Brilliant Beetlesūüźě ‚ėÄ

It’s April! In honor of the recent spring equinox, powerful eclipses and of course Earth Month, this post is dedicated to the beauty, symbolism and innovations of the humble beetle- especially as various species (including the ladybug/ ladybird) can be seen once again in many spring landscapes. These incredibly diverse and abundant insects have for eons been symbolic of rebirth, transformation and adaptability, and in some cultures were thought to be responsible for the arrival of the sun each day. 

My recent beetle image, created in Procreate, explores the intersection of myth and symmetry. I was drawn to the way the beetle's structure fits within the pattern of an opening flower and follows the movement of nature's geometries, like so many other forms in life's diverse dance. Perhaps these underlying proportions and the sacred meanings behind them are in part why certain forms and characters hold such mythological power.



The ancient beetle god Khepri was one of the earliest in Egypt’s pantheon, born as an aspect of the goddess Noun’s potential to shape the universe. Originating from the starry void from her desire, he was responsible for the creation of the Sun from the primordial mix of light and darkness, earth and sea. The sun then became the crown on the head of the beetle god, morphing into the falcon- headed sun god, Ra. Inspired by the beauty of the cosmos, Ra sheds a tear which then forms humanity and the diverse array of plant and animal life on earth. To support this creation he moves the sun into the sky, where it is shuttled through the daily cycle by the beetle form, Khepri.  (Photo above: kairoinfo4u/Flickr)

Given the behavior and biology of the scarab beetle present throughout that region, it is not surprising that humanity so revered them for the divine act of manifesting the sun. Scarabs (Scarabaeus sacer) are in fact named for their ‚Äúsacred‚ÄĚ creation of small suns when they form giant spheres of dung which they can roll a great distance across the dirt. They will then bury the portable balls of sustenance in the earth, where they will feed upon them underground and eventually lay their eggs which will be supported by their rich nutrients. Because of this apparent birth of something from nothing, the scarab was (and is) held as a powerful symbol of creation and awakening. This veneration can be seen in a multitude of forms across time, from artworks, including amulets, carvings & sculptures to the rituals and belief systems attached to burials and other sacred rites. (Illustration below by T. Clark)

 

 Biologically speaking, beetles are a phenomenon of diversity and adaptability. They consist of up to 400,000 species, making up the largest biological Order, Coleoptera. This group includes Weevils, Ladybugs, Stag, Leaf, Soldier and Tiger Beetles to name a few. Part of beetles’ success can be attributed to their tough exoskeleton which not only provides structure and protection but can repel water in more humid environments, helping to avoid fungal infections and water-based issues. Many also have built-in flight protection from their tough wing cases, or elytra, so can survive in more habitats than other insects. With added strength, sometimes speed and maneuverability are lost, and different species have developed various ways to exist in their environment. (Illustration below by T.Clark)

An array of colours, patterns and incredible iridescence, make beetles stars of camouflage which allows them to thrive everywhere from sand dunes to jungle floors. With this strategy, they can both hide from predators and sneak up on the prey, which contributes to their many different feeding strategies. Some use weapon-style mandibles or specialized mouth-parts and they may have carnivorous, vegetarian or omnivorous diets, often feeding on the obvious- dung! Beetles are known to eat almost anything and this preference of some species to feed on carrion and decaying matter make them fantastic recyclers, helping to keep their habitat and our world in a healthy cycle of birth/death/ rebirth. We can see why they have garnered such respect over time. (Photo by BARTA IV)

  

MORE Reasons to Respect Beetles

*One out of every four animals on earth is a beetle. There are close to half a million species identified and classified but it is estimated the actual number may exceed 10 million!

*Beetles have existed for millions of years, surviving mass extinction events and evolving to survive in the widest range of environments. It is thought they have been on the planet for around 300 million years, 50-100 million years before dinosaurs.

*Some of the world’s most destructive pests are beetles. Bark beetles, weevils and wood borers can kill millions of trees a year. Such species as the potato and corn beetle have been a drain on agriculture and the effect of Japanese beetles on gardens has resulted in enormous efforts to combat their influence. Keeping environments healthy and diverse can balance out these impacts through the natural resilience of nature.

*Hercules beetles can reach over 6 inches long and carry 850 times their weight, making them the strongest creature on earth for their size. Native to North and Central America, their antler-style appendages and super strength give them rock star status in the beetle world.

* Blister beetles, using their bright orange and black markings as a warning, release a toxic oil from their joints when threatened, deterring potential predators.

*With their use of thermoregulation, range of colouring and physical adaptations, beetles can survive in some of the most extreme temperatures: some bask and absorb heat from the sun in the cold, while others can dissipate heat with physical adaptations or burrowing behaviors. Aquatic beetles may have paddle shaped legs for swimming and some can breathe underwater by trapping air in bubbles to breath.

*Ladybugs, like other garden allies, feed on aphids and other destructive insects and have become symbols of good luck in various cultures.

*Beetles are great pollinators and seed dispersers; They are irreplaceable recyclers- processing organic matter back into the environment, making them essential for healthy soils; and they tackle insect and parasitic pests- an effective natural pest control.

* The lumps and bumps of the Namib Desert Beetle, which act to pull water from the environment, inspired the creation of a water collection device for use in Africa and other drought-impacted regions. By applying biomimicry to the design with hydrophilic and hydrophobic materials, the innovative NBD Nano was able to create a water bottle which would work to essentially pull moisture from even the driest surroundings.  

* The sounds of Click beetles have led to folklore about the arrival death- the clicking noise in a household was thought to be a communication from the coming reaper of souls. This is just one of many global myths about beetles from around the world.

* A fascinating crop circle of a beetle grasping the sun at night appeared in the fields of Wiltshire, UK in August 2005. The sweeping and beautifully symmetrical image seems to be playing with the Egyptian creator concept of the beetle, along with its geometry. Photo by Lucy Pringle (lucypringle.co.uk)

I hope you've enjoyed this exploration of the world of beetles!

Here's to a diverse and happy spring,
Tamara ūüĆł

 "God has an inordinate fondness for beetles" - JBS Haldane


Beetle Images Can be Found in the Shop!