The Ox Beetle is a fascinating insect worth exploring for its unique characteristics and role in nature. These beetles, which can be found in various parts of the world, are known for their impressive size, distinctive horns, and contribution to the ecosystem.
Ox Beetles belong to the family Scarabaeidae and are particularly known for their mesmerizing appearance. They are equipped with horns that serve various purposes, such as defense and competition for mates. Additionally, these beetles play a vital role as decomposers, breaking down organic matter and returning nutrients to the soil.
One interesting fact about Ox Beetles is their sexual dimorphism, wherein males and females exhibit distinct physical features. Males have larger and more prominent horns, while females have relatively smaller ones. This distinction helps these beetles in their reproductive success as they navigate their environment and serve as pollinators for various plants.
Ox Beetle Basics
The Ox Beetle belongs to the Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Arthropoda, Subphylum Hexapoda, and Order Coleoptera. Within the Order Coleoptera, these beetles are in the Suborder Polyphaga and are part of the Superfamily Scarabaeoidea1.
Distribution and Habitat
Ox Beetles can be found in various regions across North and Central America, including the United States, Mexico, and some Caribbean islands. They typically inhabit forests, grasslands, and gardens, where they feed on decaying organic matter2.
- Size: Adult Ox Beetles generally measure between 30 and 45mm in length3.
- Appearance: These beetles possess a dark brown or black coloration and exhibit prominent horns on their heads, resembling those of an ox4.
Comparison of Male and Female Ox Beetles:
|Horns||Longer, more pronounced horns||Shorter, less distinct horns|
|Body Shape||Slightly larger and more robust||Smaller and more streamlined|
Life Cycle and Reproduction
- Females lay eggs
- Eggs hatch into larvae
Female ox beetles lay eggs, which eventually hatch into larvae.
- Stage of development after hatching
- Commonly called “mealworms”
After hatching, the larvae, often called “mealworms,” begin their development.
- Transformation from larva to adult
- Doesn’t feed or move much
In the pupal stage, larvae transform into adults. During this stage, they don’t feed or move much.
- Male and female differences
- Males have horns; females don’t
Once they become adults, male Strategus aloeus develop horns, while female ox beetles don’t have any.
Comparison table of male and female ox beetles:
|Feature||Male Ox Beetle||Female Ox Beetle|
|Mating role||Court females||Lay eggs|
- Mating: male courts female
- Reproduction: sexual reproduction
In the adult stage, male beetles court females for mating. Both beetles reproduce sexually, combining sperm from the male and eggs from the female.
Diet and Feeding Habits
The Ox beetle, also known as Strategus aloeus, is a type of rhinoceros beetle found in southern regions of North America. These beetles exhibit interesting feeding habits throughout their life stages, which include larvae, pupae, and adult beetles.
The larvae of Ox beetle, also known as “white grubs,” primarily feed on decaying wood and roots of plants. Their diet includes:
- Decaying wood
- Plant roots
- Sometimes fruits
The adult beetles, on the other hand, are fond of fruits, flowers, and leaves, which offer them nourishment. Some common food sources for adult Ox beetles are:
- Nectar from flowers
- Fruits like apples and pears
- Leaves of various plants
It’s important to note that these beetles do not pose a significant threat to plants or crops, as their feeding habits are not usually destructive.
For those who might be considering Ox beetles as pets, it is crucial to understand their dietary requirements. In captivity, pet owners should provide them with fruits, vegetables, and a source of protein like insects or beetle jelly. Example of a suitable diet for pet Ox beetles:
- Apple slices
- Lettuce leaves
- Mealworms or crickets
- Beetle jelly
Here’s a comparison table for Ox beetles versus Elephant beetles in terms of size and color:
|Feature||Ox Beetle||Elephant Beetle|
|Size||1 – 2.5 inches||2 – 4.7 inches|
|Adult Color||Dark brown||Dark brown or black|
|Larvae (Grubs)||White/Cream-colored||Similar to Ox beetle|
To sum up, Ox beetles demonstrate diverse feeding habits throughout their life cycle, with the larvae feeding on decaying wood and plant roots, while the adults consume fruits, flowers, and leaves. In captivity, pet owners should provide a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and a source of protein for the beetles to thrive.
