Natural Science Illustration: A gallery of beetles April 4th 2014

Story posted: Friday, 4. April 2014 by Lizzie Harper

Scientific illustrators and natural history illustrators tend to have many passions for their subject matter, and we also tend to have "favourites."  Without a shadow of a doubt, one of my very favourite subjects to illustrate is insects, and especially the beetles or Coleoptera.

Chrysochroa buqueti rugicollis entomological illustration by Lizzie Harper

Chrysochroa buqueti rugicollis

I'm not quite sure where my passion for beetles sprung from.  I adore their diversity of shape, and the incredible way they've evolved to adapt to almost every different habitat under the sun. I love how peculiar some of their adaptations seem, such as the enormous thorcic "horn" of the Hercules beetle, or the ornate adaptations of the stag-beetle's mandibles.

Hercules Beetle entomological illustration by Lizzie Harper

Hercules beetle

European stag beetle entomological illustration by Lizzie Harper

European stag beetle

I love that they spend the early part of their lives as grubs, some tunneling through earth, wood, leaf litter; soft, pale and waxy; others active predators decorated with patches of colour or spines (like the ladybird larvae).  And that as adults they emerge as an animal monumentally different in appearance from their earlier morph.

7 spot ladybird entomological illustration by Lizzie Harper

Seven spot ladybird

I love the shine of their wing cases (elytra) and how they can look like they're made from polished plastic, anodised aluminium, or glittering metal.

Heterorrhina elegans entomological illustration by Lizzie Harper

Heterorrhina elegans

Purpuricenus kaehleri entomological illustration by Lizzie Harper

Purpuricenus kaehleri

I love the fact that even as hard-bodied adults they colonise unexpected habitats; water beetles have changed their physiology and morphology enromously to suceed in the aquatic environment, and I find the changes that have been wraught incredibly clever.

Lizzie Harper entomological illustation of a Great Diving beetle

Great Diving beetle

Entomological illustration of lesser diving beetle by Lizzie Harper

Lesser diving beetle

I know it seems common-place, but think about how incredible it is that beetles exploit dung as a food source; and about the amazing dung-rolling exploits that some perform when preparing food for their young.

Lizzie Harper illustration dung beetle

Geotrupes stercorarius

I adore the colours that lots of beetles sport; powdery blues, vibrant greens flushed with metallic crimson, solid white spots and stripes on a bright lustrous background...

Dicronorrhina derbyana by Lizzie Harper

Dicronorrhina derbyana

Eupholus bennetti by Lizzie Harper

Eupholus bennetti

Lizzie Harper entomological illustration of a tiger beetle

Tiger Beetle

For all of these reasons, I feel passionately about beetles.  I am not alone, there are books of photographs of glorious beetles galore, and people who breed and collect them as a hobby.  I love painting them more than anything else (for many more of my beetle illustrations check out my beetle image library), and some of the illustrators I most admire are beetle specialists (such as Mark Russell who specialises in weevils).

As the wonderful biologist J.B.S. Haldane put it, "If one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of creation, it would appear that God has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles."  The inordinate fondness for beetles is somethat that I definitely understand!

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