My dream, when moving to Japan, was to keep a Japanese rhinoceros beetle, known here as “kabutomushi” (which means, “helmet bug”). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find many resources in English on how to take care of rhino beetles, so, for at least my own benefit, here’s some information about rhinoceros beetle care that I’ve gleaned from Japanese websites.
I hope this is helpful to everyone who is looking for information about keeping a rhinoceros beetle pet.
Rhinoceros Beetle Care
Rhinoceros Beetle Materials
- Breeding case (Japanese: shiiku case) – just a normal animal aquarium, like what’s used for hermit crabs; usually plastic and cube-shaped. Be sure it is a type that will keep the air inside reasonably humid.
- Bug bedding (konchuu matto) – if not planning to breed beetles, many types are okay. For ease, store-bought beetle-specific bedding is recommended.
- Decaying branches, food dishes (kuchiki; esasara) – also sold at stores, although branches from outside are okay too; the branches give the beetles places to hide and the food dishes keep the beetle jelly from spilling onto the bedding.
- Food (esa) – 100 yen shops and home and garden stores sell special beetle jelly (konchuu zerii), in appetizing flavors such as black sugar, “protein,” and fruit (yum!). Apparently, bananas are also good for rhinoceros beetles. Even though it’s traditional beetle food in Japan, avoid watermelons and other water-heavy fruits.
- Beetle humidifier (kirifuki) – rhinoceros beetles are very susceptible to drying out, so this spray, or, alternatively a sort of “water bottle,” helps keep their bedding moist. Also, keeping leaves, which can be store bought, in the case helps keep the soil moist.
Rhinoceros Beetle Care
1. In Japan, rhinoceros beetles, as well as several other similar beetles, can be bought at home and garden centers, or, in my case, at a Toys’R’Us. Typically, it’s much easier to find them in stores in summer. The normal price is from 300yen to 2000yen. I’ve been told kids really enjoy catching wild beetles, but I’ve also heard the wild beetle population has been dwindling because of loss of habitat.
2. Fill the case 1/3 of the way with bedding that has been moistened with the humidifying liquid or plain water. Make sure the bedding is moistened to the point that it doesn’t crumble apart in your hands when you pick it up, but isn’t soaked. Beetles like to burrow during the day in this moist bedding. There isn’t much information on the web about changing the matting, but the bag recommends switching all of the matting out about once a month.
3. Then put in the branches and the food. To make sure that the jelly doesn’t make the bedding dirty, you can place it in a food plate. Be sure to change the food every day, preferably in the evening, to make sure this nocturnal beetle has fresh food as he is waking up. Water for drinking is unnecessary, as the jelly and fruits provide enough, but be sure to keep his/her soil moist — which leads to the next point.
4. Beetles are quite susceptible to dehydration. In nature, they hide under leaves and in dark places. Therefore, keep their case out of the sunlight! To keep the bedding hydrated, you can buy a special hydrating bottle (available at 100 yen shops, home and garden centers, etc.) and just stick it in the bedding as shown on the bottle. If you want to re-moisten the soil and/or aren’t using a humidifier, be sure to dampen various places, but not pour water directly on the beetle. Also, to keep the case hydrated, one website advises putting vinyl over the case and poking holes in the vinyl to let some air in. Leaves in the case also help keep the soil from drying out.
5. It isn’t advised to keep more than one beetle together, as fights or babies might break out. Also, too much humidity or leaving food for too long is inviting unwanted bugs and mites.
6. This is quite important, and a lesson learned through experience: Rhinoceros beetles naturally have a small number of mites on them. For this reason, many people keep the beetles outside. If you keep the beetle inside, make sure to take measures to prevent these mites from multiplying. One method is a charcoal mixture put into with the matting. This and other “dani” (the Japanese term for mites) prevention products are sold near other kabuto mushi products. Some brave souls go as far as to pick the mites off the beetle gently with a toothpick. It’s debated whether or not the mites will hurt the beetle, but they are yucky none-the-less and some may bite humans.
7. Last step: enjoy your new friend!
Rhinoceros Beetle Tips
- Rhinoceros beetles don’t sting or bite! Also, they won’t stab you with their horn. That being said, they are very strong and their legs are quite prickly.
- Rhinoceros beetles CAN fly!
- Keeping in mind that they can fly, but that they are pretty much harmless (unless their prickly legs deter you), rhinoceros beetles can be picked up. Since they are rather shy, though, it’s best not to do this too much, as it will stress them out.
- These beetles don’t make much noise, except for the sounds of scurrying and an unexpectedly loud buzzing sound when they flap their wings.
- I didn’t find much on beetle life-spans, but many places seem to indicate a life-span of less than a year, including the pre-beetle stage.
- In addition to the basic matting, beetles also like leaves, logs, etc., all of which can be bought at the store.
- Breeding beetles requires a little bit different care and is more involved, so this information is only to be taken as how to keep a healthy celibate beetle.
- Rhinoceros beetles are also called Hercules beetles because they are really strong! In Japanese, they are called, “kabuto mushi.” “Kabuto” means “helmet,” usually referring to the samurai armor helmet. “Mushi” means “bug”!
Keep in mind that I am not a beetle expert. The information provided here was compiled and translated from the Japanese sources listed below.
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