Ox Beetle as Pests
Damage to Gardens and Lawns
Ox Beetles, native to Central and South America, can sometimes be found in the southern United States due to their distribution range. These insects are known to cause damage to gardens and lawns. They primarily affect properties in their adult stage, which ranges from 1 to 2.5 inches in length. Some examples of damage include:
- Burrowing into soil, disrupting plant roots
- Feeding on garden flowers and leaves
It’s essential to monitor their habitat and deal with Ox Beetles as pests, as severe damage could be inflicted on gardens and lawns.
Prevention and Control
To prevent and control Ox Beetle infestations, consider the following methods:
- Monitor: Keep an eye on your garden and lawn for signs of burrowing or damage to plants
- Physical Removal: Handpick and remove adult beetles when discovered
- Mite Introduction: Introduce mites that feed on Ox Beetle larvae, reducing their population
Please note that Ox Beetles are not poisonous and have a distinct yellowish elytra appearance. Be cautious when dealing with these pests while maintaining the health of your garden and lawn.
Ox Beetle Care and Pet Keeping
Ox beetles thrive in moist pine forests, so it’s essential to recreate this environment for pet beetles. Keep their enclosure humidity levels high and provide plenty of leaf litter and decaying wood. Make sure the enclosure has adequate ventilation to avoid mite infestations. A few key requirements:
- High humidity
- Leaf litter and decaying wood
- Good ventilation
Ox beetles are similar to dung beetles, and their diet primarily consists of decaying organic matter. Feed your pet beetles a mix of fruits, vegetables, and a protein source, like fish flakes or dog food. Provide their food in small amounts, and remove any uneaten food after 24 hours.
- Decaying organic matter
- Fruits and vegetables
- Protein (e.g., fish flakes, dog food)
Molting and Growth Monitoring
Monitor your ox beetles’ growth by observing their molting stages. Minor males molt less frequently than major males. Keep molting beetles in a separate, stress-free environment, with moist substrate and no disturbance.
- Observe molting stages
- Minor males molt less frequently
- Stress-free environment during molting
Here’s a comparison table for minor and major males’ molting:
|Feature||Minor Males||Major Males|
|Molting Frequency||Less Frequent||More Frequent|
Always handle your pet beetles gently and individually, giving them the care they need to grow and stay healthy. By providing the right environment, diet, and care during molting, ox beetles can make interesting and low-maintenance pets.
Interesting Facts and Trivia
One fascinating beetle, the Ox Beetle or Eastern Hercules Beetle (Strategus aloeus), is a type of rhinoceros beetle often found in the southern United States to Mexico1. Here are a few interesting facts:
Major males of this species display an impressive thorax with horns, used in battles with other beetles1. Females lack horns.
They are nocturnal creatures, coming out to search for food and mates during the night1.
Comparison between Ox Beetle and Hercules Beetle:
|Features||Ox Beetle||Hercules Beetle|
|Horns||Major males only||Both males and females|
|Location||Southern US to Mexico||North, Central, South America3|
Some features of the Ox Beetle:
- Can fly, with strong wings
- Usually dark brown or black in color
A few characteristics of their behavior:
- Attracted to lights at night
- Burrow in rotting wood or compost
An example of ox beetle identification between genders:
- Male: Horn on head and thorax
- Female: No horns
Although often mistaken as dangerous, ox beetles are not known to attack humans. If observed, people can appreciate their beauty and understand their ecological importance without fear.
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 – Ox Beetle from Puerto Rico
Subject: Rare beetle found on Puerto Rico
Location: Puerto Rico
August 14, 2012 8:54 pm
Hi, my mom found a beetle and we both are curious to know which one is it and if it’s normal to be in this area. I search the web and found one similiar, the Strategus antaeus but i’m not sure if it’s correct.
