On the vast plains of Africa, which are home to many fairly large herbivores, the scarab beetle also lives. Probably Africa, and indeed the whole planet, has not yet become mired in huge dung heaps thanks to dung beetles, among which the scarab beetle has the most honorable place.
Origin of the species and description
Entomologists refer the scarab beetle to the genus Scarabs, the class Insects, the Coleoptera order, and the Lamellar family. This family is characterized by a special form of whiskers, which can periodically open in the form of a fan, consisting of thin movable plates.
Video: Scarab beetle
Currently, more than a hundred representatives of this genus are known to science, which usually live in dry steppes, deserts, semi-deserts, and savannahs. Most types of scarabs can be found only in the tropical zone of the African continent. Approximately 20 species inhabit the region called the Palearctic, covering northern Africa, Europe and northern Asia.
The body length of scarab beetles can vary between 9-40 mm. Most of them have a matte black color of the chitin layer, which becomes more brilliant as they grow older. Sometimes you can find insects with silver-metallic chitin, but this is very rare. Males differ from females not in color and size, but in their hind legs, which are covered with golden fringe on the inside.
All scarab beetles are very characterized by vegetation on the legs and abdomen, as well as the presence of four teeth on the front pair of legs, which are involved in digging and forming balls from dung.
Appearance and features
The body of the scarab beetle looks like a wide, slightly convex oval, completely covered with an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton is a very hard and durable chitinous cover, which usually plays the role of the so-called armor that protects the body of the beetle from injuries associated with the nature of its activity. The head of the scarab beetle is short and wide with six teeth in front.
The pronotum of the insect is also wide and short, flat, rather simple in shape, has a granular structure and a large number of small lateral teeth. The hard chitinous elytra of the insect are more than twice as long as the pronotum, have six longitudinal shallow grooves, and the same uneven granular structure.
The posterior part of the abdomen is bordered with small teeth, covered with sparse vegetation in the form of dark hairs. The same hairs are present on all three pairs of legs. The front paws are used by beetles for digging soil and manure. Compared to the rest of the legs, they look coarser, powerful, massive and are equipped with four outer teeth, some of which have many very small teeth at their base. The middle and hind legs look longer, thinner, curved, and help insects form dung balls and carry them to their destination.
Fun fact: Dung balls formed by scarab beetles can exceed the size of insects by dozens of times.
Where does the scarab beetle live?
It is traditionally believed that scarab beetles live in Egypt, where they have long been revered and almost erected into a cult, but the habitat of insects is much more extensive. The scarab is found almost throughout Africa, in Europe (western and southern parts of the mainland, southern Russia, Dagestan, Georgia, France, Greece, Turkey), in Asia and even on the Crimean peninsula.
In general, it turns out that scarab beetles prefer warm or hot climates with short and mild winters, which are typical for the above regions, as well as for the coast of the Black and Mediterranean Seas. Beetles prefer to live on sandy soils in savannahs, dry steppes, deserts and semi-deserts, while they try to avoid saline areas.
It is interesting that beetles live on the Crimean Peninsula, but probably, due to the salinity of large areas of the region, they much smaller than their Egyptian relatives.
Interesting fact: More than 20 years ago, entomologists tried to find traces of scarabs in Australia, but these attempts were unsuccessful. Apparently on this continent, mother nature has never had a need for orderlies. And no wonder, Australia has always been famous not for the abundance of the animal world, but for its unusualness, especially since its entire central part is a dry desert sparsely populated by animals.
Now you know where the scarab beetle is found. Let’s see what it eats.
What does the scarab beetle eat?
Scarab beetles feed on fresh mammalian manure, which is why they have fully earned the status of natural orderlies or utilizers. As a result of observations, it was noticed that 3-4 thousand beetles can fly to one small pile of manure. Manure should be fresh, because it is easier to form balls from it. Beetles make dung balls in a rather interesting way: with the help of teeth on their heads and front paws, raking up like a shovel. When forming a ball, a small piece of rounded manure is taken as the basis. Having settled on top of this piece, the beetle often turns in different directions, separates the manure surrounding it with the jagged edge of the head, and at the same time, the front paws pick up this manure, bring it to the ball and press it into it from different sides until it acquires the desired shape and size. .
Insects hide the formed balls in shaded secluded corners and, in search of a suitable place, are able to roll them for several tens of meters, and the farther the beetle moves away from the heap, the faster it needs to roll its prey. If the scarab is suddenly distracted even for a short while, then the ball can be brazenly taken away by more nimble relatives. It often happens that a fierce fight is arranged for balls of manure, and there are always more contenders for them than owners.
Having found a suitable place, the beetle digs a rather deep hole under the ball, rolls it there, digs it in and lives next to its prey until it is completely eaten. It usually takes a couple of weeks or more. When the food runs out, the beetle again goes in search of food and everything starts over.
