Dung beetles are fascinating insects that possess incredible strength and play an essential role in maintaining the balance of various ecosystems. These remarkable creatures are known for their ability to transport and bury animal waste, which not only keeps the environment clean but also aids in nutrient cycling and soil enrichment.
Believe it or not, a dung beetle can lift astonishingly heavy loads in comparison to its own body weight. In fact, they can roll a ball that weighs up to 10 times their weight and bury dung that is 250 times heavier than they are in a single night. This impressive feat showcases their unparalleled strength and abilities in the animal kingdom.
Dung Beetle Overview
Species and Classification
Dung beetles belong to the family Scarabaeidae within the order Coleoptera, and class Insecta. They are arthropods, like insects, spiders, and crustaceans. Some examples of dung beetle species are:
- Scarabaeus sacer (sacred scarab)
- Euoniticellus intermedius (african dung beetle)
- Copris hispanus (spanish dung beetle)
There are approximately 6,000 known species of dung beetles, which can be classified into three main groups:
Habitats and Distributions
Dung beetles live in a wide range of habitats, including:
They can be found on every continent except Antarctica, with the greatest diversity in tropical regions. Dung beetles are known for their unique feeding habits:
- They consume animal feces primarily as adults
- Larvae feed on the manure
Here are some benefits of dung beetles in their environment:
- Nutrient recycling
- Soil aeration
- Natural pest control
In conclusion, dung beetles are essential insects found in many different habitats. Their role is crucial to maintaining ecological balance and enhancing soil quality.
Strength and Lifting Abilities
Comparisons with Other Animals
Dung beetles are known for their incredible strength. In fact, they are often considered the strongest insect and even the strongest animal in relation to their body weight. Some species can lift objects as heavy as 1,000 times their own weight. This is equivalent to a human lifting nearly double-decker buses!
- Strongest insect
- Strongest animal (relative to body weight)
- Can lift objects up to 1,000 times their weight
- Small size
- Muscular build
- Powerful exoskeleton
To put this into perspective, here is a comparison table of various animals’ strength relative to their body weight:
|Animal||Approximate Weight Lifted Relative to Body Weight|
|Dung Beetle||1,000 times|
Factors Influencing Strength
The dung beetle’s strength mainly comes from its muscles and exoskeleton. These two components work together to enable the beetle to easily move heavy loads. Some factors that influence their strength include:
- Body weight: Smaller dung beetles have an advantage in terms of strength-to-weight ratio, which allows them to lift heavier objects relative to their size.
- Muscle: Dung beetles possess highly specialized muscles, providing the power to move heavy loads.
- Exoskeleton: The beetle’s external skeleton provides structural support and additional leverage when lifting.
To sum it up, dung beetles possess an impressive combination of muscles and exoskeleton that enables them to lift objects far heavier than their own body weight. They certainly live up to their reputation as the world’s strongest insect.
Reproduction and Mating
In the world of dung beetles, male competition is fierce. A notable example is the Onthophagus taurus, also known as the horned dung beetle. Males of this species are known for their impressive horns, which they use for combat when competing for mates.
- Males will fight each other using their horns
- The victor gains access to the female
Rhinoceros beetles, close relatives to dung beetles, also have horn structures which play a pivotal role in male combat and reproduction.
Female dung beetles have a few criteria when selecting a potential mate:
- Size of the male
- Size of the tunnel created by the male
- Ability to protect the nest
When it comes to size, larger males are generally more favored as they can provide better protection against rivals and predators such as ants and eagles. The size of tunnels created by males is equally essential, as larger tunnels can provide more space for the larvae to grow.
Here’s a comparison table of factors that influence female selection:
|Feature||Importance in Female Selection|
|Size of male||High|
|Horn structure||Medium (Varies by species)|
In the process of impressing females, male beetles may engage in behaviors such as creating dung balls and locking horns with rivals. Evolution plays a key role in shaping these behaviors over time. A study from the University of London revealed that in species with more female selection, males evolved larger testes mass, likely due to increased sperm competition.
In conclusion, the mating and reproduction process is quite intricate for dung beetles. Male competition, size, and tunnel creation all impact female selection, while the constant pressure of evolution drives ongoing changes within these fascinating creatures.
Dung Collection and Usage
Types of Dung
Dung beetles collect different types of animal feces to create their dung balls. The volume and consistency of the dung depend on the animal it comes from. For example:
- Cattle dung: Larger animals like cattle produce larger dung pats that can be more easily collected by a dung beetle.
- Horse dung: It has a distinguishable texture that some dung beetles favor.
- Sheep dung: Sheep dung comes in small pellets, making it harder for certain dung beetles to collect.
In general, the larger the animal, the more dung a dung beetle has to work with.
Purpose of Dung Balls
Dung beetles create dung balls for various reasons:
- Food storage: Dung balls serve as a food source for both adult beetles and their larvae.
- Reproduction: Females lay eggs inside dung balls, providing a nutrient-rich environment for the babies to grow in.
A few advantages of dung beetles using dung balls include:
- Recycling nutrients from the dung back into the soil
- Controlling fly populations by removing rotting organic matter
- Aiding in natural soil fertilization
|Animal Type||Dung Description||Benefits|
|Cattle||Large, thick dung pats||Easier collection|
|Horse||Unique, firm texture||Specific preference by some beetles|
|Sheep||Small, pellet-like droppings||Challenging collection|
Overall, dung beetles play a crucial role in the ecosystem by recycling animal waste. They can lift dung that weighs up to 50 times their own body weight. This impressive ability makes them a highly important contributor to the health and balance of the environment.
Adaptations and Survival
Dung beetles, like other animal species, possess a variety of body structures that enable them to survive and thrive in their respective environments. For example:
- Elephants: have large ears to help dissipate heat and strong trunks for grasping food and water.
- Gorillas: exhibit strong arms for climbing trees and knuckle-walking.
In contrast, dung beetles possess unique features:
- Body mass: Dung beetles typically have a much smaller body mass compared to larger mammals like elephants and gorillas, allowing them to move more easily through different habitats.
- Strong front legs: adapted for digging and rolling dung balls, which can be up to 10 times their weight.