WE agree that this sure appears to be one of the Ox Beetles in the genus Strategus, but our initial searching has not produced any information if Strategus antaeus is found in Puerto Rico or if any related species can be found there. There is a photo of a mounted collection with no identification information on the Bugging Out in Puerto Rico Page that appears to include this species. We would put our money on Strategus aloeus, which BugGuide lists as ranging from: “Arizona into southeastern United States. Also southward into South America.” We could not find mention of Puerto Rico in this online article. Backyard Nature indicates: “the Rhinoceros Beetle, STRATEGUS ALOEUS, distributed from Arizona to Georgia and Puerto Rico south to Brazil — just about all the Americas’ hot lowlands.”
Letter 2 – Ox Beetle from Dominican Republic
3 horns, red and black beetle
Sun, Apr 26, 2009 at 6:11 PM
This bug is in the Dominican Republic, the picture was taken in March or April. He hangs out on the balcony at my boyfriend’s apartment.
This appears to us to be an Ox Beetle in the genus Strategus. There are several similar looking species in the U.S. and they are pictured on BugGuide, but we haven’t had much luck locating a photo online of any Caribbean species. We did find mention of two species in the Dominican Republic, Strategus atlanticus and Strategus verrilli, but alas, no photos. We can tell you that this is a male beetle as evidenced by the horns. We will contact Eric Eaton to see if he can confirm, deny or elaborate.
Letter 3 – Ox Beetle from the Dominican Republic
Subject: Dominican Republic beetle
Location: Cabrera, Dominican Republic
August 3, 2015 5:02 pm
What is this insect?
Found on North east Coast of Dominican Republic today, August 3, summer.
This is an Ox Beetle in the genus Strategus, and the horns indicate it is a male.
Fotini (aged 5).
Letter 4 – Female Ox Beetle
Location: Montgomery, AL
April 14, 2011 12:09 pm
We found this beetle. Im thinking it is a dung beetle but not sure
Signature: not sure
Ed. Note: We didn’t have time to research this incredible looking Scarab Beetle this morning, but we did have time to email the image to Eric Eaton who promptly responded. Here is the appropriate link on BugGuide.
Eric Eaton believes she’s an Ox Beetle
… Hey, I’ll be at the Bug Fair this May 14-15, hope to see you there. … The scarab looks like a female in the genus Strategus, but maybe it didn’t fully pigment before it died? Anyway, female “ox beetle” is what I’m sticking with 🙂
Letter 5 – Female Ox Beetle
Subject: Roger the BIG Beetle
Location: SW Florida
August 14, 2012 3:49 pm
Hello, we had a neighboring beetle we lovingly named ”Roger”
unfortunately, something bit and killed him last night. I’d like to know exactly what species of beetle he is. He is 1 1/2 inches long and very shiny with a little reddish tint. I’m curious to know because I’m hoping they aren’t endangered or something. Any information would be appreciated!
Signature: Brogan Eppley
Though “Roger” is dead, you might want to consider Regina as an alternate name since this Ox Beetle is a female. We just posted a photo from Puerto Rico of a male Ox Beetle. You can glean additional information from BugGuide.
Letter 6 – Female Ox Beetle
Location: Arabela, New Mexico
July 29, 2015 9:54 am
Can you identify this beetle?
Signature: bug man
This is a female Ox Beetle in the genus Strategus, and though there are several species pictured on BugGuide, we believe this is most likely Strategus aloeus based on both the listed range and this image of a female pictured on BugGuide. We must say we were terribly amused by your image titled “Beetle Butt” because most folks would be inclined to include an image of the head of a beetle they wanted identified. Perhaps because of the proximity to the letters G and T on the keyboard, we seem to regularly receive requests from folks who want “buts” identified, but in your case, you really did want a butt identified.
Thanks for your prompt reply, Daniel! So happy to know what she is. Your email made me giggle; thanks.
We strive to amuse while providing the most accurate information we can.
Letter 7 – Female Ox Beetle
Subject: Large florida beetle
Geographic location of the bug: Florida
Time: 02:44 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hello! I found this considerable large shell of a dung(?) beetle outside my home in St. Petersburg, Florida. I kept the dried-up thing for a while and i came across your site and i wanted to find out what kind of beetle this is at last. It has very small horn right above it’s head, and that makes me think it is a female dung beetle. Thank you!
