2006/07/24

Rhinoceros In My Yard!

It nearly came down on me as opened the garage door this morning, but missed me by inches - a rhinoceros! There I was, staring at its huge horn as the rhino glared back at me. I was amazed at its size. Where did this thing come from?

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Well, OK, so it was just a Rhinoceros Beetle, but I could scarcely have been more startled. This one is a large example of the species at 5 cm (about 2 inches) in length. I swept him off the driveway, out of Momo's reach (she likes to "play" with insects), and he climbed up on a piece of wood where I took this picture:

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Beetles are popular pets for Japanese kids. They are easy to catch in the wild and just require a small amount of fruit or veggies to munch on for food. They live for two or three months. In the cities they are sold in department stores along with plastic cages. The Rhino beetles are common and sell for around US$7.00, but the two horned stag beetle, called o-kuwagata here, are more difficult to find and can bring prices of US$400 to over $1000. Plastic models of beetles and other insects are also a common sight in Japanese toy departments.

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As you can see, the long horn - which only males have - is forked at the end.



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Fiji has some even bigger beetle species. One of them, Xixuthrus heros, a longhorn beetle, is the longest beetle in the world at 16.5 cm. The Taveuni Beetle (Xixuthrus terribilis) is also quite large at some 14 cm. They are endangered and very rare however.

Some people may find beetles cute and want them for pets, but I'm happy to leave them outside, thank you very much.

Great name for a rock band with a big brass section though -
The Horned Beatles
- don't you think?

15 comments:

PinkPanther said...

US$7.00 for the Rhino beetles? So expensive. I HATED beetles, but I like Vw Beatle car and love to listen Beatle's songs.

Happysurfer said...

Interesting that petshops carry beetles for sale. Our petshops don't as they're not popular as pets. In fact, they're treated as pests and are thrown back into the wild. I don't mind them as they're a lot quieter than cicadas. Do they bite?

Say, that's a nice picture of the rhino. Handsome in fact.

The Moody Minstrel said...

To answer your question, Happysurfer, rhinoceros beetles are totally harmless except for the little hooks on their legs. Their horns are immobile, and their jaws are quite literally a pair of little brushes that they use to scrape off vegetable matter.

Stag beetles, on the other hand, are basically rhinoceros beetles whose horns are mounted horizontally...i.e. even though they also have brush-like mouths and feed on plant matter, they sport some pretty vicious mandibles and can give you a nasty pinch if you're not careful. The largest species, found in Indo-China and the Amazon, are said to be able to snap a pencil in two!

5cm is actually not all that impressive for a Japanese kabutomushi (rhinoceros beetle). I would call it average. My kids once caught one (read, "rescued it from Aka") that had to have been closer to 8cm in length. My son is a die-hard fan of the "Mushi King" ("King of Beetles") trading card/video game, so he is nuts about rhinoceros and stag beetles. Thanks to that game, he is also a little, walking fountain of knowledge about those things.

It doesn't bother me. I'd rather he be crazy about large, slow-moving, harmless bugs than a lot of other things! (When I was his age I used to go out and catch snakes!)

j-apricot said...

Does the size matter to female beetles?

Don Snabulus said...

All we have here are LOBs (little Oregon beetles) but we aren't too upset about it. It is always fun when nature throws a present at you.

jairam said...

I'm happy with my pet ALf already :)

Momo the Wonder Dog said...

Rhino beetles - taste like chicken.

Pandabonium said...

PP - my sisters and former wife all had VW Beetles. Cute, but not a very good car by today's standards. After all, it was a 1930's design. Beatles music? Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Happysurfer - for the most part they are pretty docile. Handsome? Nah!

MM - Spoilsport! My sources say rhinoceros beetles range up to 5.5 cm and this one measured 5, so by my reckoning it is big. 8 cm? Yeah, in your dreams buster. Next you'll be telling me that your clarinet is longer than my trombone slide. ;^)

J-apricot no comment. :o

Snabby - I'm fascinated by critters, but I prefer they not surprise me. :^)

Jairam - Well, I'm sure you are. Alf is a very cute doggy.

FH2O said...

Hmmm I'll be on the lookout for one on my next float down the rainforest river ... especially the 16.5 cm ones! haha! ;)

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Shame on you guys for your praise of the rhino beetle! They are absolute pests in Fiji and cause a lot of trouble with the coconut industry. Tell these people fascinated by the beetles who are willing to pay $17 for one (!!!) to go to Fiji and take as many as they like!
I hope I'm not barking up a coconut tree with my facts here, otherwise I'm a blithering idiot!
W.

Pandabonium said...

Fh2O - Yes, you've got plenty of beetles and other interesting critters in your neighborhood.

Wendy - quite right. The coconut rhinoceros beetle is serious pest. From what I've been able to determine, it only spread to the South Pacific in the last century. Evidently, all the ocean traffic that took place in WWII really did a lot to spread them around. Fiji first got them in 1953. They have been able to eradicate them in Tonga and Wallis Island. So far, Taveuni has remained free of them I think (may be wrong about that).

Maybe Fiji should export them to Japan.

;^)

Pandabonium said...

Moody Minstrel - well, although I am a (most of the time) vegetarian, I find myself eating some crow. It seems you and I were using different reference points for measuring beetles. The 5.5 cm I came up with was based on body only, whereas, I expect, your measurement included the "horn". I say potato and you say jagaimo... A thousand pardons O Great Moody One. And thanks for the Japanese name of the Rhino beetle as well.

Crow. Tastes like chicken.

Happysurfer said...

MM, thanks for the info. Snakes? Eewww!

nzm said...

Hi Pandabonium!

I got to your site via the Neoworkx site, and I'm glad that I clicked on your link!

I was born in Fiji and lived for 15 years there before moving to NZ with my family in 1976. Too long away from my home country, that's all I can say!

This post on the rhinoceros beetle brings back many memories for me. I remember one crashing into our lounge window in Suva one night - they make a noise like an Iroquois helicopter when they fly - you can hear it coming for miles!

Of course, I had to take it for show and tell to the Veiutu Primary School the next day - after my father caught it for me!

We were always taught about the damage that they did to the coconut industry - eating the coconut trees.

Maybe there is a huge market for exporting them to Japan for kids - live Tamaguchis! lol

My grandmother was the matron of Nawela Hostel near the Botanical Gardens and the museum, so a lot of my childhood included many happy hours playing in the gardens.

Once when I was near the pond, the gardeners came along and opened up the pond filter unit where they had been keeping a huge coconut crab. They lifted it out of the filter and put it on the grass, and it immediately chased me along the side of the pond. I was terrified and of course all the bloody gardeners thought that this was a huge joke! Those crabs are fearsome creatures - they will husk a coconut with their claws!

This particular crab was then killed and preserved to go into the crab case in the museum. On my rare visits back to Suva, I always go to the museum and stare at that crab in the middle of the case, and think, "you bastard - that's what happens when you chase me - you end up stuffed in a case!"

Great blog - I'll be back!

cheers
Michele

Pandabonium said...

Hi Michele, and vinaka vaka levu for visiting Pacific-Islander. That story about the coconut crab is too funny!
(yet I can empathyze with the child who so feared it).

I hope you keep coming back and find things of interest.