The hercules beetle is a genus of Rhinoceros beetle containing 13 species. They live in North, Central, and South America. Males and females are quite different from each other. Males, shown above, have two long horns coming from their head, on from the top and the other from the bottom. These horns extend forward, making a formidable display. The males are typically yellow with black or brown speckles all over their body.
Females, shown below, are much different. They don’t have any horns, and they are usually brown. This brown can range from almost black to the lighter brown the one shown below has. Depending on the species, the entire head of the beetles may be black, or only the horns on the male. Another interesting fact about the colors in this beetle is how that they are affected by humidity. The more humid the air is, the darker the beetle will be. This is because moisture changes the way the beetle’s body reflects light.
Hercules beetles are one of the largest beetles in the world! Their size depends on the species, and only the largest species hold his title. The smallest species are only about 1.5 inches (4 cm) long. This isn’t small at all for most beetles, but these creatures can get much larger. Including their horns, the largest hercules beetles can be up to 7 inches (18 cm) long!
On the males, the horns alone can be 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) long, and they are sometimes longer than the rest of the body! Males are longer than the females, but the females are usually taller. The males can weigh up to about 1.4 ounces (40 g), which is a little less than the weight of a golf ball.
Hercules beetles are some of the strongest animals on the planet, being able to carry 850 times their own weight. This means that the largest hercules beetles would be able to carry a 75 pound (34 kg) weight!
Somewhat surprisingly, these beetles do not use their large horns or their large body to overcome prey. Instead, they are complete herbivores! Probably their favorite thing to chow down on is rotting fruits, far from an appetizing meal for us humans. The larvae also eat rotting wood. They will also eat leaves, usually rotting ones. In captivity, these beetles have been seen eating continuously for 24 hours!
Habitat and range
Hercules beetles are native to North, Central, and South America. The largest species live further south, in the jungles of Central and South America. Smaller beetles are found in the United States as far north as Kentucky! I live in Georgia, and I have seen one of these beetles before.
This beetle’s diet sort of gives away its habitat. They normally live in forested areas, and typically spend their time on the forest floor, where decaying plant matter is more common. Rotting tree trunks and heaps of plant matter make great habitats for these creatures.
Status and threats
These beetles have not yet been classified by any major conservation group. They are not all that rare, but they aren’t super common either. As with most jungle animals, deforestation is a major threat. Water and air pollution also harm this beetle.
As for natural predators, hercules beetles are preyed on a lot. They are eaten by birds, rats, skunks, raccoons, bats, and reptiles. The larvae spend their time underground, but since they don’t have a shell, they are easier to eat if a predator can find them. They also are threatened by parasites such as maggots.
Reproduction and larvae
I haven’t yet told you what the males use their horns for, but you might be able to guess after seeing me mention it in this section. They are used primarily for fighting with other males for the right to mate. In captivity, the males will grab each other with their horns and attempt to slam each other into the ground until one of them gives up.In the wild, it is thought they might throw each other off branches so the loser can’t continue fighting.
After mating, the female lays up to 100 eggs in the ground. When they hatch, the larvae look nothing like the adults. They are small, but grow quickly. They stay in their larval stage for one to two years, burrowing underground looking for rotting wood to eat. The picture below shows what these larvae look like and how huge they can be.
After their larval stage, the hercules beetles transform into their 2-3 month pupal stage. At this time, they look like the adults, but they are completely brown, and they are completely encased by a protective shell, kind of like a chrysalis for butterflies. When they finally emerge, they look like the adults shown at the very top. As adults, they only live for 8-12 months, making their total life span about 3 years.
- Hercules beetle – Public domain
- Female hercules beetle – Hans Hillewaert
- Hercules beetle larva – Novita Estiti