Rhinoceros Beetle Fact File
The rhinoceros beetle is named for the large horn protruding from the head of the male. One protrudes from the front of the head and the other comes from the middle of the thorax. By moving the head they can pinch the two horns together.
Females lack the horn and instead have a flat head making them easy to tell apart.
As an insect their body is divided in to three sections the head, thorax and abdomen. Six legs sit on the sides of the body. At the end of the legs are small claws which help them hold on to items.
Across their body they are colored black.
Protruding from the front of their head are antennae which are used to feel the world around them.
Their body can reach a length of up to 7cm (2.8in) long making them among Australia’s largest beetles.
Throughout their life the rhinoceros beetle is a herbivore. As an adult they will feed on soft fruits and the bark of young shoots. Large gatherings may occur at good food sources and these gatherings are thought to be part of their breeding behavior.
Larva live in pulpy wood which is their main food source along with leaf litter and mulch. The larva assist the break down of timber in to feed.
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In Australia this species can be found in New South Wales and Queensland. They are also found in New Guinea.
Naturally these animals are found in rainforests. As humans have expanded their range these animals have adapted to live near people and can often be sighted near bright lights in car parks or at petrol stations.
The males horns are used to show off to females to attract a mate and in fights with other males to help gain breeding rights.
Females deposit up to 50 eggs which are colored white in to a piece of rotting wood. After three weeks they will hatch and they have a food source provided for them.
They live in the wood as a larvae for up to two years feeding on this food. They will then pupate by forming a cell in the soil from their own fecal matter which serves to waterproof the cell. After a month they emerge as an adult.
Larvae are colored a creamy white with a black facial patch.
An adult rhinoceros beetle will not grow with all of their growth completed in the larval form.
As adults they only live for between 2 and 4 months providing them time to mate and lay eggs.
These beetles are capable of flight with the wings hidden under the hard back covering known as the elytra when not in use.
When disturbed they make a hissing noise. This is created by rubbing the wing covers against their abdomen. Often this noise has been likened to Darth Vader.
Most of their time is spent underground though they will emerge at night to feed.
Predators and Threats
These animals face predation from birds.
They may benefit from the presence of humans as they provide compost bins which are full of their food.
This species may also be referred to as the Australian elephant beetle or the coconut palm beetle.
Xylotrupes ulysses is one of the 200 species of rhinoceros beetle recorded in Australia. Most of these are small than this species with only two approaching them in size. Overall beetles are the most common group of insects.
Top and Middle One
By Quartl – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6238981
Middle Two and Bottom
Donald Hobern from Copenhagen, Denmark, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Henderson, A., Henderson, D. and Sinclair, J., 2012. Bugs Alive. Melbourne: Museum Victoria.
2021. Rhinoceros Beetle (Xylotrupes ulysses). [ebook] Kuranda: Minibeast Wildlife, pp.1-2. Available at: <https://shop.minibeastwildlife.com.au/content/Minibeast%20Wildlife%20Care%20Guide%20-%20Xylotrupes%20ulysses.pdf> [Accessed 2 April 2021].
iNaturalist. 2021. Australian Rhinoceros Beetle (Xylotrupes australicus). [online] Available at: <https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/775325-Xylotrupes-australicus> [Accessed 2 April 2021].
Land for Wildlife. 2021. Star Wars in the Beetle World – Land for Wildlife. [online] Available at: <https://www.lfwseq.org.au/star-wars-beetle-world/> [Accessed 2 April 2021].
Chew, P., 2021. Rhinoceros Beetle – Xylotrupes gideon. [online] Brisbaneinsects.com. Available at: <http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_scarabs/R_Beetle.htm> [Accessed 2 April 2021].
2011.. Rhinoceros Beetle Fact Sheet. [eBook]. South Brisbane. Geoff Monteith. Queensland Museum Learning.
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