Atlas beetle is a gigantic beetle that is cool to have. I have recently grown some atlas beetles from grubs, so I thought that I’d share my experience on how to keep atlas beetle.
Place the grubs in ventilated jars with moist flake soil. They feed on the flake soil until they pupate and emerge as adults. House the adult beetles in a ventilated enclosures with some substrates. Feed them with beetle jelly. Transfer gravid female to another tank for egg-laying.
Keep reading to find out more details on caring of atlas beetles at different stages.
- Basic Introduction to the Atlas Beetles
- Getting Atlas Beetles
- How to Care for Atlas Beetle Grubs
- Enclosure Setup for Adult Atlas Beetles
- How to Feed Atlas Beetles Adults
- Recommended Supplies
- How to Breed the Atlas Beetles
- Handling Atlas Beetles
Basic Introduction to the Atlas Beetles
Atlas beetles are rhinoceros beetles scientifically known as Chalcosoma atlas. It seems like this beetle gets its name from Atlas, the greek god who holds up the sky on his shoulder.
Originated from Southeast Asia, they are renowned for having 3 prominent horns on the head and thorax of the male beetles. The male beetles use their horns to fight for resources and female beetles. Some male beetles, known as the minor male, have way shorter horns.
Interestingly, it seems like to the horns can compete with other body parts including the genitals for nutrients to grow larger.
The adult male beetle can grow up to 5” (~13 cm) in length while the female beetle is around half the size. In captivity, the adult beetles can live for up to 8 months.
Getting Atlas Beetles
Atlas beetle is generally considered as an agricultural pest as the adult beetles feed on oil palm fronds and fruits. Depending on where you are, importing, keeping and/or breeding of atlas beetles may require a permit from your local authority.
Unless you are staying at places where beetle keeping is common, most likely you can only get the atlas beetles from online stores. Consider getting grubs because it is more fun and satisfying to grow them into adult beetles. If you have the budget but no time, you can get an adult beetle instead.
Always check the age or larval stage of the beetle before buying. Atlas beetle can live up to 8 months. You won’t want to buy a 7 months old adult beetle. If you are getting the beetle from local store, look for sign of injury or lost limbs.
If atlas beetles are native to where you stay, you can trap them! Cut some pineapples and put it in a small, perforated paper cup. Get a big plastic container (eg. a bucket) and make some drain holes at the bottom. Place the cup of pineapples into the plastic container, and cover half of the opening (of the container) with aluminum foil. Make sure the resulting opening is big enough for the beetles to enter.
Find an open space next to an oil palm plantation field and set up the trap. The trap should be hung at around 8 ft (2.5 m) from the ground to reduce disturbance by nearby animals. Check and collect any beetles trapped on a daily basis.
How to Care for Atlas Beetle Grubs
Atlas beetle grubs are aggressive towards each other. It is best to keep them in separate containers. Each grub can be placed in a 1 gal (~4 L) container containing flake soil, to the depth of at least 4-5 times the thickness of the grub. Flake soil is a commercially available substrate consisting of fermented woods, which serve as food for the grubs. You can also make your own flake soil following my recipe here.
Keep your flake soil moist but not wet. The adequately moist flake soil should hold together in a shape when squeezed with both hands, but there should not be dripping water. Anything more or lesser than this may kill the grubs.
Cover the container tightly! My first atlas beetle grub broke out from its container through the lid due to my negligence. We found him next morning on the floor, fallen from 4 ft (~120 cm) where the container was placed.
Poke enough holes on the container to ensure good ventilation. Place the housing in the dark, away from direct sunlight. Keep the substrates moist by regular misting with a garden sprayer. Temperature at 72-77 °F (22-25 °C) is suitable for the atlas beetles.
As the grubs continue feeding, they produce a lot of droppings. When the amount of dropping becomes more than the substrates, remove 70% of the soil-dropping mixture and replenish with new substrates. You can use a sieve with bigger holes (or wire mesh) to filter out the dropping so that you have more reusable substrates.
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.
It takes about 1 month for a newly hatched grub to molt for the first time, and another 2 months for the second molt. After the second molt, the grub will continue eating for another 7-15 months before it starts building the pupation chamber.
You should be careful when changing substrates so that you do not break the pupation chamber. Refer to the guide here if you accidentally break the pupation chamber.
The beetle will spend about 3-5 months in the pupa before emerging as an adult. A newly emerged adult has soft skin and it takes up to a few days for the skin to fully harden.
Enclosure Setup for Adult Atlas Beetles
The dimension of your housing for the atlas 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.
A well-grown male atlas beetle major can be comfortably housed in a 7 gal (~25 L) container. Male atlas beetles must be housed singly due to their aggressive behavior, while female beetles can be housed together safely. Minor male beetles (those with smaller horns) can be housed in much smaller enclosure.
