Beetles are the largest order of insects. Scientists have discovered and described over 350,000 species of beetles. Some of the species that attack domestic animals and human beings include rove, lady, blister, darkling, and larder beetles. A beetle’s life span ranges from weeks to years depending on climatic conditions and availability of food. Beetles secrete toxic substances as a defensive mechanism against their predators. They invade and destroy plants including trees. Communities experiencing beetles’ invasion are often advised to identify and cut down dead trees to avoid injuries.
The ecology and behavior of beetles
Beetles live in diverse freshwater and terrestrial habitats. They invade domestic environments and feed on insects, stored food, and organic wastes around homes. When beetles are threatened, they secrete irritating chemicals through their mouthparts and leg joints. Some species explode hot secretions when touched. Bombardier beetles secrete such expulsions with remarkable precision to their predators. Beetles’ feeding behavior is diverse and includes herbivorous, omnivorous, carnivorous and saprophagous behaviors. These depend on the beetles’ habitat.
Beetles act as hosts for some parasites such as helminths or worms. They will ingest eggs while feeding on dung and sometimes grains. Beetles serve as intermediate hosts of more than 50 species of worms that breed in non-human hosts. Sometimes animals ingest beetles in their larval and adult stages. Beetles can fly to small heights and hence are often found in animals’ feeding areas and domestic habitats. Some beetles invade homes and damage fabrics and furniture. Beetles are sometimes beneficial to human beings especially the species that feed on plant pests.
Effects on human health
Toxic secretions are beetles’ main defensive mechanisms against their predators. These secretions irritate human skin. Hair on larval beetles and toxic substance released when a beetle is attacking irritate sensory organs and may cause allergies. Beetle secretions cause eye, nose and ear irritations. Invasion by beetles in body tissues is possible when human beings consume contaminated food. Most reported invasions involve beetle larvae. However, small species of beetles crawl into human ears and sometimes eyes causing irritation and burning sensations.
Some species of beetles such as melyrid beetles cause facial and lip numbness. Beetle bites are irritating and painful but have no long-term effects on human health. Beetles are not a major threat to public health compared to other insects. However, it is important to control their breeding and invasion especially when they invade homes. Cleanliness and food inspections are simple ways of preventing beetle invasions. In addition, there are pesticides that kill beetles at their larval and adult stages.