What Do Scarab Beetles Eat: A Friendly Guide to Their Diet

Scarab beetles are a family of insects known for their striking appearance, with many species displaying vibrant colors and patterns. These beetles display a wide variety of eating habits, ranging from herbivorous to carnivorous. Although they differ in size, shape, and color, they all share some common attributes, including clubbed antennae and rounded, often iridescent body.

You might find scarab beetles snacking on various plant parts, such as leaves or fruits. However, some species, like the dung beetles, are known for their unique role as nature’s recyclers. They help decompose animal feces, thus benefiting the ecosystem. Others, such as the carrion beetles, feed on animal carcasses, breaking them down and providing essential nutrients to plants.

These beetles also play a crucial role as pollinators for various plant species. They visit flowers in search of nectar, inadvertently transferring pollen and aiding plant reproduction. Overall, the diverse diets of scarab beetles contribute significantly to maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

Understanding Scarab Beetles

Scarab beetles are a diverse and fascinating group of insects, belonging to the family Scarabaeidae, within the larger order of Coleoptera. They can be found across the globe in various habitats, with some even living in animal burrows in the Arctic.

You’ll find that scarab beetles come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are quite beautiful, adorned with iridescent hues and resembling jewelry, while others can be more drab or even intimidating, like the large and unusual Hercules beetle.

The dietary habits of scarab beetles can vary greatly depending on the species. They have adapted to different food sources, such as:

  • Fungivores: feeding on fungi
  • Herbivores: feeding on plants, like the Grape Pelidnotas feeding on grape leaves
  • Necrophages: consuming dead animal matter
  • Coprophages: dining on feces, like the well-known Scarabaeus sacer or sacred scarab
  • Saprophages: enjoying decaying organic matter

On top of these dietary preferences, some scarab beetles have a carnivorous diet. For example, the larvae of Hermit flower beetles feed on old, rotting wood. It is important to note that their diverse diets often don’t cause much damage to plants.

Here’s an easy-to-read comparison table for some common scarab beetle diets and examples:

Diet Examples
Fungivores Some Cetoniinae species
Herbivores Grape Pelidnotas
Necrophages
Coprophages Sacred scarab
Saprophages

By learning about their fascinating appearance, diverse diets, and ecological roles, you can gain a better understanding of the world of scarab beetles. Who knows, maybe you’ll even spot some of these interesting insects in your own backyard!

Life Cycle of a Scarab Beetle

The life cycle of a scarab beetle comprises four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Let’s explore each stage in detail.

Egg Stage:
Scarab beetles lay their eggs in soil or decomposing organic materials such as dung or rotting vegetation. Female beetles can lay around 50-100 eggs, depending on the species. This provides a safe environment for the eggs to develop and hatch.

Larval Stage:
Upon hatching, the young scarab beetles, called larvae, emerge. Larvae are C-shaped, legged, and often white or cream-colored. As part of their development, they feed on decomposing organic matter. Some species are known to consume roots and plant material as well.

Examples of larval feeding habits include:

  • Dung beetles: feeding on dung.
  • June beetles: consuming roots and plant material.

Pupal Stage:
Once the larvae are fully grown, they enter the pupal stage. This is when they undergo metamorphosis, a transformation process in which the larvae develop into adults. The pupa is typically encased in a protective cocoon made of soil and organic materials.

Adult Stage:
As adults, scarab beetles show stunning diversity and often brilliant colors, like the rainbow scarab, which features metallic green and copper hues. Males and females can be distinguished by features like horns or other specialized structures. These beetles play essential roles as decomposers and even pollinators in various ecosystems.

Some scarab beetles have specific diets, such as:

  • Rainbow scarabs: feeding mostly on dung.
  • Japanese beetles: feeding on various plants.

Remember, the scarab beetle’s life cycle consists of these stages: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. You’ll see variations in their appearance, behavior, and diet depending on their species. Enjoy witnessing the wonderful world of these colorful and diverse beetles!

Diet and Feeding Habits

Primary Food Sources

Scarab beetles have a diverse diet depending on the species. Some common food sources include:

  • Dung and manure: Many species, like dung beetles, thrive on feeding and nesting in animal waste.
  • Decaying matter: Some scarab beetles, such as Hermit flower beetles, have larvae that feed on old, rotting wood1.
  • Plants and fruits: Certain beetles, like the Grape pelidnotas, primarily feed on grape leaves1. Others may consume a variety of plant roots, leaves, and fruits.
  • Sap: Some scarab beetles consume tree sap.
  • Carrion: A few species like flesh-eating beetles feed on dead animals.
  • Pollen: Flower chafers are known for their preference for feeding on pollen.

