Rhinoceros beetles are certainly cool insects to look at. Both the longest and the heaviest beetles in the world are species of rhinoceros beetles. Where do rhino beetles live? Are they dangerous? How strong are rhino beetles? In this post, you’ll learn all about rhinoceros beetles.
Rhinoceros Beetle Overview
- Location: On every continent except Antarctica
- Habitat: Forested areas- decaying logs and leaves
- Population Status: 1,500 species with varying populations
- Length: (Longest) Hercules Beetle- 7 inches (17 centimeters)
- Weight: (Heaviest) Actaeon Beetle- 0.44 pounds as larvae (200 grams)
- Diet: Fruit, sap, decaying leaves and wood
- Physical features: Shiny exoskeleton, wings, males have large horn
- Lifespan: 2-3 years
Common names for rhino beetles include Hercules beetles, unicorn beetles, and horn beetles. Sometimes they are called scarab beetles, more on this below.
1. What is the scientific classification of the rhinoceros beetle?
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Coleoptera
- Family: Scarabaeidae
- Subfamily: Dynastinae
2. How many species of rhinoceros beetles are there?
The subfamily Dynastinae is broken down into 225 genera, with over 1,500 individual species. And there are still more species of rhinoceros beetles being discovered.
Some of the more well-known species of rhinoceros beetles include the Atlas Beetle (Chalcosoma atlas), Hercules Beetle (Dynastes hercules), and the common Rhinoceros Beetle (Xylotrupes ulysses).
Other rhino beetle species you might have heard of include elephant beetle (Megasoma elephas), European rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes nasicornis), Eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus), Japanese rhinoceros beetle or kabutomushi (Allomyrina dichotoma), and the ox beetle (Strategus aloeus).
One of the more unique rhino beetles is the rabbit beetle (Eupatorus birmanicus) with dual horns on the prothorax that resemble a pair of rabbit ears.
3. How strong is a rhino beetle?
A rhino beetle can support 850 times its own weight, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Ounce for ounce, a rhino beetle is the second strongest animal on the planet, after the dung beetle.
Rodger Kram, a physiologist at the University of California at Berkley, tested a rhino beetle’s strength at his lab.
He found that they could carry 100 times their own weight, but could hardly move. With 40 times their weight, they could walk for ten minutes before reaching exhaustion. But at 30 times their own weight, they went for 30 minutes with no sign of fatigue.
According to Kram, “The beetles’ feat is comparable to a 150-pound man walking a mile with a Cadillac on his head without tiring.”
4. How did the rhinoceros beetle get its name?
Just like an actual rhinoceros, the rhinoceros beetle is known for having a prominent horn on its head.
Only male beetles have this horn, and it varies considerably in shape and size depending on the species.
5. What are their horns used for?
The horn has a variety of uses. It can come in handy when digging and foraging through leaves. It may also be useful in scraping sap from trees.
But as only males have horns, it seems like the primary function of the horn is when fighting over a female. The horn can be used to pick up and throw away competing males.
6. What does a rhinoceros beetle look like?
With more than 1,500 individual species, there is a lot of variety among rhinoceros beetles. But all of them have shiny exoskeletons that are usually grey, black, brown, or greenish in color. This helps them to be camouflaged in their forest home.
As mentioned above, male rhinoceros beetles have horns.
7. Can a rhinoceros beetle fly?
Rhinoceros beetles do have wings. A thick set of wings lies on top, hiding a thin membranous set of wings underneath. These wings do allow them to fly, although not very elegantly.
8. What is the heaviest rhinoceros beetle? How big is it?
The heaviest beetles in the world are rhinoceros beetles. The biggest is the Actaeon Beetle (Megasoma Actaeon). It weighs the most during its larval stage, up to 0.44 pounds (200 grams). That’s heavier than your average hamster, or about the same as a cup of sugar! It’s a chub of a grub.
9. What is the longest rhinoceros beetle?
Thanks to its long horn, the appropriately named Hercules Beetle, is the longest beetle in the world. It measures 7 inches (17 centimeters) in length on average.
