Status: Not Listed
Rhinoceros beetles are herbivorous insects named for the horn-like projections on and around the males' heads. Most are black, gray, or greenish in color, and some are covered in soft hairs. Another name given to some of these insects is the Hercules beetle, because they possess a strength of Herculean proportion. Adults of some species can lift objects 850 times their weight. (That would be equivalent to a human lifting nine fully grown male elephants.) One way the beetles use this extreme strength is to dig themselves into leaf litter and soil to escape danger. Their horns also help them to do this. Rhinoceros beetles can grow up to six inches (15 centimeters), making them some of the largest beetles in the world.
Rhinoceros beetles are found on every continent except Antarctica. In the United States, they live in the south from Arizona northeast to Nebraska and eastward. Leaf litter, plants, and fallen logs provide a safe hideout for rhinoceros beetles during the day.
All rhinoceros beetles are herbivorous. The adults feed on fruit, nectar, and sap. The larvae eat decaying plant matter.
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. Longevity varies among species, but a typical lifespan is one to two years. Much of this may be spent in the larval stage.
The beetles' population 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.
When disturbed, rhinoceros beetles can produce hissing squeaks. These aren’t actually vocal noises—instead, they’re produced when the beetle rubs its abdomen and wing covers together.
Evans, A. V. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.: New York, NY 2007.
San Diego Zoo
Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
University of Kentucky Entomology
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