How you want your letter signed: Chance Arceneaux
This is a female Ox Beetle in the genus Strategus, most likely Strategus antaeus, which is pictured on BugGuide. According to BugGuide, the habitat is: “Typically sandy areas, e.g. coastal plains” and “Adults said to be chafers, feeding on grasses, leaves, fruits.”
Letter 8 – NOT Carrot Beetle but Ox Beetle
I live in Tucson, Arizona and I found this beetle outside on my front porch. I thought it resembled a ‘ Megasoma punctulatus’ after looking on Google but then I realized that the horn like points on its head were reversed. It has three points above its head resembling an upside-down triangle. Thanks. Hi, Sorry for another E-mail but I forgot to include that it is two inches in length. Thanks again,
This is a Carrot Beetle, Tomarus gibbosus, and it is a new species for our site. You can find more information on BugGuide, which states that it ranges from “coast to coast.”
Correction: Oops, we erred (07/28/2008)
Hope your lecture at the Getty went well!
… Aside, on the “carrot beetle” from Tucson: they don’t get anywhere near two inches long! The insect in the image is a female ox beetle, Strategus aloeus. I’d be curious to know where in Tucson (it is a sprawling city) the person found it. I think that covers all your questions. Keep up the great work.
Letter 9 – Ox Beetle
I have these beetles in my yard in Central Florida and wondered if you could help me with identifying them so I can get rid of them? I’d appreciate any help you can give me. Thanks,
These are Ox Beetles in the genus Strategus, probably Strategus antaeus. We do not give extermination advice.
The Ox beetles are one kind of Scarab beetles, also known as Rhinoceras beetles. In Ancient Egypt the Scarab was highly venerated as a manifestation of the Sun God Ra; they symbolized resurrection. These beetles are completely harmless to people. If you can find it in your heart to share your garden with them, that would be great. These beetles are native to the US including Florida. They are not an introduced species and should not be regarded as a “pest” species.
Letter 10 – Ox Beetle
I know you’re busy….
OK – I see how busy you guys are so whenever you get a minute. We live in Humble, Texas and my 6 year old son came across this large beetle. I have attached pictures and we have since let him go because he didn’t seem to want to eat the variety of crickets, fruit and leaves we were offering it!!! Anyway, I looked through the pictures of beetles on the website and the closest thing I thought was maybe a Triceratops beetle. If you have minute, my son would love to know for sure what this was. He is very interested in insects and wants to be an Entomologist someday!! Thanks for your knowledge!! It’s great to have someone to send these pictures to that can help.
This is an Ox Beetle, probably Strategus aloeus. Adults eat fruit. BugGuide has lots of images of this genus.
Letter 11 – Ox Beetle
What is this beetle?
July 19, 2009
Found in Moncks Corner, SC near Lake Moultrie, Took more pictures if you would like to see, let me know.
Moncks Corner, SC
We just posted a photo of a Triceratops Beetle, and your Ox Beetle, Strategus antaeus, is a relative in the same tribe, Oryctini. You can read about the Ox Beetle on BugGuide, which states it is found in the “Eastern United States: Connecticut south to Florida, west to Illinois, Oklahoma.”
Letter 12 – Hermit Beetle, not Ox Beetle
Unidentified Ground Beetle
February 15, 2010
I took these photos in August of 2008, and need this beetle identified for a study I’m working on. I don’t remember where I found him, or exactly what size he was (probably rather large, if I remember correctly). Can anyone offer suggestions or a positive ID? Most appreciated…
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Hi Daryl Ann,
You have misidentified this Scarab Beetle as a Ground Beetle. It is in the subfamily Dynastinae, the Rhinoceros Beetles. We are nearly certain this is a female Ox Beetle, Strategus antaeus, which you can find posted on BugGuide which indicates the Ox Beetle can be identified by the “Elytra without sutural striae.” We wish you had not submitted a composite photo as the details are very tiny when we reduce the image. If possible, we would request that you resend uncomposited images so we may post larger versions of your wonderful images.