Dung beetles exhibit different behaviors according to the habitat they live in, such as:
- Dung beetles in desert environments have adapted to conserve water and tolerate high temperatures.
- Forest dwelling dung beetles rely primarily on celestial signals for navigation, as mentioned in this research.
- In grasslands, dung beetles help disperse seeds and serve as important waste recyclers.
Dung beetles are not usually found in habitats containing large predators like grizzly bears, eagles, and anacondas, as these creatures do not leave behind dung piles for the beetles to feed on.
When comparing different habitat-specific behaviors, consider the following table:
|Habitat||Dung Beetle Behavior||Example|
|Desert||Water conservation and heat tolerance||Scarabaeus species of dung beetles|
|Forest||Celestial navigation||Diurnal dung beetle species|
|Grassland||Seed dispersion and waste recycling||Copris, Onthophagus, and Aphodius species|
In conclusion, dung beetles have adapted their body structures and behaviors to survive in different types of environments, such as deserts, forests, and grasslands. These unique adaptations allow them to make the most of the resources available in their habitats and avoid competition with other animals like elephants, gorillas, and large predators.
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 – Probably Scarab Beetle Pupae
Subject: are these cicadas nymphs?
Location: United States, Missouri
July 17, 2014 3:01 pm
so I was digging at the site of a rotten, dead tree that fell down and discovered these lil things! I thought they might be cicadas, but after looking at pictures I’m really not sure.
These are not Cicada Nymphs, but rather beetle pupae. They are most likely Scarab Beetle Pupae. The larvae of some Scarab Beetles feed on rotting wood, and they will pupate in the immediate vicinity. You can compare your images to this image from Insect Images.
Letter 2 – Rainbow Beetle from Alaska
Subject: Two interesting and beautiful bugs in Alaska
Location: Near Fairbanks Alaska
June 5, 2016 5:20 pm
In the past week I have found two beautiful insects around our home in Fairbanks Alaska. I have looked through your site and also consulted Dr. Google, but have not yet been able to figure out what they might be. The yellowish metallic beetle is on an apple leaf. It was perhaps a half inch long. The multicolored beetle was under the leaves in my flower bed as I cleaned it out to plant some flowers. It was about 3/4 of an inch long, or perhaps 5/6 of an inch… fairly large for a beetle in Alaska.
Thanks for any help you can give me.
We had to search through some unanswered mail this morning because we saw your subject line the other day, but did not have time to open your request. We are always excited to post images from Alaska because we get so few submissions, and when those submissions are inquiring about the wonders of nature as opposed to which pest is inhabiting the house, we are even more thrilled. We will have to split your submission into two postings because your two beetles have different family classifications. We are starting with your gorgeous Rainbow Beetle, Carabus vietinghoffi, a species of Ground Beetle in the Caterpillar Hunter genus and a new species for our site. Our search for an Alaskan Ground Beetle produced a posting on Alaska Guide that identified the Rainbow Beetle with the information “They feed on caterpillars and other small insects. In Alaska there is no record of rainbow beetle being spotted south of North Pole.” On the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists website, there is a report of a lecture by Dr. Henri Goulet that describes the Rainbow Beetle: “Mind-bogglingly beautiful metallic greens, bronzes, purples and blue blacks, more emerald greens. Also turquoise wing covers trimmed with copper called ‘the best’ in Canada, Carabus vietinghoffi, from the land of small willows. It was as if a sculptor and a jewelry designer had collaborated in crafting them.” There is a highly entertaining account in NewsMiner.com of Eleven-year-old Caleb Seekins finding a Rainbow Beetle in Fairbanks and taking it to the University of Alaska Museum of the North where entomologist Derek Sikes is quoted saying: “‘We get a couple of these every year,’ said Sikes. ‘They usually are turned in by people just like Caleb, who find them and just think they are interesting. It’s a pretty special deal for a couple reasons,’ he said. ‘It’s more of an attractive beetle in Alaska. We generally don’t have pretty things like that here, with lots of iridescent colors.’ He sent along a photograph of the beetle, which is a Beringian species. Commonly found in Asia, this species of beetle made it into North America when the Bering Land Bridge was in place and sea levels were low.” Carabidae of the World lists the range as “NW, NC, E-Siberia, Far East, Sakhalin, N-Korea, NE-China; Alaska; NW, Canada.” Thank you for submitting these wonderful images of this gorgeous Rainbow Beetle to our site.
Letter 3 – Green Scarab Beetle from India is structurally coloured according to Wikipedia
Location: Bannerghatta National park., Karnataka, south India
November 14, 2011 12:19 am
hi, i found this fellow in my place. place found was South India, Karantaka, Bangalore, Scrub forest Bannerghatta National park. pls can i know the common and scientific name of this fellow
Signature: rameshb belagere
Dear rameshb belagere,
This is a Scarab Beetle in the family Scarabaeidae, but our initial search of the internet has not turned up a definitive species identification. We believe it is the same species as this unidentified photo posted on vidarbha wildlife. One of our readers may be able to assist in this identification.
Identification Courtesy of Karl
Hi Daniel and rameshb belagere:
I think you are right about the unidentified photo you linked to (on vidarbha wildlife). It looks like a Flower Chafer (Scarabeidae: Cetoniinae), probably Heterorrhina elegans. You can just make out the four black, raised bumps (calli, or singular callus) on the elytra that apparently are diagnostic for the species. Online images are scarce but a set of three appears on various sites, including Wikipedia. If you care to read a detailed description you can access an online version of the relevant volume (G. J. Arrow 1910) of “The Fauna of British India including Ceylon and Burma”. The relevant text includes: “…the sutural margins of the elytra posteriorly and the apical calli black (generally also the humeral calli, but less distinctly.)” and “H. elegans is distinguishable from all other Indian species of the genus by its extremely glossy surface, as well as by the black spot near the end of each elytron.” I can’t be absolutely certain, but I believe that is it. Regards. Karl
Thanks so much Karl. We are fascinated by the Wikipedia claim that the coloration is not due to pigment, but to structure, or as it is more technically stated: “The physics of the colouration of the cuticle is a subject of interest as the colours are entirely structural, not produced by pigments, and nearly 200 year old specimens show no degradation of the colours. The underlying structures made up of nearly 50 microscopic double layers have been studied in the search for structural paints that do not need pigments which are often environmentally toxic chemicals.” The coloration of the Morpho is also due to structure and not pigment.
