For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, Today's NIV)
As the story goes, someone once asked the famous biologist and atheist J.B.S. Haldane what creation revealed about the Creator. "An inordinate fondness for beetles," was his (possibly apocryphal) reply.
Whether or not the story is true, the point surely is. There are more than 350,000 species of beetles on earth, and scientists are continually discovering new ones. As one author noted, "Beetles have taken seriously the injunction, 'Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.'" (1)
Beetles, or Coleoptera, are tough insects with leathery outer wings that meet in a straight line down the center of their backs. Members of this group live virtually everywhere on earth, from the polar ice caps to the rain forest canopy. Some beetles are very familiar-the ladybug, firefly and potato beetle, to name a few. Some are exotically beautiful, like the iridescent jewel beetle pictured above. Many of their names are pleasing to the tongue: tumbling flower beetles, ironclad beetles, false darkling beetles, snout beetles.
The bombardier beetle is amazingly complex. This orange and blue beetle (left) lives near ponds and under rocks, and is unremarkable except for its unique defense mechanism: it can squirt a boiling-hot, noxious chemical at its enemies through the openings of two abdominal sacs. Not only that, the bombardier beetle can swivel the openings of these sacs to aim at its target. This blast effectively deters any spider, frog or other insect that might have considered having bombardier beetle for dinner.
The head stander beetles are a curious group that manages to survive in the extreme temperatures of the African seacoast, where temperatures can rise to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Like all living things, they require water, though there is precious little to be found in this environment. So God gave them a special skill: they can collect water from fog. As the early morning sea fog moves in, head stander beetles climb a sand dune, point their heads down and their long-legged tail ends up in the air. As a bit of fog condenses on the beetle's back, it slides right down into its waiting mouth. (2)
The whirligig beetle pictured at the right is yet another example of good design. This aquatic critter spends much of its time swimming on the surface of the water. That leaves it vulnerable to predators from both above and below, so to cope with this danger, its eyes are split in half: two parts underneath to see underwater, and two on top to keep an eye out for danger from above. Its legs are shaped like little oars, just right for paddling around in the water.
Back in the 300's, St. Basil the Great said, "I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that wherever you go, the least plant may bring a clear remembrance of the Creator. One blade of grass or one speck of dust is enough to occupy your entire mind in beholding the art with which it has been made."
As both St. Basil and the Romans passage suggest, we can tell a lot about God just by looking around us at creation. Just as a great artist's work can be identified by his/her brushstrokes, each of God's creations bears an imprint, a clue to who God is. So what can we learn about God from the beetles?
Besides God's apparent fondness for them, beetles demonstrate to me God's endless creativity, careful provision for all creatures, love of beauty, and even a sense of humor. How else can one explain the oxymoronic "pleasing fungus beetles"?!
If you'd like to do more beetle browsing, visit <http://bugguide.net/node/view/60>. Or better yet, go outdoors for a walk. Look carefully at the things around you that God has made. Look for the imprint of the Creator on each one. What do they tell you about God?
May each of us clearly see the brushstrokes of God in creation this week--in the trees, the birds, the snowflakes and even the beetles. Especially the beetles!
3. Photos: <http://www.wikipedia.com>