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Insects are Amazing: The Ironclad Beetle

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

Ironclad Beetle

During a photo shoot in Western Austin Texas, I was standing in a field wondering what the hell was moving under my shoe. With a little mixture of fear and curiosity, I kind of hopped and swiveled at the same time preparing to be attacked by something. After a few seconds of looking for the moving item, nothing was leaping for my throat. I saw a little one-inch rock just plowing through the dry grass. I'm always prepared for moments like this and had a plastic container with me.

Once I had a spare moment I placed my attention on this insect I had never seen. I took a bunch of pictures of the insect on my paper plate and set it free then started the search on the internet to figure out what it was. Turns out I had an Ironclad beetle trapped in my container. This tank of an insect gets its name from the Ironclad steam-propelled armor-plated ships of the late 1800s and for good reason.

Ironclad Beetle under tire

The amazing Ironclad beetle could be the toughest insect on the planet. Its outer exoskeleton has been studied for years by scientists for its capability to withstand forces 39,000 times its body weight. That means you can't smash it with your show, or push a pin through its shell and you can't even crush it by driving over it with your car.

Most beetles only live a few weeks, but because the Ironclad beetle has such thick armor it can live about 8 years. There are no known predators of the Ironclad beetle, and they experience very little water loss in the desert environment they live in giving them the opportunity to live a long life and die of old age.

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