Why are some beetles brightly coloured?

It would seem logical for prey species to want to blend in to the background, so it’s surprising that many beetles are adorned in eye-catching colours.

Beetles generally attract mates through chemical communication rather than relying on their colours, so the colours aren’t used to lure females.

Instead, the bright colours serve as warnings to predators and even help camouflage the insect.

Some brightly coloured beetles warn predators of their nasty taste, including bitter-tasting harlequin ladybirds. This puts them at the bottom of a predator’s ‘to eat’ list, and leaves them to eat and find mates in peace. Many animals mimic the appearance of unpalatable neighbours to deter predators from taking a bite.

 

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They may stand out to us but beetles are camouflaged despite their iridescent shine

 

Many beetles are iridescent, meaning they reflect several wavelengths of light. Their colour appears to change depending on the angle the sun hits them, and this is a surprising form of camouflage.

There are several layers of reflectors in the insect’s exoskeleton with green being the most common colour. This helps the beetle blend in to the surrounding foliage. A shiny, colourful beetle may look dazzling in a museum, but in the wild they have no problem hiding from predators.

 

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Image from www.flickr.com/photos/stuutje