Feeding Techniques

Scarab beetles display different feeding techniques based on their diet and environment:

  • Decomposition process: Earth-boring dung beetles play a crucial role in the decomposition process by breaking down dung and decaying matter into smaller particles2.
  • Boring: Beetles that consume plant roots or wood often bore into the material to access their food source.
  • Scavenging: Flesh-eating scarab beetles scavenge carcasses, aiding in the breakdown of dead animals.
  • Foraging: Flower chafers actively forage for pollen in flowers and on plants.

By understanding the diet and feeding habits of scarab beetles, you can better appreciate their role in various ecosystems. Keep in mind that their diets can vary significantly depending on the species, and not all scarab beetles will consume the same types of food.

Scarab Beetles and the Environment

Scarab beetles are a diverse group of insects with a wide range of habitats and distribution. They can be found in various environments, such as forests, deserts, and grasslands. These beetles play a crucial role in their ecosystems by helping maintain soil structure and nutrient recycling.

Due to their varied diet, scarab beetles have adapted to different environments. They feed on:

  • Fungi
  • Decaying plants and animals
  • Dung
  • Leaves

In habitats like the rainforest, they are instrumental in keeping the forest floor clean by breaking down decaying matter and recycling nutrients back into the soil. They also contribute to the maintenance of the soil structure by digging tunnels, which helps with aeration and water infiltration.

Scarab beetles have a unique way of burying their food, which is beneficial for the ecosystem. When they bury waste, they help:

  • Improve soil structure
  • Enrich soil with nutrients
  • Control pests and diseases
  • Reduce odor and pollution

Their digging actions also help in seed dispersal, enabling the evolution and growth of new plants in different areas.

Over the course of their evolution, scarab beetles have spread across all continents, making them an essential part of various ecosystems. From rainforests to deserts, they maintain the balance of their surroundings by recycling waste, dispersing seeds, and improving soil quality.

In conclusion, scarab beetles are truly an essential part of the environment and play a critical role in maintaining the ecological well-being of our planet.

Scarab Beetle Behavior

Scarab beetles are quite diverse in their feeding habits, and the types of environments they inhabit. You might have seen some scarabs as pests in your garden, while others play an essential role in ecosystems by breaking down waste material.

These beetles can be broadly classified into three categories based on their behavior and feeding habits:

  • Rollers: They collect dung, roll it into a ball, and move it away from the source to consume later. This helps keep your surroundings clean. A good example of a roller is the dung beetle.
  • Tunnelers: They bury waste materials, providing vital aeration to soil. The rainbow scarab is a tunneler.
  • Dwellers: These scarabs live within dung and other decaying materials.

Besides dung, scarabs also feed on dead plants and animals, making them helpful decomposers in nature. Some of them, like the flower chafer, feed on flowers and nectar. You may find others, like the June bug, feeding on leaves and other plant materials.

Scarab beetles have unique features, such as clubbed antennae, which help them sense their surroundings and find food. They have strong, shovel-like front legs that enable them to dig tunnels or roll their food. Their coloring ranges from drab to bright metallic shades, sometimes even adorned with a horn, like in the case of the rainbow scarab. This coloring and their horn can serve as a defense mechanism against predators.

In conclusion, scarab beetles have varying behaviors and food preferences. They play vital roles in the ecosystem, from being decomposers to aerating soil, so keep an eye out for these fascinating insects next time you’re in wooded areas or tropical forests.

Types of Scarab Beetles

There are several types of scarab beetles, and they have different eating habits. Let’s take a quick look at some of them:

Dung Beetles

As the name suggests, dung beetles feed on dung. They play a crucial role in the ecosystem by recycling nutrients from animal waste. Some species of dung beetles include the rainbow scarab and those belonging to the family Geotrupidae.

June Beetles

Also known as June bugs, these beetles mostly feed on the leaves of trees and plants. They can cause damage to some plants, but they are generally not a major threat.

Rhinoceros Beetles

These large, horned beetles are herbivores that feed on plants, fruits, and nectar. They are known for their impressive size and strength.

Japanese Beetles

These invasive beetles can cause significant damage to plants. They feed on the leaves and petals of more than 300 species, including roses, grapes, and raspberries.

To summarize, scarab beetles have a wide variety of diets that depend on their species. Some primarily feed on dung, while others feast on plant materials like leaves and nectar. By understanding their eating habits, you can better appreciate their role in the ecosystem and take appropriate actions if you encounter them in your garden.

Here is a comparison table for quick reference:

Beetle Type Diet Example Species Environmental Impact
Dung Beetle Dung Rainbow Scarab, Family Geotrupidae Positive, recycling nutrients
June Beetle Leaves, plants June Bug Moderate, damage to some plants
Rhinoceros Beetle Plants, fruits Low
Japanese Beetle Leaves, petals Harmful, invasive, damages plants

Scarab Beetles Around the World

In the fascinating world of beetles, Scarab beetles hold a special place due to their historical significance and unique characteristics. They can be found in many parts of the world, from North America to deserts of Ancient Egypt, but not in Antarctica. Let’s explore their diverse presence and significance across various regions.