3. Neville, AC & S Caveney (1969). “Scarabaeid beetle exocuticle as an optical analogue of cholesteric liquid crystals”. Biological Reviews 44 (4): 531–562. doi:10.1111/j.1469-185X.1969.tb00611.x. PMID 5308457.
Letter 4 – Kern’s Flower Scarab
Subject: Black beetle with yellow spots
Location: Denton, TX
May 18, 2014 1:54 pm
This little guy ended up on my friend’s neck and we’re pretty sure it bit him. He’s into nature and backpacking but has never seen a bug like this, so we were hoping you could help us identify him!
This pretty little Flower Chafer is a Kern’s Flower Scarab, Euphoria kernii, and we quickly identified it on BugGuide where it states: “This species is extremely variable in its color and pattern ranging from all black to nearly all yellow with all stages in between. “ Any bite would not be considered a problem as the Kern’s Flower Scarab is not venomous.
Oh good! Thanks so much for getting back to me. I think he kind of forgot about it after a while but I’ve been checking his neck every so often just to make sure he didn’t break out. Honestly, I’m beginning to have doubts that he was even bitten; I’m pretty sure he’s just a drama queen.
Letter 5 – Rainbow Scarab
A Garden Jewel
Location: College Station, Texas
June 1, 2011 9:23 pm
Rescued this little fellow from our pool this evening. Definitely a beetle I had not seen before. It had tiny little flesh colored ”legs” near its mouth that looke like hands. Gotta love those colors and that horn.
Signature: Texas garden jewel
The common name for this lovely insect is a Rainbow Scarab, though it is ingloriously classified as a Dung Beetle. The backyard swimming pool, though refreshing to humans, is a death trap to many small creatures.
Letter 6 – Rainbow Scarab
Iridescent Rhino Horn Bug in upstate New York
Location: Hudson, New York
August 7, 2011 4:42 pm
I found this on my back steps here in upstate New York.
I can’t find it on the internet.
What is it?
Is it out of it’s normal range?
Where does it usually live?
This beautiful beetle is a Dung Beetle commonly called a Rainbow Scarab, Phanaeus vindex. Only the male has a horn. Dung Beetles often work in pairs collecting dung and rolling it into a ball to be buried after laying a single egg. The Dung provides food for the larva. According to BugGuide, this is the range of the Rainbow Scarab: “Mexico; USA: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming.”
Thanks for the ID.
Is it indigenous to upstate NY? If not where is it common?
Though we do get more reports from the southern states, New York is well within the range of the Rainbow Scarab. Only the males have horns.
Letter 7 – Little Bear Scarab
Subject: Mystery Beetle
Location: Washoe Lake, NV
May 19, 2017 9:51 am
I found this beetle by Washoe Lake near Reno, NV. Not sure what he is or if he’s native or not. Thought it might be a garden chafer beetle but that didn’t seem right. What do you think? Thanks!
Signature: Irene Dickinson
Based on BugGuide images, we are somewhat confident this is a Little Bear Scarab, Paracotalpa granicollis, and BugGuide data has reports from Nevada. We do not want to rule out that it might be a related species in the same genus, like Paracotalpa ursina which is pictured on BugGuide and Paracotalpa leonina, though with the latter, BugGuide indicates: “A very early species, flying in January & February in Mojave desert areas of CA, NV, and AZ.”
Gene St. Denis confirms our identification in a comment.
I believe that you have a fine example of a Paracotalpa granicollis.
Letter 8 – Hump Backed Dung Beetle
Location: Myrtle Beach SC
March 5, 2011 4:11 pm
My daughter found this beetle in our backyard today in SC, and I was wondering if you could identify it for us. We thought maybe it was a dung beetle. Thanks.
Signature: Lisa Ski
We quickly identified your beetle on BugGuide as a Hump Backed Dung Beetle, Deltochilum gibbosum. BugGuide describes the species as a “Large, round dung beetle, mostly dull black. Male has a prominent hump on each elytron.” That would indicate that your specimen is a male.
Letter 9 – Gold Scarab from Costa Rica: Chrysina aurigans
Subject: scarabae? Costa Rica
Location: costa rica Monteverde
August 7, 2014 2:53 pm
I found this “golden beetle” in the garden of Fonda Vela, Monteverde, Costa Rica
Signature: fred from belgium
Dear Fred from Belgium,
This is one gorgeous Scarab Beetle, and we had a sneaky suspicion it is classified as a Shining Leaf Chafer in the subfamily Rutelinae, and we were correct. Our first visual hit came on FlickR with this image, but not much information. Our next hit is Los escarabajos dorados (Chrysina) de Costa Rica with images of many gorgeous individuals in the genus Chrysina, including Chrysina aurigans, a Gold Scarab. Here is a Babylon translation of the opening paragraph: “Beetles golden of Costa Rica are famous in the whole world. His fame is derived from its extraordinary beauty, for its gold color metal. However, these insects are part of a group (the gender Chrysina) that also presents species from other colors: coppery green, silver, blue or red bright metallic.” We also located a wonderful article on Smithsonian that states: “Costa Rica, rather lacking in actual gold and silver, is home to two beetle species that may have made a conquistador or two a little nuts: Chrysina aurigans, the gold variety, and C. limbata, in silver. Then again, maybe not, as the reflective surfaces likely provide good camouflage in the rainforest, where the light reflecting off them would look a lot like the light reflecting off wet leaves.”
Thanks a lot for these beautyfull and usefull explanation, Daniel!
I didn’t know it was so good what I found there!! A piece of gold! Whouawwh!
Thank you !!
