The biggest beetle in the world

May 11, 2020 • 3:30 pm

Here we have what’s supposedly the world’s largest beetle, the Hercules beetle (Dynastes hercules), though Wikipedia says it’s “the longest beetle” and “one of the largest flying insects in the world.” How big?

Adult body sizes (not including the thoracic horn) vary between 50 and 85 mm (2.0 and 3.3 in) in length and 29 and 42 mm (1.1 and 1.7 in) in width. Male Hercules beetles may reach up to 173 mm (7 in) in length (including the horn), making them the longest species of beetle in the world, if jaws and/or horns are included in the measurement. The size of the horn is naturally variable, more so than any variation of the size of legs, wings, or overall body size in the species. This variability results from developmental mechanisms that coincide with genetic predisposition in relation to nutrition, stress, exposure to parasites, and/or physiological conditions.

They can weight about 2 ounces.

Reports suggest the Hercules beetle is able to carry up to 850 times its body mass. Actual measurements on a much smaller (and relatively stronger: see square-cube law) species of rhinoceros beetle shows a carrying capacity only up to 100 times their body mass, at which point they can barely move.

That’s the equivalent of a 150-pound male carrying nearly 64 tons! The males use their big horns to fight. I’ve put a video of a male battle below:

They eat rotting wood, and of course they can fly (you can see the elytra, or wing covers, pull back when this one’s forced to flap its wings). It seems to me that they’re torturing the poor beetle!

Here’s the battle royale:

And here’s the larva:


27 thoughts on “The biggest beetle in the world

    1. The similar rhinoceros beetles of the Amazon have larvae that are prized as delicacies by humans! I’ve eaten them myself, both alive and fried. Not out of choice but under social pressure from the tribesmen who offered them to me. The larvae smell a bit like the rotten palm trunks that they live in. Yuck. But like the masticated spit-out fermented lukewarm chunky gray and pink liquid chicha that is offered to visitors on special occasions, you cannot refuse these without offending the hosts.

        1. No, it is awell-known and widespread delicacy, even making it out of the jungle into the rainforest town’s food markets. In the Quechua language it is called “Chontacuro”

        1. See above video. Im my opinion they are greasy-tasting and the heads are unpleasantly crunchy. And the smell/stae of moldy wood bothers me.

      1. In the video I see that they desrcibe the adults a s giant weevil. So maybe I was mistaken and the adult is not a rhinoceros beetle. Of course when eating them we only see the larvae, and I never raised one out to see what it turns into. I just assumed the adult was a rhinoceros beetle, which is the common large beetle that comes to lights at night there.

  1. That’s a damn big beetle – not sure Herbie will agree it’s the biggest though…! (Apologies in advance for my usual stupidity. That really is an incredible beast – 64 tons!)

      1. If I had one as a pet, Herbie would be its name.

        This is a short, time lapse video of the metamorphosis of a tiger beetle, from National Geographic. Only background music but one subtitle has it that the larvae are “basically the size of a Polish sausage.”

        Polish sausage will never be the same for me.

  2. “And here’s the larva:”

    What’s funny is I filled in the word “tiny”, even though it wasn’t there.

    Someone call Andrew Zimmer – that chef who eats stuff like this. Or actually maybe not. Not sure about the ethical calculation here…

  3. A beetle that big that can fly is amazing. Pretty sure I’d run screaming if it was flying at me. 🙂

  4. That’s a lot of beetle to just eat rotting wood. Is the horn strictly for defense and territory (I assume it attracts mates too?) or do they also use it to rip up the wood they eat?

    1. A bit of speculation here from me, but it comes from various hints I have seen.
      I think what the larvae most get out of their diet is the fungus in the wood, but i am not sure if they also digest the cellulose.
      The horns are only possessed by males, and they use those in fairly ritualized fights with rival males. The contest is mainly to secure a rotten log that is favored by females for laying eggs. I am pretty sure the females don’t much care which male has the biggest horns. They just want the log.

  5. One could wonder what the evolutionary and natural pressures were for this clade of beetles to achieve gigantism, considering today’s atmosphere isn’t really abundant in oxygen like in the Carboniferous Period.

  6. Reminds me of the rhinocerous beetles we would find in North Queensland. For some reason you would often find them upended, and they would make such a racket with their “hissing” that you couldn’t resist tipping them back upright. To me they look like something from the dinosaur age. Was quite fond of them. See video below:

  7. Collecting enormous beetles like that is so popular in Japan – imported from Thailand – they recently had to ban importation as its effecting their numbers in SE Asia. I watch the Japanese news every day. 🙂
    D.A., J.D., NYC

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