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How Do Beetles Fly?

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What Is A Beetle?

Beetles are the largest order of insect in the world, making up about 40 percent of the insects globally and almost 25 percent of all animal species on the planet. Beetles are characterized by their elytra, the hardened forewing that distinguishes them from most other insects. Beetles are found in almost all regions of the world and are an essential part of the Earth’s ecology. And while all of this makes them terribly interesting insects, perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of beetles is the way in which they have evolved to fly.

Though all beetles have wings, not all beetles can fly. Those that can, have one pair of wings called alae, which are covered by the hardened elytra. These outer wings protect the softer wings. Some beetle species commonly found in the United States that can fly include carpet beetles, flour beetles, drugstore beetles, cigarette beetles and Japanese beetles. Beetles that cannot fly have the same two pairs of wings, however, in these beetles, both pairs are hardened making it nearly impossible to take flight. 

How Do Beetles Fly?

Unlike most other flying insects, beetles fly with their legs outstretched, kind of like the depiction of superheroes in flight. Other insects like dragonflies and moths press their forelegs against their bodies to reduce drag, so it would logically follow that flying with legs outstretched, as the beetle does, would make flight harder. 

Researchers across the globe have discovered, instead, that the beetle’s sprawled posture, along with specific wing movements, help beetles to turn while they are in flight. When it is necessary to change direction, beetles swing their legs in the opposite direction of where they wish to turn, using the principle of momentum conservation to create a rotational force. This effort is strong enough to change the direction of their heading. Amazingly, this discovery helped scientists to realize that other body parts besides wings are involved in insect flight. 

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The creator of this review received compensation by RMICPA, LLC on behalf of Terminix®. This review is the opinion of its creator and its claims are not endorsed or evaluated by RMICPA, LLC.

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