Staphylinidae, a family of crafty beetles

The story of a beetle with its wings neatly packed.


Picture yourself in the air, flying in the summer wind.

[sounds of wind over bush-crickets and birds sounds fade in]

You are a rove beetle, about to land on a green blade of grass.

Hi and welcome to Insect Insights, chill insect stories to relax and wonder, available wherever podcasts are. If you like this podcast, you can subscribe, leave a review and even an insect question. I am Max, your host, and I hope you are ready to dive into insect knowledge for another insight!

If you were one of these conspicuous insects, you would arrogantly leave your wings out to catch the sun, and signal your presence. There are also some who use them as solar panels, gathering energy from the sun to heat up their bodies.

But you have no use for this, and you would rather keep them safely packed, protected and hidden. Flying is not your preferred way of moving, you’re also a good hiker, so there’s no reason to have your wings ready to use at all time. If you are in a tight spot, you can always fight back rather than flee!

The problem is, unlike most other beetles, you don’t have full-length hardened elytra to cover your whole abdomen. You have the typical shortened elytra of your family, leaving very little space to store your fragile wings. And while you don’t need them at all time, it would be a shame to damage them. They can still be very useful to cover long distances.

That is why upon landing, you have a special routine. A stereotyped set of gestures allowing you to pack your wings folded tight. With a wiggle of your butt, you push them up to fold once, and again to fold twice!

With the delicate membrane of your wings now neatly protected under your rigid chitinous hood, you are free to dwell downwards, closer to the ground, looking for a prey. Maybe you will cross path with other occasional flyers who keep their wings well packed and folded, like the earwigs.

Or maybe you will see one of these humans, who try to study the secret of your wing origami to replicate it!


Saito, K. et al. (2014) ‘Asymmetric hindwing foldings in rove beetles’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(46), pp. 16349–16352. Available at:

Saito, K. et al. (2020) ‘Earwig fan designing: Biomimetic and evolutionary biology applications’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(30), pp. 17622–17626. Available at:

Saito, K. and Okabe, Y. (2016) ‘Elastic Wing Deployments in Beetles and Their Folding Mechanisms’, in. ASME 2015 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, American Society of Mechanical Engineers Digital Collection. Available at: