Beetles: 4 Tips and 8 Steps to Help You Identify Them

Beetles are the insects that belong to the largest order Coleoptera. The order contains millions of different beetle’ species found in a variety of habitats and areas. Having vast diversity in species, they sometimes exhibit an entirely different behavior as compared to other species. Like different beetle species interact differently with the ecosystem. Some of these species are beneficial while few are hazardous for crops and plants life.

Different beetle’ species can be identified by their wings, antennas, the number of legs, mouthparts and few other features. Here we will discuss tips to identify beetle among the group of numerous insects through discussing these characteristics.

How Many Legs and Body Parts Does it HaveSet of different types of bugs and beetles

Beetles contain three pairs of legs and six jointed legs in total. The legs are made up of five parts that include coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia and tarsus. The first mentioned part coxa is closed to the beetle’s body. The largest part of beetles’ leg is a femur, and the smallest one is trochanter. The leg part tarsus contains further subparts and claws are present at the last subpart of the tarsus. A total number of sub-parts of tarsal and their shape vary from species to species. Therefore, it can be considered as an important feature to identify the difference between various beetles’ species.

Like all other species of insects, beetles also possess three bodies parts-head, thorax, and abdomen. The largest and the major part of the beetle body is thorax. All legs and wings are attached to it. The three parts of insects cannot be seen correctly from their upper side. However, taking its view from their bottom can make divisions clear. Thorax of beetles start from head to the rear legs and after that abdomen is attached.

What Do the Wings Look Like

Regarding wings appearance, beetles differ from other insects. They usually contain two set of wings. However, the front pair is hard and stiff known as elytra. Elytra can not assist beetle in flying. Their only purpose is to defend and cover rear wings set. The rear wings are fragile and soft and can help beetles in flying. However, at a stationary position, elytra cover rear wings and also abdomen part. In few species, front wings are too short that they can not cover abdomen fully. However, all beetle species does not depict such type of wings. Few species possess only front wings pair, and few species can not raise their elytra for flying purpose, and few species does not contain any wing set at all.

【Read more about Beetle】

Was it Crawling or Flying

Beetles possess a wide variety of species that varies from each other regarding behavior, eating habits, and appearance. Among a large number of different beetles’ species, few can fly and crawl as well, while other species can only crawl. The difference lies in their wings types and arrangements. Those species that can fly possess softer rear wings set which assists in flying. The other type of species contains hard sets of both front and rear wings. However, beetles are such marvelous creature, which besides crawling and flying also swims. All these characteristics vary from species to species. Flour beetles, carpet beetles, cigarette beetles and drugstore beetles come among those species that can fly. Khapra, spider, ground, and sawtooth grain beetles come among those species which are not able to take flight.Hand drawn painted watercolor sketch of beetle

Can You See the Mouthparts

Beetles exhibit very distinct features regarding their mouthparts. Like other insects, they also possess solid mandibles at the facade of their mouths. These mandibles somehow serve the purpose of teeth for beetles. Just like our teeth, they assist in crushing and chewing food. Furthermore, the mouthparts also contain palpi. These four palps serve the purpose of fingers for beetles. They help in dragging the food inside a beetle mouth.

Eight Steps Help You Identify Beetles Clearly

Beetles constitute the largest group of the Insects Kingdom. They form the twenty-five percent of all animals present in the world. Presently, more than three lac beetle species has been recognized. To identify such large group of insects is not easy. For this reason, eight different steps have been mentioned here to help you in identifying beetles accurately and clearly.

1. Look for Six Legs and Bodies that are Divided into Three Sections

The first step to identify any beetle is to see its body parts divisions and legs. The insect must contain six jointed legs in total and three major body segments to belong to a beetle group of insects. As already mentioned, three body parts should be the head, the major part thorax, and abdomen.

2. Look for a Hard Exoskeleton

Another most prominent feature of a beetle is the presence of hard exoskeleton. The exoskeleton is present at the outside of insects’ body. It gives the functionality almost similar to humans’ skeleton. Besides front wings pair, exoskeleton also serves the purpose of protecting beetles body from any damage. Its core role is protective. However, they can also be known as the most remarkable feature of beetles that can help in their identification.

3. Look for Different Colored ExoskeletonsRed borer, long-horn beetles

Beetles can also be identified through various color shades or different color exoskeleton present on their body. Normally beetles are either black or brown in color. However, few beetles’ species also depicts vibrant color shades. The compound arrangement of exoskeleton cells reflects lights at different wavelengths. That results in reflection of light with various colors like yellow, green, red and many other shades. The color of beetles’ exoskeleton depends on the angle at which the light will fall on it. The most beautiful and vibrantly colored beetle species is jewel beetle. However, few beetle species possess only single color, while other species have different colors, ranging from blue to orange shade.

4. Check the Beetle for any Markings

Another remarkable feature that can help in identifying beetle is the presence of different colored markings on the exoskeleton of the insects. Different species of beetle exhibits different patterns which may appear similar in various species. However, they help largely in beetles’ identification. If two beetle species possess a similar pattern of markings on their exoskeleton, then they need to be identified through other features like body shape and head pigmentation. An example of similar pattern insects is a ladybug and milkweed beetle.

【Read more about Ladybug】

5. Look for Small Sheaths

An additional distinguishable feature of beetles is a presence of small sheaths or casing on the bodies. These casings are also known as elytra (beetles’ forewings). These wings cover beetles rear wings and abdomen in few cases. They shrink and expose rear wings when beetle gets ready to take their flight. The presence of these sheaths also discloses the ability of rear wings to fly.

6. Listen for an Insect Flying Noisily Near the Ground

Beetles are easily identified through their fashion of flying. As the rear wings only help in flying, therefore, there is a huge difference between other insects’ flying and beetles flying. Similar to standard flies, beetles produce clear noisy sound while flying. Their flight also possesses low altitudes which mean they fly near to ground levels. Another different feature of their flying is having difficulty in finding directions.

7. Look for Large Heads with Distinctive Mouthparts

Another distinguishing feature of a beetle is their big sized head with unique mouthparts. Their heads are large and possesses mandibles. Few beetles’ jaws are unique in shape which help in their identification. Jaws are strong and sturdy in almost all beetles’ species, and they assist in chewing and crushing their food. The inner part of their mouth contains less significant jaws that digest food.

8. Look for Small, Worm-like LarvaeBeetle icons set

Beetles spend a significant part of their life in the larval stage. Though many people may consider beetle as glossy grown-up giant insects, beetles exhibit distinct features in larvae life stage as well. Seeing carelessly, anyone can confuse insect larvae with any worms. However, if inspected vigilantly, you can see many distinguishable features specific to beetles species only. The important features of beetles’ larvae include the presence of three prominent body parts and properly grown thick head along with mouthparts. Few larvae with worms like appearance include grubs, wireworms, mealworms, wood borers, and leaf beetle larvae.

Grubs or grub worms have bulky white-coloured bodies along with tan heads during their larvae stage, and they can be seen in decaying wood or grass. After passing all developing stages, they emerged as scarab beetles. Similarly, wireworms and mealworms possess lean, light brown colored partitioned bodies during larvae stage and they developed into click beetles, and darkling beetles respectively. Likewise, wood borers that once had wide flat bodies with no legs during larvae stage turn out to become long-horned beetle after development.


There are numerous, or you can say countless insects species present all over the world. Among all these insects, the insects from the order Coleoptera constitutes the major part of the beetle species. These larger numbers of species make it difficult to identify between insects and to treat them according to their species. Therefore, to solve the problem, many distinctive features of beetles have been mentioned here to help you in their accurate identification and segregation.

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