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Rhinoceros Beetles (Family Scarabaeidae, Subfamily Dynastinae)Printable Version
According to the Queensland Museum factsheet for Rhinoceros beetles, Australia has almost 200 species of rhinoceros beetle. However, only a few reach the size of Xylotrupes gideon. Rhinoceros beetles are a part of the scarab family, which includes the familiar and brightly coloured Christmas beetles.

Xylotrupes gideon - click to enlarge

This is one monster of a beetle! I do not have small hands, and this guy was spanning the width of four fingers. Check out the claws on the ends of his legs too; actually, this was the second rhinoceros beetle I found on the trip, and I learned the hard way that those little claws can have one serious pinch! Seriously, he didn't break my skin - but you could feel him trying!

Wikipedia gives the common name "Princess beetle" for this genus - but I don't know what this male would have thought of that name!

Xylotrupes gideon - click to enlarge

Although in reality these guys are quite harmless, he certainly struck a few ferocious poses! Here he is, balancing on four feet and threatening me with the other two. At other times he stood fully on just his rear two feet, waving about his front four legs at me.

The other fun thing he was doing was buzzing, or hissing at me. Each time he detected movement - I might move the camera in my other hand - he would go off: BZZZZZZ!! BZZZZZZ!! The museum factsheet explains: "The fearsome appearance of these Xylotrupes beetles is increased by the loud hissing squeaks they give when disturbed ... The hissing squeak is merely bluff and is produced by rubbing the abdomen against the ends of the wing covers; if a squeaking beetle is examined closely, the abdomen can be seen moving in time with the squeaks." This was certainly true for this guy, as I managed to see him generate the hissing sound.

Xylotrupes gideon - click to enlarge

There was one other very prominent difference between X. gideon and the other rhinoceros beetle I found earlier in the trip: their horns were markedly different. X. gideon has very elaborate, forked horns: one on his thorax (the top horn), and one above his head (the bottom horn). As my earlier photos were on non-viewable storage, I was working from memory, but I was sure I would have noticed the forked horns if I'd seen them earlier.

It got me wondering whether this was a male and the earlier a female, but in actual fact, the female X. gideon has no horns at all. My earlier introduction to the family was an entirely different species...

Haploscapanes australicus ? - click to enlarge

Working from the museum fact sheet, I'm making a best guess that this guy is H. australicus. The museum describes this species as rare. The reason I say "best guess" is that the museum says the species as "can be identified by its two short horns on the thorax instead of one long one. It has an unbranched horn with a scalloped inner edge on its head.".

As can be seen in these photos, there is the appearance of two horns on the thorax, but on closer inspection (below), it actually appears as one broad, but forked horn. Secondly, whilst having an unbranched horn on the head, it is not "scalloped" as described. (I will see what I can do to get a positive ID on this one after publication)

Haploscapanes australicus ? - click to enlarge

The apparently single, but broad and forked thorax horn can be better seen in this poor quality image.

This beetle was notably smaller than X. gideon although I have no way of knowing if it was full-grown. It was far less ferocious, in that it did not rear up to threaten me, but it was no less noisy; buzzing and hissing away. As can be seen here, its claws were also far less powerful - feeling more like a tickle than a pinch.

A note on names
In this article I have used the scientific names used by the Queensland Museum (Xylotrupes gideon and Haploscapanes australicus). The CSIRO's entomology homepage for scarab beetles does not list the Haploscapanes genus at all, but the "australicus" part of that species name is used as a sub-species name for Xylotrupes ulyses spp. australicus - thus putting these two into the same genus (although their photo under that name differs both to my photos and the museum factsheet for H. australicus - so they may mean a different beetle). To complicate it further, the Save Our Waterways Now website lists Xylotrupes ulyses - instead of X. gideon.

Once again, I don't think the beetles care what we call them - common, two-horned or princess rhinoceros beetles, and three-horned rhinoceros beetles respectively! I think! :)

Oh, and did I mention you can buy them online, to be shipped through the mail, as pets?

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What's That Bug?
Posted on: 2007-02-03 16:46:41   By: admin
  Edited By: admin
On: 2007-02-03 16:49:12
Some of these photos have been generously reproduced over at What's That Bug? ... I came away from that trip with plenty of bug pics... I'd better get a move on with posting more here! :)

Be sure to check out the other bug articles at WLMD. There are also a number of spider articles at WLMD with more to come - including the netcasting spider, shortly.

[Reply ]

    Re: What's That Bug?
    Posted on: 2007-08-01 18:44:50   By: Anonymous
    can males live in 1 cage to gether?

    [Reply ]

      Re: What's That Bug?
      Posted on: 2008-02-01 15:10:14   By: Anonymous
      no they cant

      [Reply ]

      Re: What's That Bug?
      Posted on: 2008-02-01 15:11:08   By: Anonymous

      [Reply ]

Posted on: 2007-02-24 20:26:54   By: Anonymous
Well you've discovered a great deal about the identity of these beetles, but do you know what they eat?
A strange question, I am aware, but my younger brother had one of these on his foot and we decided to bring it home with us to show our grandfather (who likes all sorts of weird and wonderful creautures). We haven't managed to successfully find information on what these beetles eat; not for lack of trying. So have you any idea what they eat?

[Reply ]

    Re: Food?
    Posted on: 2007-02-25 04:42:30   By: admin

    my "Reader's Digest Encyclopedia of Australian Wildlife" says "their hidden larvae feed on plant roots, dung and decaying animal matter".

    Referring to Christmas beetles (also in the scarab family) they mention they "live mostly in eucalypt forests and woods on the east coast of Tasmania".

    Unfortunately I don't have any book references which are more specific about insects.

    My old "Encyclopedia of the Animal World" (1977) has only a short excerpt on scarab beetles, saying "most of the species are either scavangers on decaying organic matter, especially dung, or feed on the foliage or roots of growing plants".

    I guess if you have access to a good pile of leaf mulch, preferably eucalypt, which is damp underneath, you could put that in with the beetle, together with a freshly cut branch of eucalyptus leaves.

    For our phasmids we changed the Eucalyptus branches every day or two and had them sit in a small cup of water. It was important though that if the insects fell in the water they could climb out. The leaves were a mixture of mature leaves, new shoots and flowers.

    See if your beetle takes any of those things, and consider putting in a squashed cockroach or something similar (no chemicals/sprays please), as it seems they are quite omnivorous (well scavangers at least).


    [Reply ]

    Re: Food?
    Posted on: 2007-02-25 04:43:32   By: admin
    PS - if you live near some bush, look for rocky outcrops and see if you can collect wallaby dung from there... yum. :)

    [Reply ]

No Subject
Posted on: 2007-04-05 04:46:43   By: Anonymous
I found a r beetle measuring 65mm body length and 35mm wide. whilst working in Gove NT. Is this an average size?
[Reader's email address removed, 5/4/07]

[Reply ]

No Subject
Posted on: 2008-02-20 17:32:18   By: Anonymous
Hello, I am sorry but your Haploscapanes australicus is in fact Dasygnathus trituberculatus.

Best Regards.
Yannig Ponchel

[Reply ]

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