Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Beetle Economics

Author
item Vandenberg, Natalia

Submitted to: Beltsville Agricultural Research Center Symposium
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: February 1, 1997
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Beetles feed on everything: green plants, stored products, wood, animals dung and each other. Individual species are often quite restrictive in diet and form an essential part of the food web. Inadvertent introduction of an exotic species can have profound environmental and economic impact, as can the absence of a species from a system where it plays a key role in maintaining a delicate ecological balance. Thus the study of foreign beetles is often of greater economic urgency than that of our stable native fauna. We must screen foreign shipments against potential pest species and investigate the purposeful introduction of host-specific beneficials to control established weeds and foreign pests. Because of the great number of superficially identical beetle species, each with its separate biology, careful systematic-based studies of foreign collections are essential to the ecological management of our native agriculture, natural resources and urban environment.

Technical Abstract: Beetles (Coleoptera) first appeared in the Permian over 250 million years ago. Their origin predates the first dinosaurs but their success has been much more enduring. Today they constitute the dominant animal life of our planet with over 300,000 described species (about one-fourth of all animals). A uniquely adaptive body design has allowed beetles to exploit an array of ecological niches from the driest desert, to mountain rivers, agricultural fields and human habitations. Beetles feed on everything: green plants, stored products, wood, animals, dung and each other. Individual species are often quite restricted in diet and form an essential part of the food web. Inadvertent introduction of an exotic species can have profound environmental and economic impact, as can the absence of a species from a system where it plays a key role in maintaining a delicate ecological balance. Thus the study of foreign beetles is often of greater economic urgency than that of our stable native fauna. We must screen foreign shipments against potential pest species and investigate the purposeful introduction of host-specific beneficials to control established weeds and foreign pests. Because of the great number of superficially identical beetle species, each with its separate biology, careful systematic-based studies of foreign collections are essential to the ecological management of our native agriculture, natural resources and urban environment.

Last Modified: 11/27/2014