You should never house female atlas beetles together with a male beetle unless you plan to breed them. Otherwise, the male atlas beetle may want to mate every now and then, which stresses out the female beetle. Moreover, the male atlas beetle is known to attack or kill the female beetle at times.
Fill the housing with peat moss and potting soil in a 1:1 ratio, for around 3”-4” depth. The substrates should be kept moist but not wet. Add some smooth tree branches or tree barks for the beetles to climb. Sometimes the beetle turns upside down and needs something for them to grasp so that they can turn around.
The atlas beetles are strong flyers. Hence, the housing should be covered with a lid to prevent escape. However it is unlikely for the atlas beetles to take flight from the ground due to its weight. It usually jumps down from height to take flight.
Keep the housing well ventilated and away from direct sunlight.
How to Feed Atlas Beetles Adults
You can feed atlas beetles with either cut fruits or beetle jelly. If you are using fruits, you can try those with lower water content such as apples and bananas. Put the fruits onto a sauce dish for the ease of cleaning. If the food is not finished after 1 day, replace it to prevent the growth of molds.
Another better option is beetle jelly. This is commercially available for adult beetles and it is convenient to use. It doesn’t grow mold as fast as fruits and can be stored for a longer period of time. Some beetle jellies even boast various fitness benefits such as improved longevity, stronger beetles, and larger offspring. Here is the recipe of my beetle jelly that you can try by yourself.
Replenish the food whenever it is finished by the beetle. Atlas beetles obtain enough water from their food. Hence, additional water supply is not required.
Here’s my recommended supplies that you can consider getting for your atlas 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.
Remember to check out our recommended books to learn more about keeping atlas beetles.
How to Breed the Atlas Beetles
Synchronizing the Growth of Male and Female Beetles for Mating
If you are keeping the atlas beetle grubs singly in separate housing, you will encounter an issue in breeding them: the female beetles grow faster than the male beetles. As a result, your female beetle may have died due to age even before your male beetle emerges.
To overcome this, you can keep your male grubs at higher temperature 77-79 °F (25-26 °C) to accelerate his growth; Meanwhile, female grubs can be kept at 70-72 °F (21-22 °C) to slow down her growth.
But how do you know if the grub is male or female? To sex the atlas beetles grubs, look at the last 3rd segment on the ventral part of its abdomen. You should see a small marking/dent in the center of the abdominal of the male 3rd instar grub, which is not visible in the female grub. This marking/dent is only visible in the 3rd instar, and it is more conspicuous as it approaches the late 3rd instar stage.
How to Mate Beetles
After both male and female beetles started to feed, they were ready for mating. Put the female beetle into the male beetle housing, away from the male. Let the male approach the female for mating.
Be gentle when you open the lid and put in the female beetle to avoid startling the male beetle, which may then attack the female beetle.
If either or both beetles are reluctant to mate after 10-20 minutes, remove the female beetle and try again after another few days. Never leave the female beetle in the same housing. A frustrated male atlas beetle can easily decapitate the female beetle.
After the mating is successful, remove the female beetle and place her into a nursery chamber.
Fill up a 16 gal (~60 L) container with flake soil up till 8” (~20 cm) in depth. The soil at the bottom should be compressed. This will serve as the nursery chamber. Add some water to make the substrates moist. The adequately moist substrates should hold together in a shape when squeezed with both hands, but there should not be dripping water.
Cover the chamber with a lid to prevent the beetle from escaping, and ensure there is adequate ventilation in the chamber.
Continue to feed the gravid female beetle in this chamber with beetle jelly or fruits. She may choose not to eat though. Uneaten food should be removed to prevent the growth of mold.
The female beetle will start laying eggs a few weeks after mating. The beetle can lay up to 40 eggs a day, for 20 over days. The white colored eggs are big and resemble seeds. They hatch in about 1 month.
You can start to collect the grubs 2 months after first seeing the female burrows into the flake soil, and move the grubs into individual containers.
Handling Atlas Beetles
Atlas beetles are very aggressive. The grubs would curl an bite you if you touches their belly. Be extremely careful when handling them. Try to hold them from their back, with 1 finger leaning against their abdomen and your thumb pressing on their head.
Be careful not to drop the grub even if you are bitten. They will be severely injured and may die of the impact!
Try not to disturb them too much, especially when the late 3rd instar grub is building its pupation chamber.
While the adult beetles are protected with a thick layer of armor, you should still be gentle when handling them. Male beetles can be easily provoked and attack you with their horns. Always grab their thorax instead of their legs. Their legs are fragile and have spines that might hurt you!
Never forcefully pull the beetles from a surface they grasp because that may break their legs.