Do Eastern Hercules Beetles Make Noise? Unveiling the Facts

folder_openColeoptera, Insecta
comment7 Comments

Eastern Hercules beetles are fascinating insects known for their large size and prominent horns. These beetles are among the largest insects in the United States, with males reaching lengths of up to 7 inches. Male Eastern Hercules beetles use their horns to engage in aggressive fights with other males as they compete for mating rights.

Many people are curious about whether these impressive creatures make noise, especially considering their large size and intimidating appearance. Interestingly, Eastern Hercules beetles can produce sound, although it may not be easily heard by human ears. The noise made by these beetles is often described as a low-pitched, faint hissing or chirping sound.

This communication method may serve various purposes, including attracting mates or warding off potential threats. While the sound produced by Eastern Hercules beetles might not be loud or noteworthy, it is a fascinating aspect of their behavior that adds to the allure of these captivating insects.

Eastern Hercules Beetle Overview

The Eastern Hercules Beetle (Dynastes tityus) is a fascinating insect belonging to the family Scarabaeidae and the subfamily Dynastinae. This beetle is one of the largest insects in the United States, with males reaching lengths of up to 7 inches.

Males possess large horns that make up about 1/3 of their body length. These horns are used to fight other males while competing for mating opportunities. Females, on the other hand, do not have horns.

Feature Eastern Hercules Beetle Rhinoceros Beetle
Family Scarabaeidae Scarabaeidae
Subfamily Dynastinae Dynastinae
Horns Males have large horns Males have horns
Size Up to 7 inches in males Smaller than Hercules Beetles

Some key characteristics of the Eastern Hercules Beetle include:

  • Belongs to the Scarabaeidae family and Dynastinae subfamily
  • Males have large horns for fighting
  • One of the largest insects in the United States
  • Females do not have horns

The Eastern Hercules Beetle is often mistaken for its close relative, Rhinoceros Beetle. However, the Rhinoceros Beetle is typically smaller in size and has a slightly different horn configuration.

Appearance and Identification

The Eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus) is one of the largest and most distinctive beetles in the United States. These beetles display sexual dimorphism, which means that males and females have different physical characteristics.

Males vs. Females

Males:

  • Males can reach a length of 7 inches, making them larger than females.
  • They possess large horns, which can be about 1/3 of their body length or even longer.
  • Males use their horns for sexual competition, fighting with other males for mating opportunities.

Females:

  • Females are typically smaller in size compared to males.
  • They lack the pronounced horns found in males, having only a small bump on their heads instead.

Common Features:

  • Both sexes exhibit a variable coloration, with shades ranging from yellowish to greenish-gray, and sometimes reddish-brown.
  • Their exoskeleton is heavy and durable, providing protection and strength.
  • The elytra (hardened forewings) cover and protect their soft hind wings.

Here is a comparison table highlighting the differences between male and female Eastern Hercules beetles:

Feature Male Eastern Hercules Beetle Female Eastern Hercules Beetle
Size Up to 7 inches long Smaller than males
Horns Large, 1/3 of body length or longer Small bump on head
Sexual Competition Uses horns to fight with rival males Not involved in fights

In conclusion, Eastern Hercules beetles exhibit significant differences in appearance between males and females, primarily in size and the presence of horns. These differences play a key role in their mating behaviors and sexual competition.

Lifecycle and Reproduction

Larvae

Eastern Hercules beetle larvae are also known as grubs. They are found in rotting wood and have a C-shaped appearance. The larvae have a whitish color and three instars during their development. Some typical characteristics of larvae include:

  • Feeding on dead leaves and rotting wood
  • Growth through three instars stages
  • Producing fecal pellets during digestion

Pupa

When the larvae complete their growth, they undergo metamorphosis and enter the pupa stage. The pupal stage is crucial, as this is when the beetle undergoes a remarkable transformation. Features of the pupa stage:

  • Occurs in rotting wood
  • Transformation from larvae to adult

Adults

Adult Eastern Hercules beetles, or Dynastes hercules, are found in Central and South America and are part of the Scarabaeidae family. They have several sub-species across Latin America. The adults’ size, appearance, and horn length can vary depending on the region they’re from.