I’m sending the images separately (uncomposited). I had thought maybe this was a Black Burying Beetle, but the shape of the head didn’t look right to me. I’ll check out your suggestion, but I submit the attached to you in the meantime. Crop if needed.
Thanks for your VERY speedy response!
What a great site you’ve got!!!
Thanks so much Daryl Ann. These images are much better. We will check with Eric Eaton to verify this identification.
Correction Courtesy of Eric Eaton
No, this is an example of the “hermit beetle,” Osmoderma eremicola. They can get pretty hefty in their own right, but are not in the same subfamily as the ox beetle. I’m kind of glad it isn’t a Dynastinae. There are lots of “small” members of that subfamily that give me fits trying to ID!
BugGuide indicates that the Hermit Beetle is also known as the Odor of Leather Beetle because of its smell.
Wonderful!!! That’s it! Thank you SO much! You’ve been a wonderful help to me!
You guys really ROCK!
Letter 13 – Ox Beetle
Subject: Large Beetles
Location: Hereford, AZ
August 8, 2015 10:52 am
I found this guy in front of my garage in Hereford, AZ in early August, 2015. He’s about two inches long and very shiny. I’m thinking it might possibly be a rain beetle but it doesn’t seem hairy enough. He kept getting flipped on his back and couldn’t get himself upright until I helped him. Can you identify this large beetle?
Signature: Chuckys Mama
Dear Chucky Mama,
This is an Ox Beetle in the genus Strategus, and initially we thought this was a female Ox Beetle as the males have horns, but the antennae look more like the antennae of a male. According to BugGuide, there are both major (horned) males and minor males lacking in prominent horns. While the sex of your beetle is still uncertain, we are confident that the genus is correct. There are several members of the genus found in Arizona, and they look quite similar, and we would defer to a beetle expert’s opinion on the species.
Letter 14 – Ox Beetle
Subject: Super Shiny Ox Beetle
Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
August 19, 2015 1:36 pm
We came across this big guy while removing trash from Frenchman’s Forest Natural Area in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. In fact, one of the volunteers at first thought the beetle was a piece of glass and leaned down to pick it up and put it in his garbage bag. That was how shiny the carapace was! Once the volunteer realized the piece of glass was a beetle, he called everyone over to “ohhh and ahhh” over the big bug. The ox beetle was very gracious and posed for many pictures. When we clicked our last photo, the beetle walked away to do important beetle business.
Signature: Ann Mathews
Thanks so much for sending us your lovely image of a beautiful, male Ox Beetle, in the genus Strategus, and thank you for volunteering your time to help keep public land free of trash.
Letter 15 – Ox Beetle
Subject: Black beetles
Location: Tonto creek, payson Arizona
August 18, 2016 6:10 am
Yesterday, I was up at camp and there were tons of black beetles on their backs on the porch. I helped move them into the dirt, so nobody killed them, and when they were in the dirt, they dug down and hid there. I was wondering what kind of beetle they were. They had a tiny horn at the front but they weren’t rhinoceros beetles.
This is an Ox Beetle in the genus Strategus. According to BugGuide, three species: Strategus aloeus, Strategus cessus and Strategus craigi are found in Arizona. BugGuide also states: “Prefer sandy soils, apparently.” For the record, Ox Beetles are classified as Rhinoceros Beetles in the subfamily Dynastinae.
Letter 16 – Ox Beetle from the Dominican Republic
Subject: What the heck is this thing?
Geographic location of the bug: Dominican Republic, Samaná Province
Time: 01:19 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Can you please help us identify this guy?
How you want your letter signed: Paula & Milo
Dear Paula & Milo,
This is at least our third identification request for a male Ox Beetle in the genus Strategus submitted from the Dominican Republic (see also here) and we still do not have a conclusive species name. Because it is pictured on a stamp on Conect, our best guess would be Strategus quadrifoveatus, but Scarabaeidae de Hispaniola lists four different species: Strategus barbigerus, Strategus inermis, Strategus oblongus and Strategus syphax without images, and does not include the species pictured on the stamp.