In Ancient Egypt, scarab beetles were highly valued as a symbol of regeneration and resurrection. Egyptians worshipped Khepri, the sun god, who was often portrayed as a scarab beetle. They believed that Khepri’s movement across the sky resembled the actions of the Egyptian scarab (Scarabaeus sacer) rolling dung balls, in which they would lay eggs.

This connection with resurrection led the Egyptians to use scarab beetles in their jewelry and amulets, symbolizing the regeneration of life force. They were even placed in mummified bodies to ensure a successful afterlife transition.

But what do these beetle species eat? Some scarab beetles are known as dung beetles, primarily feeding on cattle feces. They collect the dung, roll it into balls, and bury it underground, providing a suitable environment for their eggs to hatch. This process is essential for their survival and reproduction.

In the United States, particularly in Missouri, scarab beetles often exhibit a stunning array of colors and patterns. They still serve an essential ecological role, as they aid in breaking down animal waste and returning nutrients to the soil.

Region Importance of Scarab Beetles Main Diet
Ancient Egypt Symbol of regeneration, resurrection, and the sun god Khepri Dung
North America Ecological role in breaking down animal waste Dung, carrion

In conclusion, scarab beetles hold great cultural, historical, and ecological significance. Their varied habitats and unique behaviors make them a captivating subject worth exploring for any enthusiast.

Impact on Agriculture

Scarab beetles can both positively and negatively impact agriculture. They play a role in conservation by aiding in the decomposition of dung, dead plants, and animals. Some species are beneficial to farmers, like the dung beetles, which help break down animal waste and improve soil quality.

However, there are other scarab beetles, like the Japanese beetle, that are known to be agricultural pests, causing damage to crops and ornamental plants. These pests feed on plant leaves and roots, leading to a reduction in agricultural productivity.

In terms of livestock, some beetles might annoy the animals as they swarm around dung piles. But typically, scarab beetles do not pose a significant threat to livestock health.

To address the issues caused by pest species, management strategies are employed, such as using insecticides or introducing biological control agents like parasitic wasps.

Here’s a comparison table of scarab beetle impact on agriculture:

Impact Positive Negative
Conservation Aid decomposition of materials Some species damage plants
Livestock Little effect on livestock Annoyance from swarming
Pest Management Reduction in waste and improved soil quality Cost of pest control methods

Remember, not all scarab beetles are harmful to agriculture, but it becomes essential to manage and control those that negatively affect crops and plants.

Footnotes

  1. UMN Extension – Scarab Beetles 2

  2. Missouri Department of Conservation – Scarab Beetles

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 – Pine Chafer from Romania

 

Subject:  Beetle with earslike antennas
Geographic location of the bug:  Carpathian Mountains, Romania
Date: 07/21/2019
Time: 03:53 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  The beetle makes a screeching sound and has a strong grip. Was attracted by light
How you want your letter signed:  Raz

Pine Chafer

Dear Raz,
The sounds this Pine Chafer makes by rubbing together parts of its body is called stridulation.

Letter 2 – Possibly Cane Grub from Australia

 

Subject: What is this beetle?
Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
November 13, 2013 3:48 am
I have noticed these beetles around my house in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Sometimes there are dozens at a time, and they only appear at night . I was thinking it was a Rhipiceridae, but many of the Rhipiceridae in Australia seem to be of the black colouring. I have not been able to find any photos online that look very similar, and those that do are apparently not found in Australia…
Signature: Josh

Cane Grub or Brown Cockchafer
Cane Grub or Brown Cockchafer

Hi Josh,
Your beetle is a Scarab and we believe it might be a Cane Grub or Brown Cockchafer,
Rhopaea magnicornis, based on images posted to the Brisbane Insect website.  Alas, none of those photos show the Flabellate Antennae illustrated in your photo.  There are photos of the head and other details of a mounted specimen available on PaDil Australian Biosecurity.  That site also contains a list of similar looking species.  According to Oz Animals:  “The Brown Cockchafer is a stocky reddish-brown beetle with a hairy body. The antennae are short and fan-shaped. It is often found flying towards house lights in late spring and summer.”

Letter 3 – Probably Odor of Leather Beetle

 

Subject: what is this black beetle ?
Location: greater Boston Massachusetts
August 7, 2016 4:35 pm
we found this in our backyard in August
Signature: lawa

Probably Odor of Leather Beetle
Probably Odor of Leather Beetle

Dear Iawa,
This is a Scarab Beetle in the genus
Osmoderma and according to BugGuide, the larvae feed on: “Decaying centers of various hardwoods.”  Is there a rotting tree nearby and did the beetle smell like leather?  We believe this is Osmoderma eremicola which is commonly called a Hermit Flower Beetle or the Odor of Leather Beetle because according to BugGuide, it gives off a “strong odor of ‘Russian Leather.'”  BugGuide also notes:  “adults nocturnal, come to lights.”

Authors

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  • 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.

  • 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.

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