Letter 10 – Humpbacked Dung Beetle
Subject: Large Scarab with Extremely Long Legs
Geographic location of the bug: South Mississippi
Time: 09:15 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi bugman, I am an environmental biology student with a love for all things nature. I’m usually pretty good at identifying animals and insects but this one has stumped me. I found it on a box turtle carcas in a pitcher plant bog/ wetland area. I’m pretty sure it is in the scarab group, but it has acceptionally long legs. The 3rd set are about 1.25 inches long, and the 2nd set are about 1 inch long. I have yet to see it poke its head out but it has 4 little spikes near its mouth. If you can help me identify this beetle I would really appreciate it! Thank you for your time!
How you want your letter signed: Jaden
We quickly identified your Scarab Beetle as a Humpbacked Dung Beetle, Deltochilum gibbosum, thanks to this BugGuide image. According to BugGuide: “Large, round, dull black beetle. Male has a prominent hump on each elytron. Front tarsi absent. Clypeus has two sets of teeth, the inner ones pointy, the outer rounded (hard to see in photos)” and the habitat is “wooded places; on carrion, dung, rotting fruit, fungi.” According to Encyclopedia of Life: “Found in woodlands from Virginia south to Florida and as far west as Texas and Illinois. Also occurs in Mexico.”
This is Jaden just emailing you to thank you for identifying my humpback dung beetle! He was very interesting to come into contact with and snap a few pictures of! I appreciate your time and effort! Keep up the good work!
Thank you again,
Letter 11 – Hairy May Beetle from Arizona
Subject: beetle from southern Arizona
Location: Flux Canyon, Arizona
December 13, 2013 1:03 pm
Three weeks in southern Arizona and too many bugs I can’t identify.
The area just seems to teem with gorgeous bugs.
This bug was already deceased when I found it last July .
About middle-sized…maybe an inch tops I found it in Flux Canyon, between the town of Patagonia and the Mexican border.
Because of it’s bristly hairs I nick-named it a ”javelina” beetle…….
This is a Scarab Beetle or Dung Beetle, but we are having difficulty determining a more specific identification. We will contact Eric Eaton to see if he is able to assist us.
Eric Eaton provides a correct species identification
Yes, this is a “May beetle,” Phyllophaga vetula. Here’s more:
That is a really awesome image. Would love to know who the photographer is.
Letter 12 – King Christmas Beetle from Australia
bug i found
hey i live in australia [south coast] and i was walking along the beach on the hight tide line when i came across this beetle love to know what it is.I took few pics i dont think it was ment to be on the beach.
It is some species of Scarab Beetle from the Family Scarabaeidae. Many species are metallic green in color. They include the largest beetles known. You are correct in speculating the beetle probably did not belong on the beach.
Correction: December 14, 2016
Thanks to a comment, we now know that this is a King Christmas Beetle, Anoplognathus viridiaeneus, which is pictured on Australian National Botanic Gardens
Update: February 1, 2017
We just posted the following comment on a Goldsmith Beetle posting, but it should really be included here: you most likely encountered a Christmas Beetle in the genus Anoplognathus, possibly the King Christmas Beetle or Giant Christmas Beetle, Anoplognathus viridiaeneus, which is pictured on the Australian National Botanic Gardens site where it states: “This is probably the largest of that section of our insects known as Christmas Beetles. It is common in the bushland around Sydney and the north coast of New South Wales. Essentially a summer insect, it appears on the foliage of eucalyptus trees; where one is found you can be certain there will be others on the same tree.” We are very amused at the (now closed) competition held by the Australian Museum to give common names to nine species formerly known by only scientific names. According to the site: “These beautiful bugs are Aussie icons, heralding the coming of summer and Christmas. You might know the three kinds of Christmas Beetle in New South Wales that have common names: the King Beetle, Queen Beetle and the Washerwoman! But the other nine of the 12 species are known only by their Latin scientific names. So, the Australian Museum has run a competition for NSW residents to give common names to the nine nameless festive beetles. … Common names – unlike the Latin names used by scientists to identify species – are part of the everyday lexicon, so whatever is chosen will exist for generations to come.” On a sadder note, the Australian Museum also has a posting entitled “Where Have All The Christmas Beetles Gone?” where it states: “The evidence suggesting a decline is anecdotal yet compelling. In the 1920s, they were reported to drown in huge numbers in Sydney Harbour, with tree branches bending into the water under the sheer weight of the massed beetles. You won’t see that these days, and I’ve never seen a Christmas beetle come to light where I work, next to Hyde Park. While public concerns suggest that numbers are also much smaller in the suburbs, I’ve found at least five species near my home, clustered around street lights at the southern edge of Royal National Park, 55 kilometres south of Sydney.”
Letter 13 – Monkey Beetles from South Africa
Subject: Black bug
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
October 27, 2013 4:53 am
These black and brown bugs attack only yellow and orange flowers. They bury themselves in the centre of the flower and kill off the plant. It is very rapid and they only come in summer. They have long back legs which stick out of the flower. They have killed off my entire daisy bush in about a week, and killed all my merigolds last year.
We believe these are Flower Scarabs and they look similar to these Monkey Beetles we posted several years ago. We are postdating your submission to go live in several days while we are away from the office.
Letter 14 – Golden Scarab from Costa Rica: Plusiotis resplendens
Subject: Gorgeous mirror finish on this gold guy
Location: Central America, Panamá, Boquete
March 18, 2014 7:21 pm
I found this guy very much alive this morning in my dog’s empty food bowl. He was stuck on his back. I was amazed to see how metallic his underside was, so I flipped him over and he is a smooth shiny gold metallic finish on his back. You can even see the reflection of my turquoise jacket in his back. Do you know what he is or have any other info about him? I didn’t see any like it on your site. We’re in Panamá. Boquete to be exact. Mountains. Lots of trees and coffee around. It’s still dry season here.
Thanks so much!
Letter 15 – Green Scarab Beetle from Chile
Subject: Photographs of
Location: Ancud, Isla de Chiloé, Los Lagos, Chile
February 4, 2017 12:04 pm
Hi there! I just wanted to know if I could share some of my photography of some beautiful insects which I have been lucky enough to capture. Anyhow, I am sending a few shots because there is the option to do so. Thanks and regards!
