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Hercules beetle

Scientific name: Dynastes hercules herculesHercules beetle

Country: Dominica, Guadaloupe

Continent: North America

Diet: Adults - rotting fruit. Larvae - rotting wood, leaf litter, dung

Food & feeding: Herbivore

Habitats: Tropical rainforest

Conservation status: Not listed by IUCN (Conservation Union)

Relatives: Stag beetle, dung beetle

Description: The males and females are very different in appearance and for a long time people thought that the two sexes were different species. The males are smooth and shiny with wing cases that are a beautiful olive-green colour with large black spots. Their huge horn grows from the thorax and extends forward in a large curve over the head. The front of their head also has a horn pointing forward and curving upward which has several sturdy notches on it. These horns can make up more than half the body length of the beetles. The females don't have horns and instead have beaded wing cases covered in a thick layer of reddish hairs. Males may be up to 17 cm in length.

Lifestyle: Much of the lifecycle of this beetle is spent underground as a larva. The adults roam the forest undergrowth looking for ripe and decaying fruit to feed on.

Family & friends: The horns of the males are used in combat over access to females and food sources. The females, lacking the horns, do not fight.

Growing up: Eggs are laid in soil. The hatched larvae will go through several moults, growing and feeding, until they reach a huge size. The larvae have soft, fleshy, cream-coloured bodies. After nine months, the larvae pupate and then emerge some six months later as adults.

This is one of the world's largest beetles, but despite the fearsome appearance of the male’s horns they are harmless to humans.

Conservation news: Lesser AntillesHercules beetles are vulnerable in the wild due to destruction of forests and collection for the pet trade. They are also vulnerable as they are only found on two islands.  

Bristol Zoo Gardens is breeding these impressive beetles. The successful emergence of adults has been a result of persistent efforts by the animal staff since the first generation arrived at the Zoo in 1999.