Letter 17 – Ox Beetle Grub, we believe
Very large beetle? larvae
May 18, 2010
I found this large larvae in our leaf compost this morning. It was under about 3 feet of leaves, in the soil. Uncoiied it is more that 2 inches long and about 3/4 inches thick. The tail end is curved and flattened. I’m not sure if you can tell what kind if beetle it is, but my children would like to keep it as a pet. can we keep it in an aquarium filled with compost and leaves (and a well fitting lid?) Will it become an adult this year or does it have a way to go? How big will this monster get?
This is a Grub of one of the large Rhinoceros Beetles in the subfamily Dynastinae. We believe it to be an Ox Beetle Grub in the genus Strategus. Of the five species pictured on BugGuide, Strategus antaeus is reported the furthest north. A photo of the Grub of Strategus antaeus was identified and a compost pile is mentioned as a likely habitat. Of the genus, BugGuide indicates: “One year life cycle, apparently. Larvae, in captivity, feed on rotting wood, vegetation.” Information on a photo of a Grub and Pupa of a related species, Strategus aloeus found in Florida provides this information on BugGuide which may be helpful in your attempts to raise this Grub to maturity: “A student of mine gave me these two grubs two months ago. I have had them buried in sand feeding them roots and dry dog food. The grubs buried themselves to a depth of about 6 inches in sand. About three weeks ago they surfaced and stopped moving about going into a dormant stage preparing for pupation. There they sat (one is still to pupate) until a week ago when the one began to pupate. The larval skin is still evident at the end of the abdomen. One can see the head of the grub skin. It is fascinating watching these change. I will add more photos as I notice changes. These beetles are beginning their emergence in this area as well.“
Thank you! My daughter took it to school and the children loved watching it move around. We will set it up with it’s own tank and observe what it does. Very cool!
Letter 18 – Ox Beetle from Honduras
Subject: Dung Beetle or Scarab?
Location: Lempira, Honduras
April 21, 2014 8:06 am
Keep up the good work you do, if you have time to tell me what this is I appreciate it! This was taken at a hot springs in the early evening in late March.
Signature: Matthew Hilchey
This beauty looks like an Ox Beetle in the genus Strategus to us. According to BugGuide, they are found in: “Southern North America, esp. coastal plain of southeastern United States. Genus extends into neotropics.” The type locality for Strategus aloeus is listed as Honduras on Encyclopedia of Life.
Letter 19 – Ox Beetle Pupa
Subject: What is this?
Geographic location of the bug: San Antonio, TX
Time: 11:11 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Found this dirt egg and picked it up and felt something moving inside .. What is it? It was under some Walnut slabs of wood and leaves I was cleaning up..
How you want your letter signed: Bugman?
This is the pupa of a horned Scarab Beetle, and we believe it looks identical to this Ox Beetle pupa in the genus Strategus that is pictured on BugGuide. The “dirt egg” is the pupal chamber.
Many thanks as I put the pics on Facebook as a challenge to identify…
Letter 20 – Ox Beetle with Mites
Subject: Beetle and his friends
Location: central texas
May 16, 2012 11:44 pm
Identifying the beetle is prolly pretty easy, the real question, for me, is what are the tiny bugs hanging out in the dent on its head. It’s hard to make them out in the picture. They are light brown/yellowish in color and about the size of a pencil point. I’ve got some good pictures finally.
We believe the beetle is a female Ox Beetle in the genus Strategus and the small creatures on her head are Mites. We don’t believe they are parasitic, but more likely that they are Phoretic Mites, meaning they use the Ox Beetle for transportation from one food source to another. Here is a photo of a female Ox Beetle from BugGuide.
Letter 21 – Possibly Ox Beetle
Subject: did we build on an Indian burial ground?
Location: Tx Hill Country
June 6, 2014 10:45 am
All the bugs at our place in the Texas Hill Country are gynormous. Can you ID what kind of beetle this is? Thanks so much!
Signature: Mark and Brenda
Dear Mark and Brenda,
Your image, though interesting, lacks critical detail. This is definitely a Scarab Beetle in the family Scarabaeidae, and we suspect it is an Ox Beetle in the genus Strategus. Male Ox Beetles have horns. Females do not. You can learn more about Ox Beetles on BugGuide.