We believe we have correctly identified this beautiful green Scarab Beetle as Brachysternus prasinus thanks to this FlickR posting and we verified that identification on Coleoptera Neotropical and on Forum Entomologi Italiani as well as on Barry Fotopage.
Letter 16 – Green Scarab Beetle from Hungary
Subject: Shiny green bug
Geographic location of the bug: Hungary
Time: 05:22 PM EDT
We found this bug on our holiday in Hungary, around the forest near the Balaton Lake. The bug was shiny green when we touched it changed colour.
How you want your letter signed: Norbert
We believe your pretty green Scarab Beetle is a European Rose Chafer, a very different species from the North American Rose Chafer. Here is an image from Insect Collector’s Shop of Cetonia aurata pisana which is a dead ringer for your beetle. Other images can be found on Insecta.Pro and Bio Lib.
Letter 17 – Hairy Flower Scarab
Subject: Help ID a beetle(?)
Location: Cross Lake, MN
July 1, 2017 9:32 am
A customer asked me what this bug is and I’ve not found an identifying site to match this particular one. Can you identify it?
This is a Hairy Flower Scarab or Bee-Like Flower Scarab in the genus Trichiotinus, and according to BugGuide: “Adults take pollen and/or nectar from such flowers as Queen Anne’s Lace, New Jersey Tea, hydrangea, Dogwood, and Indian Hemp. Also feed on vegetative parts?” According to Eric Eaton: “They are difficult to ID to species without a key. Good mimics of bees, though.”
Letter 18 – Hairy Flower Scarab from Canada
Subject: Beetle with white cross?
Location: Ontario Canada
June 30, 2017 9:10 pm
I found this hiding in my house just seemed odd I haven’t seen anything like it before.
This is a Hairy Flower Scarab.
Letter 19 – Hairy Flower Scarab from Canada
Trichiotinus assimilis I think… Flower Scarab
Location: Winnipeg MB
June 21, 2011 10:19 pm
Hi there Daniel. Finally have a buggy I think is worth sharing. This cute little flower scarab was inhabiting the Cut-leaf Anemones in my prairie wildflower garden last night/this morning. A great little bumblebee mimic! Noticed you only had one picture of these guys, from 2005, so here’s another one to update your archives.
Signature: bugophile in Winnipeg
Thanks so much for sending us this image of a Hairy Flower Scarab. We took the liberty of lightening the image and cropping it to better feature the beetle. BugGuide does not have much information on the species page for Trichiotinus assimilis, so we are linking to the genus page on BugGuide should any of our readers desire more information on this interesting bumblebee mimic.
Letter 20 – Harlequin Scarab
Beetle photo I sent a few weeks ago.
What kind of beetle is this? It is about the size of a quarter. I haven’t found anyone that has ever seen one before. I’m sorry this is the best picture I could get because it flew at my camera flash and I didn’t see where it went. I live near Houston,Tx.
Somehow, your earlier letter got lost in the quagmire that is our mailbox. We surely would have posted your image of a Harlequin Scarab, Harlequin Flower Beetle, or Arizona Jewel Beetle, Gymnetis flavomarginata. This is the first photo of this species we have received, and incidentally, we find your photo quite quirky and charming. We located a site with some information.
Letter 21 – Interspecies Mating in Phoenix Zoo: Glorious Scarab and Ox Beetle
Identification Request: Amusing photo
Location: Phoenix Arizona
August 11, 2011 4:07 pm
This isn’t a question, just something you might find amusing. Our group of beetles at the zoo – the male doesn’t seem to be content with his regular girls. He was very determined to create a new hybrid. The female was just annoyed. If the photo doesn’t go through let me know and I’ll send it via regular email as attachment.
Paula Swanson, Phoenix Zoo
Signature: For your amusement
We are more than amused. You don’t have a question, but we can probably think of about a hundred we would like to ask about this Inter-Species Mating documentation from the Phoenix Zoo. We hope you will be able to answer them. You mentioned you have a group of beetles at the zoo. Do you have a full insect zoo? Is the insect zoo popular? Do you have an entomologist on staff? How many different beetles are kept in the same habitat? What is the habitat like? Are other insects in the beetle habitat? Are all the beetles in your beetle habitat strictly local beetles? How did the beetles come to be acquired by the zoo? Can you confirm that the male beetle is a Glorious Scarab, Chrysina gloriosa? Are you attempting an actual Glorious Scarab mating program that will re-release beetles into the wild? Can you confirm that the female beetle is an Ox Beetle in the genus Strategus? There are at least two species found in Arizona, the wider ranging Strategus aloeus (see BugGuide), and the more local Strategus cessus (see BugGuide). Might the “female” be a Rhinoceros Beetle, Xyloryctes jamaicensis (see BugGuide)? We sometimes have difficulty distinguishing between Strategus and Xyloryctes. Are you certain the Ox Beetle is a female? The profile makes us wonder if she might actually be a minor male which have smaller horns. Here is a BugGuide photo of a female Strategus aloeus, and a BugGuide photo of a minor male. Thank you for indulging our curiousity. We want to repeat that we are more than amused by this inter-species mating attempt. It actually might be successful if both members were in the same genus, but a successful mating between genera, despite them being in the same family, is highly unlikely (most folks would say impossible) to produce viable offspring. We are also going to contact Eric Eaton to see if he can confirm the identities of the beetles in your photo.
Ed. NOte: We wrote to Eric Eaton to see if he could determine the identities of this inter-species coupling.
Eric Eaton Responds inconclusively
I honestly can’t answer those questions. Ok, it probably is a male Chrysina gloriosa…. [Regarding the “female” being either Strategus or Xyloryctes] Oh, yes, definitely, and *probably* Strategus, given that I don’t think anyone collected any Xyloryctes down here at the conference (I attended with a couple folks from the Phoenix Zoo – shout out to Sarah and Melanie).
Hello. Paula asked me to reply to your email as I am the primary keeper of our invertebrate collection, and the one who collected them!
