For Cornell Faculty

Curriculum Resources

CSIP Publications

In the News

Education Standards

Related Links

Are You Stronger than an Insect?
A Comparative Look at Form, Function and Strength

Kathryn Gardner
2004-2005 Fellow

This experiment allows students to examine the strength of a common beetle. It allows the student to design his or her own experiment and work with a gentle and intriguing insect, the bess beetle (or bess bugs). The student will use a comparative approach to learn more about ecology, physiology, anatomy, and behavior and they ways body form and function influence strength.

Beetles in general are very strong. The rhinoceros beetle is the strongest creature on earth; can pull 850 times its own weight. In contrast, an elephant can only carry up to 25% of its body weight – no contest! Strength depends on form and function – the skeleton (exo- or endoskeleton) and the muscles. The thick exoskeleton of beetles provides an excellent point for muscle attachment. The thorax, from which all six legs originate, is full of muscles, giving the beetle unparalleled strength.

Downloadable files:

Teacher's Guide

Student Version

Data Table





Copyright 2006 CSIP, Cornell University