Latest on the blog

Radical Housing and Socially-Engaged Art

Read Now

The simulacrum of a beetle runs electric in our studio.

The biologist JBS Haldane who lived the later part of his life, and died, in India is said to have once remarked that if an entity like God was indeed the creator of life then he must have had an ‘inordinate fondness for beetles’. This was his way of taking note of the incredible number, variety and range of beetle species.

Climate change, especially global warming, has a fascinating correlation with the evolution of god’s favourite creatures – the beetles. Studies show that as temperatures have increased over the past century, the world’s biggest beetles may have been shrinking, some downsizing by as much as 20% in 45 years.

Some beetle species, like pine and bark beetles have been going into what’s called a ‘reproductive overdrive’ as a result of how warmer weather changes mating behaviour. This Leads to a greater frequency of generations. These many more beetles spell disaster for pine trees, as the beetles burrow into them, and hollow them out from the inside at an increasing rate. Leading to waves of insect Induced deforestation.

On the other hand, a charming paper titled Quantifying Beetle-Mediated Effects on Gas Fluxes from Dung Pats  by five Finnish biologists demonstrates that dung beetles, who live and nourish themselves in cow dung contribute to lessening the emission of methane from cow-dung by aerating cow-pats. Given that agriculture, particularly cattle rearing, is a major contributor to the emission of greenhouse gases, the humble dung beetle emerges as a formidable ecological warrior against climate change.

It needs to be understood that insect species and populations are going extinct at an alarming rate due to global warming and climate change. More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. There may not be many insects left by the end of our century.

Beetles are amongst the hardiest of insects. But a lot depends on whether dung beetles outlive bark beetles, or vice versa.

God may have had an inordinate fondness for beetles, but aspects of quixotic and whimsical nature, aided by climate change, may be well be playing a game of beetle roulette.