Funny thing, Eric Eaton was actually there when I collected these beetles during the IECC conference in Rio Rico, AZ. The beetles in the photo have been confirmed as a male Chrysina gloriosa and a female Strategus aloeus. I was very surprised to find the male gloriosa trying to hard to mate with the female ox beetle! I don’t think he was succesful in his attempts, but it was certainly amusing to watch him try. The beetles are still in “quarantine” and are housed together in a simple mesh cage, without any substrate. They will likely remain together in a multi species exhibit once they leave quarantine. The species in that enclosure currently include Cotinis mutabilis, Chrysina beyeri, Chrysina gloriosa, Megasoma punctulatus (a single male), and the lone female Strategus aloeus.
Currently we are not even trying to breed any of the large scarab beetles – but have been working with some true bugs, lubbers, and smaller beetle species. This is only our second year collecting and exhibiting such a wide variety of native invertebrates. We have a small building dedicated to exhibiting and breeding invertebrates. Currently we have 12 small (10 gallon or less) exhibits in the building, one larger enclosure, and window space for more – in time. It is a fairly popular exhibit, as far as visitor time spent looking at it anyway. I don’t hear people talking about the exhibit much during their visit elsewhere at the zoo, but they definitely enjoy looking at all the bugs when they are there – especially children, they just love bugs! Currently we are working with native AZ species only (aside from a couple of “exotic” roach species anyway…). We do not have an entomologist on staff, but rely heavily on the friends we’ve made at the IECC conferences for proper ID’s and tips on husbandry. And I have learned A LOT over the past year.
If you have any other questions I would be happy to answer them, it’s always good to make new “buggy” friends 🙂
Senior Reptile Keeper
Thanks for such a concise and thorough response. Our readers will be very happy with the information you provided.
Letter 22 – Kern's Flower Scarabs
mystery cactus beetles
I took the attached photo in west Texas in May of last year. As you can see, there are several beetles, tan and black and about 1/2 inch apiece, and one slightly larger one, with what appears to be slightly lighter coloring (to the right of center in the photo). These were in a prickly pear cactus flower. All the flowers on that cactus had a similar set of beetles. Flowers on other nearby prickly pears sometimes had them, sometimes not. I did see them in some non- prickly pear flowers as well. Someone on flickr suggested the Harlequin Flower Beetle, but it looks different to me. Also these are smaller than the Harlequin, I think, and were definitely in groups. I didn’t see any loners, and as far as I can tell the Harlequins are usually seen singly? I’m curious not only about the species, but also the relationship between the smaller bugs and the larger one. Parent? Prey? Mate? Thanks! I love your site, as always.
Though the coloration is similar to the Harlequin Flower Beetle, we agree that you have a smaller, different species. After much searching, we believe we have positively identified your beetles as Kern’s Flower Scarab, Euphoria kerni, thanks to images on BugGuide. “This species is extremely variable in its color and pattern ranging from all black to nearly all yellow with all stages in between” according to BugGuide, which should answer your question about the light beetle in your wonderful photo.
Letter 23 – Kern’s Flower Scarabs
Subject: Unknown Beetle
Location: Mansfield, Texas
May 2, 2015 4:48 pm
Can you help ID these guys? Two of the same beetle but different colors. One cream and the other orange. Pretty sure I brought them home on some Shasta Daisies I just bought. Are the y considered a pest or beneficial – Thanks so very much
The two larger beetles in your image are variations in coloration of Kern’s Flower Scarabs or Plains Bumble Scarab, Euphoria kernii, which we identified on BugGuide where you can also see these same color variations and where it is noted: “This species is extremely variable in its color and pattern ranging from all black to nearly all yellow with all stages in between.” We will also attempt to identify the smaller insect visible in your image.
Awesomeness! Thank you for the reply, I watched them through a macro lens for over an hour as they went from flower head to flower head. When one would go the other would follow. I have no idea what the little black and white stripped insect is either. Also the little brown dot to the left is also an insect, its head is down into the flower so you’re only seeing the bottom half. Further over onto the left petals I believe are a cluster of Thrips.
Letter 24 – Little Bear Scarab
Subject: Beetle id needed
Geographic location of the bug: Kitchen Creek Falls Trail, Cleveland Nat’l Forest,CA
Time: 01:34 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: is this another Shining Leaf Chafer: Paracotalpa puncticollis ?
How you want your letter signed: Terri V
We believe you have the genus correct, but we are not certain of the species, though because of its dark coloration, we are leaning toward a different Little Bear Scarab, Paracotalpa ursina based on this BugGuide image from San Diego. The posting includes a comment stating: “Paracotalpa ursina, dark form. Very common in that area on Chamise this time of year.”
Letter 25 – Maculate Flower Scarab
Subject: Grapevine Beetle ?
Geographic location of the bug: NE Minnesota
Time: 06:24 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Just wondering if this might be a grapevine beetle variation?
How you want your letter signed: Bob
While this is not a Grapevine Beetle, this Flower Scarab is in the same family. We believe we have correctly identified it as a Maculate Flower Scarab, Gnorimella maculosa, thanks to Arthur V. Evans book Beetles of Eastern North America. According to BugGuide: “Adults found on a variety of flowering shrubs and trees, esp. Dogwood, wild rose, other Rosaceae (such as Rubus), tulip-tree (Liriodendron). The beetles presumably take nectar and/or pollen” and “rarely collected…” We believe this is a new species for our site.
Letter 26 – Male Rainbow Scarab
Decent Picture of Male Rainbow Scarab in East Texas (I think)
I really enjoy your site, & I have a bug that I have been trying to positively identify for awhile now. From what I can dig up (using the right keywords & google), I have found & documented a male rainbow scarab. I am no bug person… but this guy was so intriguing, so amazingly colored & shaped, & I would really like to know if he is, indeed, a rainbow scarab. I found him (bug) ambling around an East Texas farm (BaliTeal Farm) while on a weekend trip with my mother & Grandmother. Any help would be appreciated, but not expected. Also, if you would like to use this photo, you can use it as much as you want, provided you don’t charge for it.
You are much too humble. Your photo is marvelous, much better than merely decent. This is indeed a Male Rainbow Scarab, Phanaeus vindex, one of the Dung Beetles.
