By George Giltner, Master Gardener
The rhino beetles (Scarabaeidae family) look like June bugs on steroids with up to a two inch length. Some species have males with large horns which make them ferocious looking. However, do not fear because these beeltes are harmless. They even make good pets which can be kept in captivity for up to two years.
Strategus aleous is a common species found in our Beauregard Parish. Look around parking lots at night, as they are attracted to street lights near grass or wooded areas. The males have dominant curved side horns and a frontal rhino horn. If two males are put a box, you may have a battle of the bugs contest with shoving and pushing. These bugs are extremely strong. One entomologist glued a weight 100X the weight of the beetle, on its back. It carried the weight. This is equivalent to a man walking with three cars on his back. Therefore ounce per ounce, these beetles are among the world’s strongest animals. Online “Giant Beeltes, Hercules Beetles, Ox Beetles, Rhino Beetles and Unicorn Beetles” can bring in big prices from collectors. Perfect specimens can be sold for thousands of dollars.
The giant 4 inch grubs that residents of Beauregard parish find in their compost, rotting stumps, sawdust, and leaf piles are the harmless larvae of these beetles. They are beneficial by aiding in the decomposition of high-carbon organic matter. In my own 4’ cube compost pile, I have counted up to 50 of these grubs. They are dossel and easily picked from finished compost to add to unfinished organic matter. Fishermen love to use these grubs to catch the prize “big One”. Insectivorous animals like opossums and armadillos love to dig up thick layers of leaves under hardwood forest to feast on the grubs of these giant beetles.
These fascinating goliaths of the beetle order, Coleoptera, are totally beneficial to man. Whether put to use as fish bait, a compost grinder, or as a pet for a curious child, these beetles are useful insects.