Hercules beetles are among the largest of beetles, and belong to a group called “rhinoceros beetles.” They get this name because of the characteristic horns (pincers) on the males which, in some may be longer than their body-length. Hercules beetles are exceptionally large insects, reaching lengths of 1.5 – 7 in (4 – 17 cm). Read on to learn about the Hercules beetle.
Description of the Hercules Beetle
The most distinctive feature of the Hercules beetle is the large pair of horn-like pincers on the males. The top horn extends from the head, whereas the bottom horn extends from the thorax (the middle section of the body, between the head and the abdomen). These horns are usually about a third of the body-length of the male, but can grow longer than the insect’s body; they are mainly used for fighting with other males. Female Hercules beetles do not have horns, but their bodies are taller and shorter than males. This means Hercules beetles are sexually dimorphic.
There are 13 sub-species of Hercules beetles which are differently colored, such as black, brown, green, blue, yellow, and white. They have a hard outer shell that is often shiny and iridescent. This is actually the hardened fore-wings (elytra) of the animal. Males tend to have black heads, and black, brown, or green bodies, covered with black spots; whereas females are usually brownish-black. The elytra covers and protects the functional wings below – adult Hercules beetles can fly.
Interesting Facts About the Hercules Beetle
Hercules beetles are among the largest and strongest of beetles, and the horns of the males are an extremely striking adaptation. These characteristics lead to several interesting facts about Hercules beetles.
- Immense Strength – Some reports have indicated the Hercules beetle can carry up to 850 times its body mass.
- Horn Length – The male’s horns (pincers) can be 2 – 3 in (5 – 7.5 cm) long, which is sometimes longer than the length of their entire bodies.
- Size – There are only 2 other beetle species (both related to the Hercules beetle) that have a longer body length.
- Good-Luck Charms – In Japan, large beetles are considered to be good-luck charms and symbols of strength and great drive.
Habitat of the Hercules Beetle
Hercules beetles are found in tropical jungles and rainforests, where they burrow into the ground as larvae, and push through the leaf-litter as adults. They also hide in rotting tree trunks or stumps.
Distribution of the Hercules Beetle
Hercules beetles are found only in Central and South America, but they are bred and kept as pets in many countries around the world.
Diet of the Hercules Beetle
The larval forms of this beetle feed mainly on rotting wood. The adults feed on fresh and rotting fruit.
Hercules Beetle and Human Interaction
Much of the Hercules beetles’ natural habitat has been negatively affected by both air and water pollution, or lost due to deforestation.
Hercules beetles are often kept as pets, but they have not been domesticated.
Does the Hercules Beetle Make a Good Pet
Hercules beetles are a popular pet, especially in Asia where they are very expensive to purchase. The large horns are not dangerous to humans. The only way that a Hercules beetle could hurt their owner is by scratching them with the sharp claws they have at the end of each leg. Remember, the life span of an adult Hercules beetle is only a few months.
Hercules Beetle Care
Rearing Hercules beetles can be very challenging, but can be done with specialist knowledge. They can be housed in a standard aquarium/vivarium. They require a moist environment, which can be achieved with a suitable substrate. Having an 8 in (20 cm) deep substrate can also allow females to lay eggs. Many breeders add dried dog food pellets to the diet of larvae.
Behavior of the Hercules Beetle
When males fight with each other to gain mating rights with females, they use their pincers to pick up their opponents, and try to smash them to the ground. There are reports that males may also use their horns for burrowing into the ground.
Hercules beetles gain protection from predators by being active mainly at night (nocturnal), and hiding under logs or in vegetation during the day. If surprised, they sometimes emit a loud “hiss.” This noise is actually produced by rubbing the abdomen against the ends of the wing-covers, a behavior called “stridulation.”
Reproduction of the Hercules Beetle
Most insects have three stages in their development which, overall, is called “metamorphosis.” Eggs turn into larvae, these larvae turn into pupae, and these pupae develop into adult insects. The female Hercules beetle lays about 100 eggs directly into the ground, where they take about 1 month to develop into larvae.
The larvae live underground for 1 – 2 years, and then spend 2 – 3 weeks as pupae. After emerging from the pupal stage, usually during spring, the females start releasing chemicals (“pheromones”) to attract males. Both the males and females live as adults for only 3 – 5 months.