Letter 27 – Male Rainbow Scarab
Green horned june-bug
I’ve seen lots of june-bug type bugs, but never one like this! Overall size is roughly 1/2 inch. I’ve lived in central Georgia for roughly 30 years and know most of the crawlies, so I am especially curious about this little guy. Thanks so much,
Male dung beetle. My initial search for horn beetle didn’t get me there. Use the photos (sent earlier) if you wish! Thanks!
Nice job of identifying your male Rainbow Scarab, one of the Dung Beetles..
Letter 28 – Male Rainbow Scarab
Rainbow Scarab Beetle Question
Hi—your site helped me ID this gorgeous dung beetle as a male Rainbow Scarab. I was just wondering if he uses a carnivore’s dung (my dog) or has he come a much further distance (no large animals very local). I have lived in MA my whole life and have never seen one of these. They really are very beautiful. I wish my pics could catch the iridescent colors. I also love the way they walk!! Quite un-insect like! And very strong—I put a small glass votive over him on my deck to catch him and he pushed it along til I took him out. What a little power-house. Thank You. Great site—keep up the good work!
East Taunton MA
We suspect that Dung Beetles prefer the dung of herbivores, but we have heard reports of them using dog dung as well. Nice photo of a Rainbow Scarab.
Letter 29 – Male Rainbow Scarab
Subject: Beetle identification
Location: East central Alabama
May 2, 2016 8:01 am
This beetle caught my eye she was so bright! I live in Alabama I just moved here and live within many pine trees. I am afraid it is a bad beetle for my trees so I would love to get an identification so I know whether to worry about them or not.
Thank you in advance. I’m in no hurry.
Signature: Jodie Edwards
Letter 30 – Male Rainbow Scarabs
What kind of beetle is this?
Hello Bug people,
My wife and I found these beetles yesterday while hiking in the Myakka River State Park in Sarasota County Florida and I would love to know what they are?? When scared they curled up and tried to imitate an acorn!! Very cool! Any help with identification of this species would be much appreciated. Thanks!
These are male Rainbow Scarabs, probably North America’s prettiest Dung Beetles.
Letter 31 – Marian's Tumblebug
We also call this a tumblebug, or a doodlebug. I’d never realized what cute little faces they have until I took these photos.
Thanks for the image Marian.
Letter 32 – Mating Delta Flower Scarabs
mating on a passion flower
West central Georgia, USA, July 25, 2008.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Wayne Floyd
You didn’t indicate if you wanted your mating Delta Flower Scarabs, Trigonopeltastes delta, identified. The photo is lovely, but we cropped and rotated it so it would better fit our site.
Yes, thank you for the ID. Regarding the crop and rotate… it actually does bother me. You said it “would better fit our site.” Yet, there are other horizontal images, both before and after mine. The thing is: everyone knows passion flowers are horizontal. I don’t even know if these scarabs mate in vertical orientation, but I know it’s not natural to be looking at a vertical passion flower. Hopefully, you have a fresh, uncropped image still in your Email. Or, I can send you a new one. Or, if my contribution really does not fit your sit in its intended form, you certainly should remove it. Thank you,
it is not a matter of vertical versus horizontal, but about the standard width of three inches that we post At three inches wide, an uncropped horizontal image would be very small. Some photos we run six inches wide, but only rarely. We will reformat at your request tomorrow morning. Sorry about taking the artistic license. On a more conceptual note, most insect photos are shot from above, and when the photographer is looking down, up is behind the camera, making vertical and horizontal totally arbitrary. Have a great day.
Letter 33 – Possibly Dung Beetle
Subject: High School Biology Bug Project
Location: South Carolina
February 17, 2015 7:17 am
Dear Bugman(I hope this is a normal way to address one of these things),
I am supposed to identify two bugs for a biology assignment, I have a picture of my scetch of one of them attached. My teacher recommended this website, so here I am! I will give you the best description about it as I can to help you more(along with the picture of my drawing). It was about 3 cm long and 2 wide, a very round beetle-looking thing with a head that was hard to distinguish from the rest of the body. it looked like it had a hard, dark brown shell. It also looked shiny with a goldish tint. if you looked at it straight on,it looked like the edges had become a very shiny silver color. The front legs were fat and god fatter as it god closer to the feet, the front “feet” looked almost webbed or like “paws.” The middle legs were smaller and looked more normal. The back legs were also.
Thank you soooo much!
Signature: Benjamin Eddy
Your drawing is a very good rendering of a Scarab Beetle, more specifically a Dung Beetle. Your description of the legs is very consistent with the physical characteristics of the legs of a Dung Beetle as well. While it would probably be impossible to make an accurate species identification based on your drawing, this Earth-Boring Scarab Beetle, Bolbocerosoma tumefactum, on BugGuide or this Earth-Boring Scarab Beetle, Bradycinetulus ferrugineus, also pictured on BugGuide, both look very similar to your drawing. Of the family Geotrupidae, the Earth-Boring Scarab Beetles, BugGuide indicates: “These beetles spend most of their lives in burrows one to four feet down, often under dung or carrion.”
Thank you sooo much! I know you have a small staff(like you said) and I am vary happy that you picked mine to do!
Letter 34 – Probably Dung Beetle from Hebridies
Subject: Lovely little beetle found on Jura
Location: Jura, Scottish Hebridies
October 24, 2016 12:23 pm
Please could you identify this beautiful beetle we found in the summer on the way to Barnhill on the isle of Jura?
Signature: Ruth & Chris Kettle-Frisby
Dear Ruth & Chris,
We believe this Scarab Beetle is most likely one of the Dung Beetles.
Letter 35 – Punctate Little Bear Scarab
Subject: Sedona mystery bug
Location: Sedona arizona
March 5, 2017 8:13 pm
Just curious as to if you know what bug this is. He was seen crawling along the red rocks of cathedral rock all by himself.
Letter 36 – Rainbow Scarab
Mystery Beetle with Cute Antennae
Could you identify this beetle that I found in our backyard this morning? I am attaching a picture – the antennae are so unusual – and I have to say it – cute. We live in Pembroke Pines, FL – south Florida just south of Ft. Lauderdale.
