Almost everywhere except oceans, seas, and Antarctica.


Almost everywhere, but most abundant in tropical rain forests.


Beetles are the largest group in the Animal Kingdom, representing about a fourth of all animals. Currently, more than 350,000 beetle species have been identified. Yet scientists who study beetles (coleopterists) are certain there are thousands more that have not been discovered yet!

Bountiful beetles

You may be familiar with some of the many different beetle species by their common names: ladybugs, June bugs, weevils, lightning bugs or fireflies, borers, and potato bugs. No other animal group has such a range of color, shape, and size. Some beetle species are as large as your fist; others are so small they can fit through the eye of a needle. Many species are brilliantly colored, like jewels, while others cleverly blend into their environment. No matter what shape, size, or color, it is safe to say that beetles are the most successful group of animals ever known!

Most beetles have a hard time righting themselves when upside down. But the click beetle has a mechanism on its underside that helps it spring into the air to right itself. The beetle makes a clicking sound when it does this, hence the name.
Many beetles make squeaking noises by rubbing parts of the body together or by tapping on hard surfaces. They have better hearing than beetles that do not make sounds.
The larvae of an Indian species of long-horned beetle have been known to live for 10 years in captivity, but the adults only live a few months at most.
How do diving beetles breathe underwater? They capture surface air and store it under their wing covers. Sunburst diving beetles carry a bubble on their rear end that pulls oxygen from the water and helps the beetle stay under just a little longer.
California's state flower, the California poppy, is pollinated by a beetle species.
Plant some milkweed! Create a habitat in your yard, garden, or flowerbox that invites pollinators.
Most people have no idea that the sustainability of food as we know it is so tightly linked with the health of pollinators like bees, butterflies, and beetles. Share what you know!
Beetles account for 28 percent of all living animal species. They are the largest order of insects.
Stag beetle larvae can remain inside a dead tree, eating away at the rotting wood, for up to three years.
Super strong: The rhinoceros beetle can lift over 800 times its own weight.
Wireworms are not worms at all but click beetle larvae.
Atlas beetle larvae grow to 5 inches (13 centimeters) and can live underground for up to 18 months.

In 2004, the Insect House opened in the Zoo’s Discovery Outpost. Here, you can see a variety of beetle species, such as jade-headed buffalo beetles, Atlas beetles, and whirligigs—as well as stick insects, leafcutter ants, roaches, scorpions, and spiders—up close. And be sure to look for diving beetles and dung beetles in the Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey.

The Zoo hand raises its own sunburst diving beetles. The young, commonly called water tigers, are voracious predators with huge eyes and jaws. Keepers remove them from the exhibit and give them their own individual containers—since they might eat each other, they make terrible roommates! During pupation, they are placed in tanks where they can leave the water and scramble onto a sandy “beach” to crawl under a piece of bark, moss or other object as their exoskeleton transforms in the pupa stage of metamorphosis. After 8 to 10 days, an adult beetle emerges from the pupa.

Many beetle species are considered pests. These beetle pests cause millions of dollars in damage to plant products and transmit disease. Woodworm and death watch beetles (Anobiidae family) can eat furniture and wood floors, and carpet beetles (Dermestidae family) eat wool; weevils (Curculionoidae superfamily) attack crops, such as cotton, apples, corn, and more. The Colorado or potato beetle Leptinotarsa decemlineata can destroy a potato crop.

However, not all beetles are harmful. Farmers often release ladybird beetles to eat aphids and other insects that might hurt a crop. Ground beetles feed on those nasty potato beetles!

Many known beetle species are at critical risk. For example, the Frigate Island giant tenebrionid Polposipus herculeanus is native to only the small Frigate Island in the Seychelles island chain in the Indian Ocean. As more humans arrive on the island, the flightless beetle’s habitat is destroyed. Agricultural development in central California’s vernal pools has left the delta green ground beetle Elaphrus viridis at critical risk.