Huge black screaming beetle found in road
March 7, 2010
A friend found this beetle in Gezina, Pretoria, South Africa, last night (6 March 2010). It was screaming so loudly that he was able to hear it from inside his shop, so he went out to investigate, thinking that it was a bat that had been injured. It is missing some legs, but can still hobble around. I have looked around on the Internet and from what I have found, it seems to be some kind of dung beetle – the flightless one? Not sure, though, because it seems to me not as smooth as the flightless dung beetle, and its head and “shoulders” seem a bit different. The head is flat, and from when I held it in my hand and it got the head in between my fingers, I know that it must be quite strong, because it was able to push my fingers apart with the head.
Kirsten Eksteen, Pretoria, South Africa
Pretoria, South Africa (in the part of Pretoria called “The Moot”)
We did a bit of research by web searching “largest beetles in Africa” and we found what appeared to be a match on the Beetles of Africa website, a commercial site for collectors. There are several views of Heliocopris faunus that are called Giant Dung Beetles. We double checked that identification, and found similar images for the genus Heliocopris on the Encyclopedia of Life website. The God of Insects website, another commercial site, has images of the Elephant Dung Beetle, Heliocopris dominus, that also look similar to your specimen, which is most likely a female. Many Scarab Beetles, the family that includes the Giant Dung Beetles, are able to make sounds, termed stridulation, but rubbing parts of their bodies together.
Thanks for your unexpectedly speedy response! (seeing that it is Sunday, I didn’t expect to hear from you until at least tomorrow afternoon).
I appreciate the information and will go and investigate the sites that you have sent me. Thanks, also, for saying that it is probably a female, and for giving me the correct word for the sound that she made.
By the way, I had a good chuckle about the “Just to prove you are a human being” part of your web page: I wrote “White (when it’s clean!)”, to which the system replied, “Please double-check you verification code”. In other words, “Prove that you are human by giving me a one-word answer; I am not interested in whether or not you are witty or can think further than the obvious.” That’s machines for you, eh?