Feature Central America South America
Horn length Shorter Longer
Body size Larger Smaller
Color variation Less More

While Eastern Hercules beetles might look intimidating due to their size, they are harmless to humans. Adult beetles have a life span of up to 6 months during which they mate and reproduce. They are known to be strong flyers and can traverse large distances in search of suitable habitats and mates.

Distribution and Habitats

The Eastern Hercules beetle belongs to the Coleoptera order and the Scarabaeidae family. This impressive insect is related to rhinoceros beetles and can be found in specific regions. They are distributed throughout Northeastern, Central, South America, and Lesser Antilles.

Eastern Hercules beetles (Dynastes tityus) can be found in the United States, while other species like Dynastes grantii inhabit areas further west. Notable species within the Hercules beetle group include:

  • D. ecuatorianus
  • D. lichyi
  • D. morishimai
  • D. occidentalis
  • D. paschoali
  • D. reidi
  • D. septentrionalis
  • D. takakuwai
  • D. trinidadensis

Each species prefers different habitats but share common features:

  • Deciduous and coniferous forests
  • Dead or decaying wood
  • Humid and warm climates
Species Distribution
D. tityus United States
D. grantii U.S. West of the Rockies
D. ecuatorianus Central America & Lesser Antilles
D. lichyi Central & South America
D. morishimai South America
D. occidentalis Lesser Antilles
D. paschoali South America
D. reidi Central America
D. septentrionalis Central & South America
D. takakuwai South America
D. trinidadensis Trinidad and Tobago

Eastern Hercules beetles are fascinating creatures with diverse distribution and habitats that play a significant ecological role in their respective environments.

Beetle Predators and Threats

Eastern Hercules beetles face a variety of predators in their natural environment. One such predator is the skunk, which is known to dig through decaying wood for beetle larvae. These beetles are considered saproxylophagous, meaning they feed on dead and decaying wood. Raccoons are another predator, as they can climb trees and search for beetle larvae in tree cavities.

Spiders also pose a risk to Eastern Hercules beetles. These arachnids are known to prey on various insects, including beetles. However, Eastern Hercules beetles do possess some strong defense mechanisms. Males have a pair of large horns that they can use to fight off potential threats or rivals.

  • Pros:
    • Horns for self-defense (in male beetles)
    • Strong exoskeleton for protection
  • Cons:
    • Vulnerability in larval stage
    • Limited abilities to escape from predators

Regarding classification, the Eastern Hercules beetle is scientifically known as Dynastes tityus, and was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. Here’s a comparison table of the Eastern Hercules beetle and a related beetle, the Japanese beetle:

Feature Eastern Hercules Beetle Japanese Beetle
Size Up to 2.5 inches long 0.3 to 0.4 inches long
Horns Males possess large horns No horns
Habitat Decaying wood Gardens and other plant-heavy areas
Predators Skunks, raccoons, spiders Birds, small mammals, spiders

Conclusion

In summary, the Eastern Hercules Beetle is an impressive and large insect found in the United States. These beetles display sexual dimorphism, with males having horns they use for combat1. While these creatures are fascinating, there is no evidence to suggest that they make any noise. For a better understanding of their behavior, here are some key characteristics:

  • Males can reach up to 7 inches in length1.
  • Females are typically darker in color and lack horns2.
  • They are crepuscular or nocturnal fliers2.

The Eastern Hercules Beetle is a harmless, yet captivating addition to the insect world. Their size and unique characteristics make them interesting subjects for observation and study.

