Beetles And People

Beetles have long captured the imagination of people. Ancient Egyptians used the sacred scarab on walls and carvings to symbolize the Egyptian sun god Ra. Symbols of sacred scarabs were especially popular on objects associated with funerals and human burials. For thousands of years, beetles have appeared on vase paintings, porcelain statuary, precious stones, glass paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and coins. Their images were also used to illustrate important papers and books. Fireflies have long held a special fascination for the Chinese and Japanese and appear often in their art.

Throughout history, artisans have used the likenesses of beetles or parts of their bodies to create jewelry. Today, the elytra of the jewel beetle are used in necklaces, head ornaments, and earrings. In parts of Mexico and Central America, a living beetle, popularly known as the ma'kech, is decorated with brightly colored glass beads, attached to a short chain, and pinned to clothing as a reminder of an ancient legend.

A small number of beetles have become important pests of stored foods, pastures, crops, and timber. Beetles compete with humans for food by feeding on beans, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, melons, gourds, and grains. In temperate forests throughout the world, beetles generally attack trees valued as lumber.

Predatory ground beetles and ladybugs are used to control insect pests around the world. Several kinds of plant-feeding beetles are used to combat harmful weeds. In the 1970s the Australians began a program to import exotic dung scarabs and predatory clown beetles to control biting flies and elminate their breeding sites.

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