Beetles and Stones

Insects, Your Backyard Habitat

It’s a hot summer day, and you have the afternoon free. You decide to listen to your favorite rock bands while strolling to the creek. The Beatles serenade you, and the Rolling Stones energize you as you dip your feet in the refreshing water. Listen to the bubbling cacophony rushing over the rocks. This is the sweet melody of life.

Composed by natural forces, the creek in your backyard or at your local park is home to thousands of bustling insects. The typical suspects are there, of course—bees, butterflies, moths, and all of the bugs that you see so often that you tend to dismiss them as part of the natural tempo of nature. But observe more closely, and you may find creatures with names reminiscent of your favorite rock bands, like beetles and stoneflies, rocking out their own rhythm.

Most of us are familiar with beetles, of course. They form a major element in the background of nature’s music, seen but not well known to all. They are found literally everywhere, in all different forms of habitat, and account for the majority of insects on the planet. They feed bigger creatures, decompose and break down dead things, and even pollinate. That’s right—it’s not just the bees and butterflies!

Fireflies (or lightning bugs, whichever suits your fancy) are a type of beetle. These favorite summertime insects capture the imaginations of children and adults alike.

Credit: Bruce Hallman/USFWS. Original public domain image from Flickr

Have you ever seen a beetle like this one? Chances are you would recognize them even better in the dark! Like other pollinators, fireflies benefit from the wild areas of your yard. Tall grasses and other plants provide cover during the day so they can hide from predators, and turning off your exterior lights after dusk limits light pollution so they can communicate to one another using their flashes.

Everyone is familiar with their visually mesmerizing dances across the lawn, welcoming the night. The firefly is a great example of hiding in plain sight, reminding us about the variety of pollinators in individual ecosystems.

Stoneflies, on the other hand, are the bass players in nature’s band – playing a tune that often goes unnoticed even as it forms the backbone of the symphony.


Stoneflies are in a group of small, backboneless animals called macroinvertebrates. The stream in which you’re dipping your feet contains thousands of these tiny harmless creatures, including snails and crawfish. They are busy providing many services, from cleaning dead and dying plants and animals to feeding other animals who depend on them, such as birds and frogs. Everyone learned the food chain in school, but now you’re watching one end of it play out in your favorite stream!

Now that you’ve paid attention to the background, does that make the melody all the more meaningful? From the beautiful tones of the spring flowers, the majestic brass of the prairie, to the deep murmuring of the forests, without beetles and macroinvertebrates like the stonefly, we would lose the intricate songs of nature we’ve come to know and love from our parks.