10. Where does the rhinoceros beetle live?
Rhinoceros beetles can be found on every continent in the world, except for Antarctica. They’re not a fan of the cold – I don’t blame them.
11. What is their habitat like?
Rhinoceros beetles live in the forest. Their favorite hideouts include decaying logs, and under leaves.
12. What does a rhinoceros beetle eat?
Rhinoceros beetles are herbivores, meaning that they feed on plant matter. Some of their favorite foods are fruit, sap, nectar, and decaying leaves.
13. Are rhinoceros beetles considered a pest?
Yes, some species of rhino beetles are pests because they attack healthy trees in large swarms.
The Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros) is an example of rhino beetles being an invasive pest. In addition to boring into the crowns and tops of coconut palms, it also damages other commercial crops like bananas, sugarcane, papayas, sisal, pineapples, and date palms.
However, this is not the case with most species of rhinoceros beetles due to their lower population density. Also, they prefer to feed on dying and decaying trees. Feeding on rotting wood is actually beneficial to the ecosystem.
That being said, their larvae have large appetites. Sometimes they will feed on healthy trees, and root vegetables.
14. Are rhinoceros beetles diurnal or nocturnal?
They are nocturnal, actively foraging at night. During the day, they will find a log or damp leaf to hide under.
15. Is a rhinoceros beetle dangerous? Does it bite?
While they may look pretty intimidating, rhinoceros beetles are completely harmless to humans, as they cannot sting or bite.
16. Do rhinoceros beetles make good pets?
Some people choose to have rhinoceros beetles as pets because they are clean, quiet, and relatively low-maintenance. And, because they do not bite, they are safe to handle.
But before you bring one home, make sure you do your research. They are living things, so make sure you can provide a comfy environment with proper nutrition.
Here’s a guide to being a backyard buddy of rhino beetles.
17. Are rhino beetles used in beetle fights?
Yes, rhinoceros beetles are used in organized beetle fights. Annual beetle fights are organized in northern Thailand, during the beetle mating season.
Two male rhino beetles are used in the fights and they fight over a female beetle kept nearby. Gambling is the purpose of these beetle fights.
While this sounds cruel, proponents say it isn’t the same as other animal fights. The male beetles fight until tired or one flees. Sometimes the loser will have its horn broken.
According to Al Jazeera, most beetles sell for 50 Baht ($1.40) while a champion rhino beetle can sell for 2,000-3,000 baht ($50 – 80).
18. Do rhinoceros beetles make sounds?
When they are angry or alarmed, a rhinoceros beetle will make a hissing sound.
But this noise doesn’t come from its mouth. Rather, it is the result of the beetle rubbing its wing covers against its abdomen.
19. Does a rhinoceros beetle lay eggs? If so, how many?
Female rhinoceros beetles lay an average of 50 eggs. These will hatch into C-shaped larvae. There are 3 distant phases of development (instars) in the larval/grub stage.
Later, they become pupae. The final stage of development is when they become adult beetles with fully formed exoskeletons.
20. For how long can a rhinoceros beetle live?
There is variation among the species, but on average, a rhinoceros beetle lives for 2 to 3 years.
Interestingly, most of its life is spent in the larval stage (up to 2 years). Adult rhinoceros beetles may only live for another 6 months. The female will often die shortly after reproducing.
21. Are rhino beetles the same as scarab beetles?
Yes, rhinoceros beetles are a subfamily of the scarab beetle family (Scarabaeidae). But not all scarab beetles are rhino beetles.
22. Are rhino beetles the same as stag beetles?
While sometimes used interchangeably, rhino beetles aren’t stag beetles (pinching bugs).
The horn of a rhino beetle is fixed, while the jaws (mandibles) of a stag beetle (family Lucanidae) can move and will pinch. Their jaws resemble the antlers of a stag and are horizontally oriented.
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Do you have a favorite species of rhinoceros beetle? What was your favorite fact? Is there something I missed? Please let me know in the comments below.