Eastern Hercules beetles are native to the Eastern United States. They make great pets for beginners as they don’t occupy a big space, they don’t bite, they don’t produce any unpleasant odor, and they are easy to take care of.
To keep the eastern Hercules beetle, place the adult beetle in a tank filled with 3-4” substrates and some tree branches or barks. Feed it with beetle jelly and mist regularly. Gravid female lays in flake soil. Move the emerged grubs into jars with moist flake soil. Replace spent flake soils regularly. Grubs grow into adults in 1-1.5 years.
While keeping and breeding eastern Hercules beetles is easy and requires low cost/maintenance, there are a few details that you need to know. Continue reading to learn the tricks and tips to be more successful in keeping and breeding them.
Eastern Hercules beetles are rhinoceros beetles known scientifically as Dynastes tityus. It is closely related to western Hercules beetles, where they can breed and produce viable hybrids. The male eastern Hercules beetles have 1 conspicuous horn on their head and another one on their back which they use to fight for food, space and ladies, while the female beetles do not have the horns.
The eastern Hercules beetles are not as big compared to their cousins. They can grow up to 2.75” (~7 cm) in length, inclusive of their horn. They are one of the long-living beetles. While the adult beetles can live for up to 23 months, 6-12 months is more common.
Getting an Eastern Hercules Beetle
Depending on where you are, you can buy eastern Hercules beetles from your local pet store or online store. If you do so, make sure you ask for recommendations from the seller on how to take care of the beetles.
If you buy the beetles from a store, you may want to buy the grubs as they are way cheaper than an adult beetle. However, as the grubs spend all their time underground, feeding, you will need to be patient if you are starting from grubs. Make sure you buy 2 or more grubs, because they may not survive the adulthood.
Always check the age or larval stage of the beetle before buying. Adult beetle can live for 6-12 months. You won’t want to buy a 5 months old adult beetle. If you are getting the beetle from local store, look for sign of injury or lost limbs.
If you are adventurous, you can try to catch some adult eastern Hercules beetles by yourself during the summer. Obviously you need to catch them in the Eastern United States (up to east Texas). Refer to this map to have a better idea on the distribution of the eastern Hercules beetles.
To catch the eastern Hercules beetles, prepare a black light and a white sheet. At night, go to a wooded area far from urban light pollution. Find an open space and shine your black light onto the white sheet. This will attract any insects to fly towards the light. If you are lucky, you can get your eastern Hercules beetles.
Housing for Adult Eastern Hercules Beetles
The dimension of your housing for a beetle should be at least 3 times the length of your beetle in length, 2 times in width and 2 times in height. For each additional beetle, increase another 50% to the length and width of the housing.
Bigger housing is better as it gives more space for the beetles to move around. The beetle might break its horn when turning around if the housing is too small.
A male eastern Hercules beetle can be housed comfortably in a 1.5 gal (5 L) tank, alone. Otherwise, they might attack each other. Meanwhile, female beetles can be kept together.
Eastern Hercules beetles are nocturnal insects. They spend most of their time hiding during the day time. Hence, you need to prepare a substrate for them to burrow. A mixture of pesticide-free soil and peat moss in 1:1 ratio would be ideal. You can also use non-soil substrates such as hays.
Fill the housing with 3-4” (7.5-10 cm) of substrates. Put some tree barks or branches for the beetle to climb onto. When the beetle turns upside-down, it needs to hold on to a solid surface to turn around. Otherwise, it will die trying.
Make sure you cover the tank with a lid because eastern Hercules beetles are good fliers. Ensure it is well ventilated. Place the housing away from direct sunlight, somewhere cool. Exposure to direct sunlight for a long period will kill them.
Keep the environment moist by misting with a garden sprayer. The temperature should be kept at 68-77 °F (20-25 °C).
Feeding the Adult Eastern Hercules Beetles
The adult eastern Hercules beetles feed on fruits. You can give them a slice of banana, orange, apples, or pineapple half their body size. Place the fruit onto a sauce plate so that you can clean it easily. Remove any unconsumed fruits after everyday to prevent growth of molds.
You should consider feeding your beetles with beetle jelly. It is more convenient to use in terms of preparation and storage. Moreover, the jelly doesn’t grow mold as easily unlike the fruits. Some beetle jellies even boast various fitness benefits such as improved longevity, stronger beetles, and larger offspring. Here is a recipe for beetle jelly that you can try by yourself if you can’t find them in stores.
The beetles should obtain enough water from their food. You don’t need to prepare them additional water.
Breeding Eastern Hercules Beetles
Breeding eastern Hercules beetles is easy. Simply house the male and female in the same room. house the male and female in the same room. Keep the gravid female in a separate container for eggs laying. Move the emerged grub into separate containers with flake soil.
Pairing the Beetles
The adult male and female beetles naturally mate when they see each other. During this process, the male beetle will mount itself onto the female to attempt mating. The process lasts until the male withdraws his genital from the female.
After mating, I would separate the male and female. This is because the male may want to mate again in the subsequent days, but the mated female is reluctant, which causes stress in the female.
Do note that mating will reduce the lifespan of both male and female beetles. If you do not plan to breed them, do not mate them.
In any cases, if either beetle refused to mate, separate them and try again after a few weeks. Make sure your beetles have passed their teneral stage (more on that in the Dormant Period section) before letting them mate, in order to have a higher success rate.
Place the gravid (pregnant) female into a separate chamber.
Prepare a nursery chamber using a 16 gal (60 L) container. Fill the container with flake soil up till 8″ (20 cm) in depth. Slowly add some water and mix the substrates evenly to make it moist but not wet. Here is a recipe for flake soil that you can try.
