The adult male rhinoceros beetle is a handsome creature in its shining armor with its curbed horn sprouting from its muzzle that gives it its evocative name. It uses the horn to fight other males for the right to honor the princess. Here we’ll speak about a few more rhino beetle facts.
There are many types of rhinoceros beetles, about 300, the largest measuring up to 6 inches or 15 cm in length. The one in Strange Metamorphosis is about 4cm long being of the European variety (Oryctes nasicornis).
I first came across a European rhinoceros beetle grub when chopping wood one day for the wood burner at Villeneuve, my wife’s deceased grandmother’s house. A great rambling country house that had seen better days, even the old wrought iron boiler had given up the ghost.
Throughout the winter I had produced a thick snug bed of sawdust and chippings where the wood was chain-sawed, chopped and stored. An ideal squat to feed and shelter for the rhinoceros beetle larva I unearthed along with several of its siblings. It had a dark brown head and a creamy white body about the length and breadth of my little finger.
The role of the rhinoceros beetle in nature?
1. A Decomposition Agent. Rhinoceros beetle larvae eat decaying wood and dead leaves. The adult is known to eat rotting fruit. Like earthworms they are part of a battalion of decomposition agents that play a major role in nature’s recycling program. If you find some in your compost then be thankful, they will help decompose it faster.
If these agents did not exist to help break down decaying matter for bacteria then the soil would soon become toxic and sterile from the rotting material.
2. A Tree Feller. These insects naturally curb the domination of trees in the vegetal world and enhance the diversity of species. Although a man may saw down a sick tree in an hour making small work of a whole generation of rhinoceros beetles, he will not make fertile matter out of it. These wood eaters naturally eat into ailing trees, so weakening the tree further and making it fall to make way for new plants with the liberated light.
In this way, not only do rhinoceros beetles turn sick matter into fertile matter, they are contributing in the diversity of species. If this type of animal were not allowed to breed, stumps and sick trees would remain standing until they rotted from time alone, which would take a very long time indeed.
3. A Food Source. Rhinoceros larvae are rich in protein and an important food source which wintering birds, mammals and reptiles will find without too much difficulty if they nose around compost heaps and fallen trees.
Have you seen the Man Vs Wild scene where Bear Grylls eats a rhino larva? Yuk, well here it is >>
4. A Bulldozer. The head and pronotum—the hump behind the head—of both male and female is shaped dynamically so that it can burrow its body into the earth for refuge using its powerful forelegs which have spade-like upper segments for digging. The central horn of the male enables it to power like a plough through debris.
But how does nature benefit from this? Who knows, maybe if other insects could tell they would say that these bulldozers are handy for clearing and creating passageways.
The gentle giant
It is a colossus in insect terms and is ranked as one of the mightiest animals on earth compared to its body weight. It is said to be able to carry 850 times its own weight without even buckling at the knee segments, incredible!
Despite their size, appearance and brute force, the European rhinoceros beetle is not considered as a pest bug, neither does it bite or sting. The best way to pick it up is like you would a crab, holding it by the flanks of its carapace at midpoint, unless you like the thrill of it clinging onto your finger. The easiest time to catch one is at night, when they are more active to avoid daytime predators, although I have also found them lumbering from a to b in broad daylight.
Having a flutter on my pet bug
Did you know that the Japanese variety is a popular pet among Japanese children? And in some places local people rear beetles for combats which they place bets on. The two contenders are set on a log. As soon as they hear a noise resembling that of the female call they instinctively fall into combat. The winner is the one who forces the other off the log. Must be frustrating, though, not getting the reward!
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