Rhinoceros Beetles


Scientific Name: Subfamily Dynastinae

Western Hercules Beetle

Description: Rhinoceros beetles are herbivorous insects named for the horn-like projections on and around the heads of males. Most are black, gray, or greenish in color, and some are covered in soft hairs. Another name given to some of these insects is Hercules beetle, because they possess strength of a herculean proportion. Adults of some species can lift objects 850 times their weight! That would be equivalent to a human lifting 9 fully grown male elephants! One of the uses for extreme strength is for the beetles to dig themselves into leaf litter and soil to escape danger. Their horns also help them to do this.

Size: Rhinoceros beetles can grow up to 6 inches, making them some of the largest beetles around.

Diet: All rhinoceros beetles are herbivorous. The adults feed on fruit, nectar, and sap. The larvae eat decaying plant matter.

Typical Lifespan: Longevity varies among species, but a typical lifespan is one to two years. Much of this may be spent in the larval stage.

Habitat: Leaf litter, plants, and fallen logs provide a safe hideout for rhinoceros beetles during the day.

Range: Rhinoceros beetles are found on every continent except Antarctica. In the U.S., they live in the south from Arizona northeast to Nebraska and eastward.

Life History and Reproduction: The horns of the male rhinoceros beetle are used to drive other males away from a female beetle during mating rituals. Females lay about 50 eggs which hatch into larvae. After several molts, they eventually reach adult size and form.

Fun Fact: When disturbed, rhinoceros beetles can produce hissing squeaks. These aren’t actually vocal noises. Instead, they’re produced when the beetle rubs their abdomen and wing covers together.

Conservation Status: Probably varies among species. Rhinoceros beetles are collected as pets, and in some Asian countries, gamblers place bets on which of two male beetles will knock the other off a log. Their horns aren’t used for protection and they’re harmless to humans.

National Geographic Society 
Encyclopedia Britannica 
University of Kentucky Entomology 
San Diego Zoo Animal Bytes
Evans, A. V. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.: New York, NY 2007.
Animal Corner
Smithsonian National Zoological Park


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