Footnotes

  1. https://extensionentomology.tamu.edu/insects/eastern-hercules-beetle/ 2

  2. https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/BEETLES/Dynastes_hercules.htm 2

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Eastern Hercules Beetle

 

Hello,
I was wondering if you could tell me what this thing was. It is very different. However I found it dead, so I decided to take pics, It looks mean. What is it’s purpose. I have never seen anything like this. We are in the Limestone area, of Texas. Thanks ever so much.
Gary

Hi Gary, It is a male Unicorn Beetle, Dynastes tityus, a member of the scarab family prized by collectors. The males have three horns, not one, so Unicorn Beetle is something of a misnomer. The grubs are found in rotting wood. It is a Southern insect.  It is also known as an Eastern Hercules Beetle.

Letter 2 – Eastern Hercules Beetle

 

Beetle in Georgia
My wife came across a dead beetle of some sort. It is light green in color with mottled black spots on the wings. It is about 2″ long and has pincers that open top to bottom, not side to side. I have attached a picture for your review. Thanks for any help you can give us in this identification.
Dave B.
Columbus, Ga

Dear Dave,
I’m sure I answered your wife’s letter, though now can’t seem to find any record of it. She sent three photos of different views. It is a Unicorn Beetle, Dynastes tityus, a member of the scarab family prized by collectors. They are harmless.

Daniel,
Thanks for the quick response! Once you had been able to identify it, I was able to find additional pictures online. As an aside, my wife hasn’t sent any pictures in…so there are a couple of us who recently came across a beautiful specimen.
Thanks again!
Dave

We at What’s That Bug appologize to Dave and Lori because we confused their photograph with the following photograph which arrived in our offices two days before. They are remarkably similar.

Letter 3 – Dark Female Eastern Hercules Beetle

 

Subject:  Big weird-looking bug
Geographic location of the bug:  United States East Tennessee
Date: 08/01/2018
Time: 02:37 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I thought this to be a female rhinoceros beetle but I’m not very sure.
How you want your letter signed:  However you want to sign it

Female Eastern Hercules Beetle

This is indeed a female Eastern Hercules Beetle, and we have examples of dark individuals here and here in our own archives.  BugGuide also has images of dark individuals, and according to BugGuide:  “Huge size, greenish elytra with variable amounts of dark spots. Some are nearly black.”

Letter 4 – Decapitated Eastern Hercules Beetle

 

Bug carcass
November 15, 2009
This bug carcass was found yesterday as is, head and thorax missing. It was in the mulch of a large planter containing a small tree. I have never seen a bug as big as this in my area, living or dead before. I wish I could have seen a live one. Date found 11.14.09.
Fiona
Fairfax, Virginia (Washington DC suburbs)

Decapitated Hercules Beetle
Decapitated Eastern Hercules Beetle

Hi Fiona,
This is a decapitated Eastern Hercules Beetle, Dynastes tityus.  Usually, if a predator like a bird happens to capture a beetle like this, it will eat the body where all the fatty nourishment is, and leave the head.  This is a mysterious death.  We posted a photo of a decapitated head of an Eastern Hercules Beetle several years ago.

Letter 5 – Eastern Hercules Beetle

 

Rhinocerus Beetle?
I found this guy in East Tennessee.
Patty Robichaud

Hi Patty,
More correctly, Rhinoceros Beetle is a general term to describe beetles in the Scarab Beetle subfamily Dynastinae. The species is an Eastern Hercules Beetle, Dynastes tityus, though BugGuide lists both Rhinoceros Beetle and Unicorn Beetle as alternate names for this magnificent species.

Letter 6 – Eastern Hercules Beetle

 

We assume it’s a beetle?
Location:  Ellicott City, Maryland
September 2, 2010 3:24 pm
Hi Bugman,
We found this awesome looking creature right outside of our school in Howard County Maryland on Sept. 1st, 2010. It has a greenish-yellow body with black spots and two horns; one over the other. Can you tell us what species it is??
Signature:  Students at Bonnie Branch Middle School

Male Eastern Hercules Beetle

Dear Middle School Students,
Your beautiful male Eastern Male Hercules Beetle
, Dynastes tityus, is the heaviest beetle native to North America. He is also known as a Rhinoceros Beetle.  The female has no horns.

