Let’s learn about beetles’ survival superpowers

Some species can survive getting squished, dried out or even eaten

a black beetle with a rugged, bumpy exoskeleton stands on whitish-gray ground

The diabolical ironclad beetle has exoskeleton armor so tough that it can survive getting run over by a car.

Heather Broccard-Bell/iStock/Getty Images Plus

This summer, superhero Jaime Reyes made his big-screen debut. As the Blue Beetle, he fights villains while clad in armor that comes with weapons, wings, shields and other powers.

Real-life beetles may seem tame in comparison. But don’t be fooled. Many of these insects have evolved truly shocking survival skills worthy of superhero inspiration.

Take the diabolical ironclad beetle. That insect has an exoskeleton so tough it can withstand getting run over by a car. Red flour beetles, meanwhile, thrive in extreme dryness by “drinking” water vapor from the air with their butts. And some water beetles can survive getting eaten by sliding through a predator’s intestines and out its rear end!

Those are just a few examples from about 350,000 known species of beetles. This hugely diverse group of insects includes some species you might be familiar with. Fireflies and ladybugs, for instance, are actually beetles. But there are also beetles that use shimmery colors for camouflage. Beetles that crawl along the underside of water. Beetles that battle each other with huge, antler-like jaws.

They may not be crime-fighting machines. But you have to admit, beetles are still a pretty hardcore bunch of critters.

Want to know more? We’ve got some stories to get you started:

Analyze This: Shimmering colors may help beetles hide Delve into data showing how brilliant colors that shift as a viewer — or predator — moves may help iridescent insects blend in. (2/25/2020) Readability: 6.7

Most species of beetles pee differently than other insects Scientists uncover their unique system for balancing ions and water. The findings may hint at why beetles are the most diverse animals on Earth. (6/10/2021) Readability: 7.6

Some beetles walk along the underside of the water’s surface Their upside-down scurrying is a rare method of getting around. (7/29/2021) Readability: 7.8

Watch how stag beetles use their huge, antler-like jaws to fight off competition for mates. 

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In recent decades, several ladybug species that were once common across North America have become increasingly rare. Meanwhile, ladybugs from elsewhere have moved in and started spreading. Snap pictures of ladybugs near you to help track shifts in beetle populations with The Lost Ladybug Project

Maria Temming is the assistant editor at Science News Explores. She has bachelor's degrees in physics and English, and a master's in science writing.

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