website are the property of the photographers and may not be reused without written permission from the photographers. To obtain permission, email the photographers here. High-resolution versions of the photographs are available.

Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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