Interesting fact: It is scientifically proven that the carnivorous species of scarab beetles does not exist in nature.
Character and lifestyle features
The scarab beetle is considered the strongest and most industrious insect, capable of moving 90 times its own weight. It has a unique natural skill – it creates an almost regular geometric figure from manure – a sphere. You can see the scarab in its habitat from mid-March to October. Beetles are active during the day, and at night, if it is not too warm, they burrow into the ground. When it gets too hot during the day, the insects become nocturnal.
Beetles fly very well, therefore, gathering in large flocks, they roam around the neighborhood following herds of large herbivores. The smell of fresh manure scarabs can catch for several kilometers. The scarab was called the orderly of sandy soil for good reason, because almost all of his life is connected with manure. Several thousand beetles are able to process a pile of animal waste in no more than an hour, before it has time to dry.
Dung balls are rolled by beetles at a distance of several tens of meters from the heap to a shaded place, where they are then buried in the ground and eaten within a couple of weeks. Often, fierce fights arise between the beetles for ready-made dung balls. During the rolling of the balls, «family» couples. In temperate climates, where winters are cold, scarab beetles do not hibernate, but wait out frosts, stocking up in advance, hiding in deep burrows and remaining active.
Social structure and reproduction
As such, the mating season for scarabs does not exist. The beetles mate and lay eggs as long as they are active. And they find a couple for themselves during work. Scarab beetles live up to about 2 years. Young insects prepare dung balls for their food. Somewhere in the 3-4th month of life, males unite with females in «families» and begin to work together, preparing food not only for themselves, but also for future offspring.
First, insects dig minks, up to 30 cm deep, with a nesting chamber at the end, where dung balls roll up and where the act then takes place mating. The male, having fulfilled his duty, leaves the nest, and the female lays eggs (1-3 pieces) in dung balls, giving them a pear-shaped shape. After that, the female also leaves the nest, filling up the entrance from above.
An interesting fact: One fertilized female during the active period can create up to a dozen nests, and therefore lay up to 30 eggs.
After 10-12 days, larvae hatch from the eggs, which immediately begin to actively eat food prepared by parents. After about a month of such a well-fed life, each larva turns into a chrysalis, which after a couple of weeks turns into a fully formed beetle. Scarabs, after turning from pupae, remain inside dung balls until autumn, or even until spring, until the rains completely soften them.
Stages of the life cycle of scarabs:
- egg ;
- adult beetle.
Natural enemies of scarab beetles
Scarab beetles are rather large, well visible from a height and somewhat slow insects. In addition, they are so passionate about their activities that they do not notice anything around except manure and their fellows. For this reason, insects are easy to spot, catch, and eat by birds of prey, as well as by some mammals. Crows, magpies, jackdaws, moles, foxes, hedgehogs quite successfully hunt the beetle wherever it lives.
However, a tick is considered a more dangerous enemy than predators. A feature of such a tick is the ability to pierce the chitinous layer of the beetle with its sharp teeth, climb inside and eat it alive. One tick for a scarab poses no great danger, but when there are many of them, which happens quite often, the beetle gradually dies.
By the way, as a result of excavations in Egypt, chitinous scarab shells with characteristic holes were found, proving that ticks have been malicious enemies of scarabs for a very long time. Moreover, so many shells were found that the thought arises of periodic epidemics of ticks that once destroyed entire populations of beetles.
Why is this happening? Scientists do not yet have an exact answer to this, but it can be assumed that in this way nature is trying to regulate the abundance of a particular species.
Population and species status
According to entomologists, the Sacred scarab is the only species of beetle, but more than a hundred have been identified recently species of similar insects and identified in a separate family Scarab.
The most common of them:
- armeniacus Menetries;
- variolosus Fabricius;
- winkleri Stolfa.
The above species of beetle are poorly understood, but basically they differ only in size, shades of chitinous shell, and the division occurred depending on the habitat. People understood how useful scarab beetles are in ancient Egypt, when they noticed that black nondescript insects diligently destroy manure and spoiled food. Thanks to the ability to cleanse the earth from the waste products of animals and people, which is important in a very hot climate, black beetles began to be revered and elevated to a cult.
During the time of the pharaohs and later, in ancient Egypt, there was a cult of the scarab god Kheper, who is the deity of longevity and health. During the excavations of the tombs of the pharaohs, figurines of Kheper made of stone and metal, as well as gold medallions in the form of a scarab beetle were found in a huge number.
Scarab beetles are successfully used at present as a natural « ; manure.
Interesting fact: After the colonization of South America and Australia, where various livestock began to be bred in large numbers, local insects could no longer cope with just a huge amount of manure. To solve the problem, it was decided to bring large quantities of these beetles there. Insects in Australia did not take root for a long time, but they coped with the task.
Scarab beetle protection
The population of scarab beetles in the world today is considered quite numerous, therefore, in most countries where they live, no protective measures are taken. However, not everything is so rosy. