Blue death feigning beetle is a small beetle species that can be kept as pets. It is easy to take care of, it requires small space, it doesn’t bite and it is cheap to own one. Most importantly, unlike other beetles, it can live for many years.
Place the adult beetles in a tank with 2-3” of dry sands. Keep the beetles at room temperature and low humidity. They need some light. Feed them with dead insects or dog biscuits and carrots. Gravid females lay eggs in humid substrates. The grubs require some moisture to grow and survive.
Let’s look at more detailed information on how to keep and breed the blue death feigning beetles.
Basic Introduction to the Blue Death Feigning Beetles
The blue death feigning beetle, or desert ironclad beetle is known scientifically as Asbolus verrucosus. The adult beetle is about 0.5”-1” in length.
This beetles can be found naturally in the deserts of Southwestern United States, eg. Sonoran deserts and Mojave deserts. Being native to the desert means this species is hardy and is able to withstand prolonged periods of dryness, hot temperature (hot day in desert) or cold temperature (cold night in desert).
As implied by its name, the blue death feigning beetle is (light) blue in color, and it is known to feign death when threatened.
The blue coloration on the beetle is caused by the wax on its body which protects it from the hot sun.
In their natural environments, predators such as desert tarantula eat what they kill. By feigning death, the beetles escape from predation. Moreover, the tarantula have poor eyesight, and they detect their prey through vibration. By not moving, the beetle makes itself less conspicuous to the tarantula.
The blue death feigning beetles can live for around 8 years and more in captivity, unlike other beetles that can only live for a few months up to a year.
Getting the Blue Death Feigning Beetles
Depending on where you stay, the blue death feigning beetles can be very hard to find. Like many other insects, you can either get it from your local pet stores (especially if you are living in the Southwestern United States) or from online stores and even Amazon (affiliate link).
You should get the adults beetle instead of grubs. First, it is not expensive to get an adult blue death feigning beetle. Second, pupation requires you to maintain specific temperature and humidity. Unless you have the budget to invest in an incubator that allows you to maintain a specific temperature and relative humidity in the incubator (or already has one), you should go for the adult.
Housing for the Adult Blue Death Feigning Beetles
The adult blue death feigning beetles can be housed in a fish tank or any plastic/glass/acrylic container. A 1 gal container can house 2 beetles. The beetles do appreciate more space because they like to explore around.
Fill the container with dry sands for about 2-3 inches in depth. Some people do add in a small portion of coco fiber, ~10-20%. Add some rocks and cactus skeletons for the beetles to hide and climb. If you were keeping more beetles in the same container, make sure you increase the numbers of decors so that all beetles have a place to hide.
The blue death feigning beetles do not fly, and they do not climb well on smooth surfaces. Hence, it is optional to cover the housing with a lid if the height of your container is at least 3-4 times the length on the beetle.
You should cover the housing with a lid if you need to protect your beetles from pets or children. Ensure the housing is well ventilated if you are covering it with a lid.
Food and Water for Adult Beetles
The blue death feigning beetles are scavenger. They feed on decomposing plant and animal materials such as leaf litters and dead insects. They like protein. You can feed them with dead mealworms and/or crickets that can be obtained from pet stores. Alternatively, you can feed them with dog biscuits.
They are happy with carrots and other vegetables as well. You can alternate between cut carrot and dog biscuits/dried insects to give them a more balanced diet. Feeding them with beetle jelly also works.
You should always place the food onto a sauce plate to keep the substrates clean. Replace the food if it is not finished by the beetles after 2-3 days to prevent the growth of molds. While the beetles can withstand starvation for up to 2 to 3 months, you should always provide them with sufficient food.
The beetles obtain enough water from their food if you feed them vegetables or jelly. Hence, you do not have to provide them water. You can also consider misting once every week to give them some extra water.
Lighting, Temperature and Humidity
While the beetles do not have specific lighting requirements, I will provide them with 8-12 hours of lighting using white light to mimic the natural environment. The light can be turned on at day time when the beetles are active, and off at night when the beetles are resting.
The beetles can be kept at room temperature as they are adapted to hot and cold weathers in the desert. In the winter, I would use a heat mat to provide them additional heat during the day time. Using a non-LED white lamp as lighting also helps to make the temperature higher.
The blue death feigning beetles do not appreciate humidity. Keep your housing dry below 20% humidity.