Letter 7 – Eastern Hercules Beetle

 

Big Bug
Location: Eastern shore of Maryland
June 13, 2011 10:53 am
I live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, i found a big bug its Black headed, eyes and mouth under a fake set of eyes, with horns or pinchers one top and one bottom above its mouth area, it has a black head area, the body is tanish yellow with a wood gran finish like its been antiqued.Long spinny legs, and about 2and 3/4 inch long. Id like to no if you no what it mite be.and what they feed on.
Signature: does not matter

Eastern Hercules Beetle

Dear does not matter,
You can try feeding this magnificent Eastern Hercules Beetle,
Dynastes tityus, some over ripe bananas or other fruit.

Letter 8 – Eastern Hercules Beetle

 

Eastern Hercules Beetle
Location: Coastal SC
June 21, 2011 10:48 am
We found this guy at a gas station in SC on Saturday morning. Just thought I’d send pics in case you’d like to see.
Signature: Lisa Ski

Eastern Hercules Beetle is spoonful

Hi Lisa,
My, that male Eastern Hercules Beetle is a spoonful.

Letter 9 – Eastern Hercules Beetle

 

What kind of bug is it?
Location: Louisville, KY
June 23, 2011 10:06 pm
After the tornado activity in Louisville last night, I came out this morning to see this large beetle type bug just sitting on the post of the deck railing. It is about 3 ins. Can you help me with what it is exactly?
Signature: Eileen

After spending more time looking through your website, I think I discovered it was a Hercules beetle.  It was the color that threw me off, but I read someone else’s post asking about color changes and there was a phrase about even seeing them in mahogany.  So I guess that is what it is … a male Eastern Hercules Beetle.  That is, unless you disagree and can tell me otherwise.  Thanks, I appreciate what you do.

Eastern Hercules Beetle

Hi Eileen,
We are thrilled to hear that you were able to self identify your Eastern Hercules Beetle,
Dynastes tityus, which is reportedly the heaviest North American beetle.  Your individual is a male.  Females do not have the horns.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Eastern Hercules Beetle

Related Posts

7 Comments. Leave new

  • I live in northeast PA and believe i saw this (or something like it) a few years ago. It was…
    1)about three dimes long, same head “crest”
    2) dark (maybe even black) and shiny exoskeleton
    3)found less than 200 yds from a river and less than 100yds from a thicket of woods
    4)found while catching fireflies in about late june/early july
    5)MAD bug, almost hurt my sister when she caught it
    6)made some sort of hissing sound, but might have just rubbed the wire kritter keeper just right

    If it was not one of these, can you give me some possible other bugs? My sister has been asking me what it was for years. Thanks!

    Reply
  • acid bug(rove beetle) aka papa here in nigeria,it does’nt bite nor sting. it bug cointain toxic,acid which when smach against ur skin the liquid causes a burn……mehnnnnn a crious burn

    Reply
  • I live in Maryland and today I found a really large black beetle. It was dead and I brought it home to do some research. I believe it is a Hercules Beetle.
    It is all black and probably about 1 1/2″ long, 3/4″ wide with 2 pincers vertically on it’s head.
    I’ve never seen anything even remotely like it before.
    Are these common in Maryland?

    Reply
  • I live in Maryland and today I found a really large black beetle. It was dead and I brought it home to do some research. I believe it is a Hercules Beetle.
    It is all black and probably about 1 1/2″ long, 3/4″ wide with 2 pincers vertically on it’s head.
    I’ve never seen anything even remotely like it before.
    Are these common in Maryland?

    Reply
  • Thank you. I’ve never seen one of these before, nor had my 3 co-workers.

    Reply
  • Kendall Sadler
    June 4, 2019 7:59 pm

    I know this is a older post but I got online today to see if anyone else has found a headless Hercules Beetle. I found two this morning laying about a foot from one another. One of their heads was laying right next to it. I thought this was very strange.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

keyboard_arrow_up