Live Pet Rhino Beetles of the United States
The United States has to be one of the best countries on the planet for collecting live pet beetles. Whether you're interested in live stag beetles, darkling beetles, predatory ground beetles or the biggest live pet beetles of all, rhino beetles, we have something in all the major categories of popular pet beetles to choose from. More than just options, we have some truly fabulous species. There is still a pretty large underground hobby importing exotic beetles illegally over the US border. Not only is this foolish, it's also completely unnecessary. Look no further than your own backyard for natives that display both size and color and often make better live pets in captivity.
As for rhino beetles specifically, Strategus species and four species of Megasoma rhino beetles are among our most impressive. However, the consistent favorite live pet beetles in a growing US hobby are our two species in the genus Dynastes. Often called Hercules beetles, these are huge insects by all rights with males sometimes exceeding 3 inches in length. More than length, these beetles have girth. They can measure an inch and a half in width. Photos in books do many insects justice, but nothing can prepare a keeper for these tank-like bugs with their unique patterns of spots and glossy wood-finish exteriors.
Best of all, they make really great pets! Through the efforts of an increasingly popular pet hobby, and especially the internet, the secret arts to keeping this insect has been revealed. Several good books have been written on the subject of keeping live rhino beetles, but only one really deserves the exclusive attention of US hobbyists- "The Complete Guide to Rearing the Eastern Hercules Beetle
The largest rhino beetle in the United States is Dynastes granti. These beetles live in various parts of Arizona, USA and may range into Utah and New Mexico and Northern Mexico. With the long upper horn, males, being longer than hornless females, range from about 50mm to 80mm at the extremes. This particular MONSTER is an amazing 76.2 mm (3 inches without legs) wild-caught male (Payson, AZ in August, 2000)! Captive-bred specimens can be longer on average, but still rarely reach 75 mm. In nature, larvae feed on leaf-litter and rotten wood, while adults apparently feed on the sap of trees, especially Velvet Ash (Arizona Ash), and probably oak.
Dynastes tityus is usually referred to as the Eastern Hercules beetle. It makes a better live beetle pet in captivity because larvae take about half as long, on average, to reach maturity. Adult Dynastes tityus also go through an overwintering period which extends their adult lifespan to about 3 times the length of Arizona's heat-tolerant Dynastes granti. The top and bottom horns of Dynastes tityus are approximately the same length, making them less impressive to some keepers. However, the deep yellow coloration of the captive bred strain is arguably more attractive than the olive to gray coloration of Dynastes granti.
You are best off just going down to the local nursery and buying a big bag of organic soil, without pumice in it. Pumice makes it harder to distinguish the ova, and may also damage them during the sifting process when you are looking for ova (eggs). Put about 8 inches of soil in a 10 gallon aquarium, and just set the females in there. Males may kill females, so they should only be allowed to stay with the females until you are sure they have been mated. A single male will take care of business, so additional males are unnecessary (though often preferred as both pets and dried specimens). Females will burrow to the bottom, lay ova in compacted soil, then come back to the top to feed on apple or banana which should be placed on a plastic lid so that the juices don't contaminate the soil. Various "beetle jellies
" are a non-molding, non-rotting alternative to fresh fruits and are available through our online store. We get these from keepers that make regular trips to Asia where the beetle hobby is so popular there are pet stores specifically devoted to beetle keeping!
Room temperature is fine, although beetles will live longer if they are given an overwintering period (D. tityus only) or are kept at cooler temperatures (both species). This doesn't necessarily mean they lay more ova though, since their metabolisms would be hindered. I use a watering can to wet the soil down pretty good, once a week or so. I might dump a cup or pint of water evenly throughout the substrate. In warmer or dryer conditions you might need to increase this amount. The lid on your tank should be rather limited in terms of air holes or ventilation. Ova should hatch in one to six months. Larvae feed voraciously on hardwood wood and leaf substrate mixes, but should also be given dry petfood for protein. They may eat the latter exclusively, as they mature. D. granti take about 2 years to mature.
The photos below show normal coloration of Dynastes granti on an average sized male. The top photo reveals damage from male sparring (a hole/crack in the pronotum). Males famously spar over females in contests of strength and endurance.