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CAPTIVE BREEDING MANUAL FOR BEETLES OF THE FAMILY SCARABAEIDAE,  SUBFAMILIES CETONIINAE (FLOWER BEETLES) AND DYNASTINAE (RHINOCEROS BEETLES)

BY:  C. CAMPBELL

(page 3)

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Section 2 -  The life cycle:
 

(a - breeding/rearing containers)

Now that you have your substrate created, the time has come to procure some containers suitable for the breeding of the species of scarab(s) you wish to reproduce in captivity.  There are many shapes and sizes of plastic boxes available that are quite suitable for the breeding and rearing of scarabs.  Most such boxes are manufactured for the storage of clothing, blankets, and other household items.  Many are made of transparent plastic, and have lids that lock down tightly - both ideal features for an insect rearing container.  Large "blanket" boxes such as the one shown (fig. 17) are excellent for use as mating / oviposition (egg laying) terraria, while smaller ones (see fig. 18) are well suited to the rearing of single, large larvae.  Alternatively, a minor number of small to medium sized larvae could be reared together in such a container, granted that the larvae were not of a type prone to cannibalism (more about that in a later chapter).  In all instances, the lids of such boxes will often need some slight modifications made to them to allow for proper ventilation.  Just cut out some small rectangular sections in the lid as shown in the example (fig. 19).  You may affix some patches of screen (the finer the mesh, the better) over the holes if you think it appropriate, especially if you are going to be breeding a species of beetle that would be small enough to crawl through the ventilation hole.  Of course, you can really just utilize whatever convenient container you have for use as a rearing terrarium.  The only real requirements that a container must meet to be suitable are (a) sufficient depth and width (b) adequate ventilation, and (c) made of a material such as plastic or glass which is unaffected by moisture and is resilient enough that it cannot be chewed by larvae.  Some hobbyists use large pickle jars and other large to medium-sized jars, as well as plastic pails of various sizes, plastic shoe boxes, etc.  I just prefer to use the sort of boxes as the ones pictured at right because they are all of the 4-sided, rectangular shape which is preferred by many hobbyists as breeding / rearing terraria for beetles.  They are also of consistently standard sizes, have lids that lock down well, are made of transparent plastic, and are very durable and lightweight.   Glass jars and aquariums are fine, but glass can break easily, and it's also quite heavy if you're going to be moving your rearing terraria around from time to time.  So, I recommend plastic boxes over other other types of containers.

Large plastic box suitable for beetles - Image  C. Campbell
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Fig. 17:  A large 58 quart (55 liter) plastic storage box which, once some ventilation holes are made in the lid, would make an excellent breeding / rearing box for scarab beetles.  This box is deep enough to allow for a substrate of an appropriate depth, and yet still provide open space for adult beetles to move around freely at the surface.
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Small plastic box suitable for beetles - Image  C. Campbell
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Fig. 18:  Another box of similar manufacture, measuring 8" long x 6.5" wide x 5.5" deep.  Boxes like these are perfect for the rearing of a single very large scarab larva such as that of Chalcosoma caucasus or Dynastes hercules, or could be used to rear a multiple number of larvae of a smaller species.  This particular model has locking tabs on both sides - a helpful feature in cases where a large scarab might be strong enough to push open a non-locking lid.
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Cutting ventilation holes in box lid - Image  C. Campbell
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Fig. 19:  Using a sharp razor knife to carefully cut some ventilation holes in the lid of the box shown above.  Alternatively, a large drill could be used for making the holes.  Usually, only a small amount of ventilation is necessary.

 
Chalcosoma caucasus (males)  - Image  Michael Yeh
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Fig. 20:  Two rival Chalcosoma caucasus males face each other and begin to lock horns.  Rhinoceros beetles such as this are famous for the arduous fights they undertake over the matter of breeding rights and feeding sites.  One would not want to allow males of this species access to each other in the relatively confined area of a terrarium, as they will fight continuously until they severely wound each other.  Keep a number of small terraria on standby (such as the box shown in fig. 18) so that you can immediately give each male its own separate container in which to reside.  This will eliminate fighting, and will help ensure that your male beetles will keep all their appendages intact for as long as possible.
Photo courtesy of Michael Yeh.
Try to get at least three or more pair of the beetle species which you intend to breed in order to get a good supply of eggs from them.  In general, it is often productive to have more females than males.  Also, many hobbyists can supply the beetles in the larval rather than adult stage, and usually at a lower price.  Another important thing to keep in mind is whether or not you'll need to keep the males of your species separated.  Most (though not all) male cetoniines are safe to keep together in the same terrarium, but some genera of dynastines, especially Chalcosoma (Fig. 20) and Megasoma, will fight terribly if kept together, and in the relative confinement of a terrarium, they can quickly damage each other.  The strength and endurance of these beetles is enormous, and two males can easily fight all night.  Holes pierced in armor and snapped off legs are common injuries resulting from such fights.  Therefore, it is best to keep your males separated from each other if they are of an aggressive species.  Females dynastines have no horns and do not fight, and so it is all right to keep them together.  To enhance genetic variability, you can rotate the time that each male is placed in the terrarium with the females.  That way, all of your males can be kept separate, yet still have an opportunity to mate and provide their genes to the next generation.

(b - substrate depth, terrarium items)
 

For most small to medium sized scarabs, a substrate depth of 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) will be sufficient.  For really large species, such as the rhinoceros beetles Dynastes and Megasoma, it would be better to have a substrate depth of at least 12 inches (30 cm).  If you use a substrate layer that is not of adequate depth for the female to burrow down well beneath the surface, she will not be very enthusiastic about laying eggs.  The amount of space available between the substrate surface and the terrarium's lid should be about equal to the depth of the substrate.  At any rate, it should certainly be spacious enough to allow the beetles to move about unrestrained.  Additionally, if space permits, you can place some large chunks of decayed wood or flat sections of tree bark on the substrate surface (see Fig. 21) so that the beetles will have some objects on which they can walk and rest.  Not having any small logs, wood chunks, tree bark or branches on the surface of the substrate of your breeding terrarium would not give the beetles anything solid upon which to walk or anchor themselves.  This can lead to problems when they are trying to mate, and also, if they were become turned upside down on their backs, they would not be able to right themselves very easily.  They would likely struggle for hours trying to turn right side up, using up a lot of energy in the effort.
Breeding / rearing terrarium for scarab beetles - Image  C. Campbell
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Fig. 21:  A typical breeding / rearing terrarium for small scarabs.  This particular terrarium is one which I used for Eudicella smithi.  The large, flat section of tree bark placed on the substrate surface gives the beetles something on which they can maintain a firm foothold.  If no objects such as this are provided, many beetle species have a tendency to get flipped onto their backs, and it is nearly impossible for them to turn themselves right side up without assistance.  Pieces of tree bark or wood help to alleviate this problem, but you still may need to manually help a beetle flip back over from time to time.  The depth of the substrate in this terrarium is just under 8 inches (20 cm).
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