Life Lessons from Beetles with Bubbles

Posted on August 4, 2016 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

We sometimes forget the importance of the little things in our lives. Luckily, we have the riffle beetle to teach us a few life lessons.

Today we are going to talk water beetles. I know, I know beetles don’t seem like the most fascinating topic in the universe, but really, this one is worth sticking around for! I’ve been bothering people talking about these little guys for weeks now!

Image: A Riffle beetle underwater surrounded by water bubbles
Source: JAN HAMRSKY // LIFEINFRESHWATER.NET

What makes these particular beetles so fascinating is that they live their lives underwater (sometimes up to five years) without coming to the surface for air. As you probably know, beetles don’t have gills, so how is it possible for them to stay underwater for so long? Well, these little guys carry a replenishing backpack of air with them. See, I told you this would get more interesting.

The riffle beetle is also found all over the world with 1400 known species out there. This means that they are perfect samples to study when it comes to understanding how species evolve and adapt to their environments.

And if that wasn’t enough, these creatures are also an important part of studying stream ecology, an essential but often overlooked indicator of environmental health!

Of course, there is no better way to get introduced to a species than to hear from the scientists who have dedicated their lives’ work to studying them. Luckily, we have The Brian Scoop and Crystal Maier, the Collections Manager of Insects at The Field Museum in Chicago, to get us better acquainted.

Life lessons from a beetle…

How’s you’re beetlemania? Now, I don’t expect most of you to head off for the streams and become beetle specialists, but I think there are a couple important lessons the riffle beetle can teach us.

First, beetles can teach us the importance of valuing the little things in our lives. Riffle beetles can tell us a lot about the ecological health our streams and waterways. If we ignore these small signs we are not only doing ourselves a disservice but passing off our environmental problems to the next generation. When we have the science in front of us, it is up to us to champion the causes for change. And these simple principles go beyond conservation. Very often it is the small details we overlook that can tell us the most.

Second, these beetles, or rather the people who study them, remind us that passionate scientists come from passionate kids. When we value students’ passions whether they are transfixed by beetles or brontosauruses, we help foster and nurture inquisitive minds. Heck Charles Darwin, one of history’s most famous naturalists, got his start with beetle hunting, so there must be something to it!

So there you have it, two life lessons provided by a beetle. Two lessons, I might add, that if taken out into the world could change many a life.

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Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”-Victor Borge