Breeding Blue Death Feigning Beetles
Breeding the blue death feigning beetles is very challenging, mainly due to the difficulties in inducing pupation. Not much is known about the life cycle of this beetle, and not many people have successfully bred them.
Gravid females lay eggs in a more humid substrate. The grubs require some moisture. They feed on decaying organic matter and pupate when the humidity and temperature are conducive.
Obviously, you will need a male beetle and a female beetle to breed them. It is not easy to tell them apart though.
To sex the blue death feigning beetles, look at their antennae under a magnifier. The antennae of male beetles look conspicuously hairy compared to that of the female beetles. The hairs on the antennae of the female beetles are tiny and barely noticeable.
Preparation for Eggs Laying
The beetles will naturally mate if you keep them together. However, the female might not lay eggs if she cannot find a suitable spot to do so.
To encourage the female to lay eggs, you need to mix some pesticide-free organic compost and coco fiber in the sand (at around 1:1:3 ratio) at a corner of your housing. This will be the nursery corner. Bury a few cut carrots or squash at that corner and spray some water to keep that corner slightly moist but not wet.
Carrots and squash contain water which will slowly seep out to the sand to make it moist. Meanwhile, the coco fibers help to retain some moisture. Both carrots/squash and organic composts serve as food for grubs.
Be careful when spraying because you do not want to wet all the sands in your housing. You might need a bigger housing so that it is easier to limit the moisture at one corner, big enough for eggs laying, while providing enough dry area for the activities of other beetles.
The female beetles will lay very tiny eggs (~2-3 mm in length) in the moist substrates. It takes 2-3 weeks for the eggs to hatch. Make sure you provide enough food for the beetles. Otherwise, they may eat the eggs!
Hatching the Eggs and Caring for the Grubs
On a biweekly basis after the beetles mate, take out the substrates at the nursery corner and look for the eggs. It is whitish and oval in shape.
Place the egg in a 32 oz deli cup filled with a mixture of pesticide-free organic compost, coco fiber, and sand in 1:1:3. Bury some carrots/squash into the substrates and spray some water to make the substrate slightly moist but not wet.
Keep the container ventilated by making a hole on the lid. The eggs should hatch in 2-3 weeks time.
The grubs will feed on the organic materials in the substrates and grow. They should be kept singly because they may cannibalize each other.
When the grubs reach close to 2” in length, transfer them into an incubator. The grubs may die if they are not transferred to a suitable environment when they are due for pupation.
Keep the incubator’s humidity at 75-80% by adding water tray, and temperature at 88 °F (31 °C). Replace the substrates to a new one before putting the grubs into the incubator so that they have enough food to eat before they pupate.
You can start checking on the grubs after 1 month, on a weekly basis. It takes about 6-12 months from hatching of eggs to adult emergence.
Once the adult beetle emerged, you can transfer it into the housing for adult beetles.
Handling of the Blue Death Feigning Beetles
While the blue death feigning beetles are hardy, you should always handle them with care.
When threatened, the adult beetles play dead for up to a few hours. Hence, they might pretend that they are dead when you try to put them onto your hand. The gentler you handle them, the less likely the play dead.
As you repeatedly hold and put them on your hand, they become accustomed to that and no longer treat that as a threat. As a result, they might stop feigning dead or do so only for a shorter period of time when you hold them.
The beetles have strong jaws for biting. You don’t have to worry about it though, because it is not their nature to fight back by biting.
Why does the Color of My Blue Death Feigning Beetle Turn Black?
The body of blue death feigning beetles is coated with a layer of wax, which gives it an unique blue color. When the wax is in contact with water directly, or indirectly due to high humidity, the color will turn dark.
If you want the blue color back, just keep the beetle in a dry environment. It might take a few days though.
As the beetles aged, the wax wears out and the beetles become darker in color. The wax may wear out unevenly, causing an apparent dark spot on the old beetles.
Can I Keep the Blue Death Feigning Beetles with Other Insects
Yes, you can keep the blue death feigning beetles with other insect pets. These beetles are not aggressive. Some hobbyists have successfully kept them with velvet ants, desert scorpions and other desert beetles which have similar living conditions.
Here’s my recommended supplies that you can consider getting for your blue death feigning beetles (I may earn some commission if you buy from those links):