|Family Scarabaeidae - Scarab Beetles|
Many scarabs are scavengers that help recycle dung, carrion, and decaying plants. Others are agricultural pests (e.g., the Japanese beetle). The scarab family has 1300 North American species.
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The ancient Eyptians worshipped a scarab beetle, Scarabaeus sacer, as the incarnation of their sun god, Ra. The species' habit of rolling a dung ball for use as a larval food was analogous to the sun being rolled across the sky.
The scarab beetle's distinctive antennae are tipped with leaflike plates called lamellae, that can be drawn into a compact ball, or fanned out when sensing pheromones or aromas. The front tibia are evolved for digging. Many scarabs are scavengers that help recycle dung, carrion, and decaying plants. Others are agricultural pests (e.g., the Japanese beetle). The scarab family has 1300 North American species.
Japanese beetles can feed on about 300 species of plants, ranging from roses to poison ivy. Odor and location in direct sun seem to be very important factors in plant selection. The beetles usually feed in groups, starting at the top of a plant and working downward. While a single beetle doesn't eat much; group feeding by many causes severe damage. Adults feed on the upper surface of foliage, chewing out tissue between the veins. This gives the leaf a characteristic skeletonized appearance.
A few beetles on plants, or some moderate damage, will bring in more. Japanese beetles apparently produce aggregation pheromones that will attract more males and females to feed and find potential mates. In addition, volatile odors from damaged plants may attract more beetles.
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Order Coleoptera: Beetles are the dominant form of life on earth: one of every five living species is a beetle. Coleoptera is the largest order in the animal kingdom, containing a third of all insect species. There are about 400,000 known species worldwide, ~30,000 of which live in North America. Beetles live in nearly every habitat, and for every kind of food, there's probably a beetle species that eats it.
Beetles first appeared during the lower Permian period, about 270 mya
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