I must say I admire that you polish your nails before digging in the dirt. You have a magnificent photograph of a female Rainbow Scarab, Phanaues vindex, which is relatively common in Florida. These are scarab beetles further classified as Dung Beetles or Tumblebugs. The male Rainbow Scarab has a single long curved horn which arises from his head. These insects are unusual in that they work in pairs, rolling a ball of animal dung which is buried with a single egg. The dung is the food source for the developing grub. They are important in that they help clear away and break down the animal excrement, making for a more beautiful environment as well as more fertile soil. This type of beetle is the scarab of Egyptian heiroglyphics and jewelry. The ancient Egyptians were fascinated by the appearance of the beetles rolling a ball of dung in the sand and likened the ball to the orb of the sun.
Letter 37 – Rainbow Scarab
i love your site!
Last Saturday, I was working in the yard, and there was some bug buzzing around overhead, as usual. This is Georgia, there are bugs everywhere. I didn’t pay it too much attention until there was a loud crash – this beetle had charged full-tilt into the aluminum garage door. He had landed on the driveway, sort of stumbling and shaking his head – I might be anthropomorphising a bit, but it really was comical. Of course, I ran to grab the camera… The sun was bright, but just right to see the wings. Thanks to your site, I know this is a scarab!
What a beautiful photo of a beautiful male Rainbow Scarab.
Letter 38 – Rainbow Scarab
What is this bug?
We found this bug in my yard in North Carolina, and have had no luck identifying it on the internet. It is a green metallic with a green metallic underbelly… What is it (a miniature metallic stegosaurus?!?), and will it damage my yard? Thank you!
This male Rainbow Scarab, Phaneus vindex, one of the Dung Beetles, will not damage your yard. As a matter of fact, it might clean up after your dog. The larval food is animal dung which a pair of beetles will roll into a ball and bury after laying an egg.
Letter 39 – Rainbow Scarab
found bug in my yard port orange florida
what kind of bug is it?
This is a male Rainbow Scarab.
Letter 40 – Rainbow Scarab
unknown Iridescent beetle…
Location: St. Petersburg, FL
October 26, 2010 5:27 pm
so i found this beetle floating in the pool. It’s color attracted my eye immediately! After I rescued ”him”, he flew away before I had a chance to get a shot. Two days later I found another one in the pool again. so I grabbed my camera first! This second beetle was exactly the same as the first, except for the horn. I assume the one with the horn is male and without female? Think you might be able to shed some light?
No problem;). I know the basics already, rainbow scarab/dung beetle. But I would like the specific identification when you do have a moment.
This is a female Rainbow Scarab, Phanaeus vindex.
Letter 41 – Rainbow Scarab
Dung Beetle of June Beetle?
Location: Jacksonville FL
March 27, 2011 8:19 pm
I noticed your dogs being unusually curious about some poo in the back yard, I checked and found nothing to my interest haha. Later investigation found a piece partially buried and moving! Digging turned up this specimen.
This is a female Rainbow Scarab, a Dung Beetle in the genus Phanaeus, however we do not believe it is Phanaeus vindex, the most commonly encountered species, because the coppery red pronotum that is an identifying characteristic according to BugGuide.
Letter 42 – Rainbow Scarab
Subject: What is this?
January 20, 2013 11:51 am
I rescued two beetles (from drowning in a water trough) that look like this a couple of months ago and ever since then I have been searching for information on this speicies of beetle but could not find any at all so I came to you for help,hopefully you can find out what it is.It is a very pretty beetle and it had a metalic green on it’s back and metalic gold on its head and a single black horn
We are tagging your submission with the Bug Humanitarian Award for rescuing this male Rainbow Scarab, Phanaeus vindex, from the water trough. Rainbow Scarabs are Dung Beetles that gather feces as food for their young.
Letter 43 – Rainbow Scarab
Subject: Badlands NP Beetle
Location: Badlands NP; South Dakota
June 26, 2017 4:29 pm
We saw this awesome beetle while hiking along a bison trail in the Sage Creek Wilderness portion of the Badlands NP a couple weeks back. Looks like a scarab beetle (?) We also saw dung beetles along the way 🙂
Signature: D & M Coulter
Dear D & M Coulter,
This Rainbow Scarab is actually a species of Dung Beetle. The male Rainbow Scarab has a horn and the female Rainbow Scarab does not. We cannot tell from your image if this is a male or female as the grass is obscuring the Rainbow Scarab’s head.
Letter 44 – Mating Fruit Chafers from South Africa
Subject: Yellow Black Beetle – South Africa
Location: 30k west of Bela-Bela, Limpopo, South Africa
December 17, 2013 4:32 am
I would be very grateful if you could identify these beetles. I have not found any other images online which look like this. All the images were taken in November 2013. The third image is the bush the beetles were on. There were about 8 of them and they appeared to be mating.
Signature: David Smith
We tried several times to identify your mating Scarab Beetles in the family Scarabaeidae, but our attempts were not successful. Based on the positioning of the legs during mating, which resembles the position of Japanese Beetles mating, we suspect they might be in the same subfamily, which is Rutelinae, the Shining Leaf Chafers. Knowing the plant they were feeding upon might help. Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck with an identification.
Thanks for the quick reply.
I think you are correct in saying it is Rutelinae, the Shining Leaf Chafers. When I googled that I found these images from Brazil which is obviously the South American version.
All the best,
Karl provides an identification
Hi Daniel and David:
I believe these are Fruit Chafers (Scarabaeidae: Cetoniinae) in the genus Anisorrhina. I found two potential candidates, A. sternalis and A. algoensis, and I suspect there may be more. Regards. Karl
Letter 45 – Odor of Leather Beetle
Large black beetle? Can you help Identify?
My children and I have found a large black beetle on our deck and don’t know if he fell out of the tree or flew to get there, but found it very interesting. They are very interested in finding out what type of bug he is, so can you help us. I am sending some pictures of him to help you out.
This is a Scarab Beetle, and we believe it is the Odor of Leather Beetle, AKA Hermit Flower Beetle, Osmoderma eremicola, which may be confirmed on BugGuide.