Would you like a pet rhino? There are more beetles in the world than any other group of insects. They come in a great range of sizes, colours and shapes. One of the largest is the Rhinoceros beetle. The Rhinoceros beetle grubs provided in your kit are commonly found in gardens in tropical Queensland. This species is called Xylotrupes gideon. Rhinoceros or Rhino beetles belong to a big Don’t be scared! family of beetles Although their horns may known as scarabs. Scarabs have look ferocious, Rhino beetles special antennae with fans on can only pinch very weakly. their tips. Other familiar scarab Their mouth parts are used for beetles are dung beetles, feeding, and are so small they Christmas beetles and cane bee- don't pose a threat to humans. tles, which damage the roots of Male Rhinoceros Beetle Rhino beetles are harmless sugar cane. Although the sap of young shoots of many and can be handled safely - grubs may look similar, trees - a favourite is the although you should always Rhinoceros beetles don't Poinciana trees which wash your hands first so that damage cane, so don't kill them! have been planted in our you don't harm the beetle. parks and streets. Sometimes Don't be frightened by the Rhinoceros beetles are one of large groups of them can be seen loud hissing squeaks they make the most spectacular beetles in on a single tree, perhaps as part when disturbed. It’s just a bluff, Australia. They are found from of their mating behaviour. But it's produced by rubbing the south-east Asia through the rare for them to permanently abdomen against the ends of the islands of Indonesia to the damage the tree. wing covers (elytra). If you Solomons and Australia. examine a squeaking beetle They can grow up to Life cycle closely, you can see the 7cm long. The male is Although Rhinoceros beetles abdomen moving in time with easily identified by the forked fly all year round, they are seen the squeaks. This noise-making horns on his head and thorax. more frequently during the is called stridulating. Horn size is important when summer months around a street The serrated claws on the ends fighting. When two males meet light or porch light. They are also of the beetle’s legs help it when around a female, the males butt, found in fruit such as over-ripe clinging, digging and mating. toss and try to push each other off pawpaws left on the tree. They may also grip onto your the tree branch. The larger male The female beetle lays clothing or your finger. Most usually wins. Villagers in north- about 50 white eggs in people react by trying to pull ern Thailand keep Rhino beetles decaying plant matter. the beetle off, which just as pets. They place them on a They take about 10 days to encourages a tighter grip. Use bamboo cylinder with females hatch and the grubs begin feeding gentle persuasion instead. inside and gamble on whose on the organic matter. (Compost Simply pat the beetle on the beetle will win the fight. bins are popular nurseries for rear and it will slowly move off. Rhinoceros beetles feed on the these beetles.) Buy an insect kit and let’s take a closer look! 1. What is a life history? It’s there any rhino beetle grubs? the complete cycle of your pet Find another habitat - maybe an insect’s development over time. area with more leaf litter under a You can begin your study at any shady tree - and dig again. Do time - because it is a cycle! you find more or less insects? Why? Don’t forget to put the soil Form groups of 4-5 students and and insects back! share out the larvae. Each group looks after its own larva. Once a 3. How rhinos help. Insects week measure your larva’s play a vital role in the environ- weight and length. When you ment by recycling nutrients. The kits are available from $45 plus have observations for all stages They are also a major food postage from the Australian Insect source for many birds, mammals Farm (07) 4063 3860 or of the life cycle, you can and reptiles. Prepare a list of www.insectfarm.com.au describe your insect’s life histo- ry. Present the information on a environmental roles in the vari- graph, using a computer printout ous life stages of your insect. 5. Follow the trail. Beetle or an illustrated poster and com- Explain their ecological impor- grubs help to aerate the soil - a pare the results with other tance. major component to any healthy groups. Some students have 4. Compost Comparisons. garden. Find a wide, flat tray at studied growth variations by When changing over the mulch, least 3cm deep. Add a 1cm layer varying the food supply. keep the old pellet-filled soil and of clean, dry, fine sand or saw- use it in an experiment. Buy dust. Place a couple of grubs in 2. Do the Hula Hoop Dig. the dish and map their trails. Place a hula hoop on the school some seedlings (eg. basil or oval grass. (Ask the groundkeep- parsley) and plant them in pots, 6. Introduce composting. Does er first!) Using small gardening one using the pellets added to your school tuckshop compost its forks, dig up the area inside the the potting mix and another waste? Research how compost- hula hoop to a maximum depth of using pure potting mix. Record ing works and have a debate 10cm and see how many insects the growth of each plant. Which about whether it should be intro- you find. What are they? Are duced at your school. plant grows the best? Caring for Farm for some new organic end of the school year you can mix (costs $4-$5, phone release the beetles in the school grubs 07-4063 3860). When grounds. Alternatively, a keen The grubs have a fully grown (around teacher or student may like to take translucent creamy- September or October ) the beetles home and breed their white body with fine, the larva forms a cell in own larvae for next year. reddish hairs and a dark the soil and lines it with its own droppings which solidify Any questions? brown head. They can grow If you have any questions or up to 7cm long, almost filling into a waterproof layer. The you need assistance with any the palm of your hand. Always larva then turns into a pupa insect-related issues, please wash your hands before touch- inside the cell. phone Sue Hasenpusch on: ing any insects, avoid using (07) 4063 3860 or email: insect repellent sprays and Caring for beetles email@example.com. There handle them gently. The insect After 6-12 weeks the adult is also a wealth of information kits contain clean organic beetle hatches out and digs its on the following websites: mulch, the ideal diet for grow- way to the surface. The beetles can be up to 7cm long and live for Australian Insect Farm ing rhino grubs. They eat the about 2-4 months. Once the bee- www.insectfarm.com.au mulch and create natural rhino poo fertiliser. In a few months tles hatch, place a piece of old Queensland Museum (July) when the larvae have fruit such as pawpaw in their con- www.qmuseum.qld.gov.au converted nearly all the mulch tainer every day. If you live in WTMA to pellets, contact the Insect Tropical North Queensland, at the www.wettropics.gov.au Larva illustration: Geoff Thompson, Qld Museum Wet Tropics Management Authority PO Box 2050 Cairns QLD Australia 4870 Ph: (07) 4052 0555 www.wettropics.gov.au.