Cover the chamber with lid to prevent the beetles from escaping, and ensure there is adequate ventilation in the chamber. Place the chamber away from direct sunlight.
Continue to feed the gravid female with beetle jelly or fruits. She may choose no to eat them. The gravid female will start laying 40-100 eggs in the soil a few weeks after mating. The eggs hatch in around 30 days.
Caring for Eastern Hercules Beetle Grubs
You can rear the grubs together in the same container or separately in different containers. There are pros and cons in different rearing methods.
When reared together, there is a higher chance for male and female grubs to pupate and emerge around the same time, probably regulated by the pheromones from the female. However, the size of the beetles will be generally smaller. Moreover, if anything goes wrong, the whole brood in the same housing could be wiped out.
When reared singly, the resulting beetles are larger in size. However, the growth of male and female beetles will be out of sync. Female beetles typically turn adult faster than male beetles. You might have the female beetles turn adult 6-12 months earlier than the male beetles! The female beetles become too old to breed successfully by the time you have a male beetle.
You can keep the grubs in the same nursery chamber if you wish to keep them together. Otherwise, you can put each grub into an individual 1 gal (4 L) container filled with flake soil. The depth of substrates should be at least 5 times the thickness of the grub.
Make sure you keep the substrate moist at all times but do not add too much water to the extent that the soil becomes soaking wet as it may kill the grubs.
The adequately moist substrates should hold together in a shape when squeezed with both hands, but there should not be dripping water. Keep the container ventilated and place it in the dark.
As the grubs continue feeding, they produce a lot of droppings. When the amount of dropping becomes more than the soil, remove 70% of the soil-dropping mixture and replenish with new flake soil.
The purpose of keeping some old substrate is to reduce the shock on the grubs when a new substrate is added because the new substrate may have different bacteria composition and pH vs the old substrate. You can also add some grounded dog food into the mixture to provide the grubs with more protein so that they grow bigger.
The grubs molt 3 times into pupae. Each time before molt, they will stop eating. Depending on the temperature and food, it takes around 3 weeks for the first molt and another 6 weeks for the subsequent molt to occur. The 3rd molt happens around 12 to 18 months from egg hatching.
After the 3rd molt, you will be able to sex the easter Hercules beetle grubs. Look at the last third segments on the ventral part of its abdomen. You should see a small marking at the center of the third-to-the-last ventral abdominal segment of a male eastern Hercules beetle grub. This is not visible in the female grub.
If kept together, you should transfer the grub to a 1 gal (4 L) container half filled with flake soil when they are about to pupate. The grubs appear yellowish at this stage. At this time you should see them stop feeding and wandering in the container, searching for a suitable place to construct a pupation chamber.
The grub will start building a pupation chamber using its dropping. Eventually, it molts into the pupa in the pupation chamber and emerges into an adult after 2-3 months.
If you accidentally break the pupation chamber while changing substrates, you can still save your beetle following this guide.
Here’s our recommended supplies for your eastern Hercules beetles. Note that I get a small commission when you buy the items through the links in this page. This helps me to maintain the site without incurring additional costs to you.
A newly emerged adult has soft skin and will remain dormant for 4-6 months. It is known as a teneral at this stage until the skin fully hardened. It is best to keep the temperature around 59 °F (15 °C) during this stage. Note that this is usually inline with the winter period.
While you can skip the dormancy or “activate” the beetle earlier by keeping the temperature at around 68-77 °F (20-25 °C), there might be negative effects on the fertility of beetles and egg hatchability.
Read more on how to take care of your beetle during dormant period here.
Eastern Hercules beetles originated from Florida don’t seem to undergo a significant dormancy period, probably because the beetles are already accustomed to the warmer climate in Florida.
Color of Eastern Hercules Beetles
A newly emerged eastern Hercules beetle has white elytra. The elytra slowly turns amber, then black. You should see the elytra’s color turning from black to gray/tan/green as the beetle exits the teneral stage.
The color of the elytra is affected by moisture of the environment. In a drier environment, the elytra is darker and vice-versa.
Handling the Beetles
The eastern Hercules beetles are not aggressive. You should be able to hold them easily. Always grab their thorax instead of their legs. Their legs are fragile and have spines that might hurt you. Be careful not to drop the grubs when handling them because they may die of falling.
Never forcefully pull the beetles from a surface they grasp because that may break their legs.
Things that Kill Your Beetles
To improve the survivability of your beetles, pay attention to the following:
Substrate – make sure the substrate you use is pesticide-free and fertilizer-free. If possible, bake your substrate to kill any pathogen before using it.
Moisture – moisture is very crucial for the eastern Hercules beetles at all stages, especially the grubs and pupae. They will not survive without adequate moisture. At the same time, too much moisture will hinder their breathing and promote growth of mold, which can kill them.
Mites – Certain mites in the soil can feed on the eggs while some parasitize the grubs of the eastern Hercules beetles. These mites are very tiny. If you bake your substrate before using it, it’s unlikely you will encounter them.
If you do encounter them, dispose of all the substrates and replace with a new one. Clean all the containers with soap before reusing them. Try to separate the eggs/grubs into different containers with new substrates.
Mydas fly – The maggots of mydas fly prey for the grubs of Hercules beetles. Again, it is very unlikely that you will ever encounter them, especially if you bake your substrates before using them. The maggot is quite big in size, with length of up to 2 inch (5 cm).
Remember to check out our recommended books to learn more about eastern Hercules beetle keeping.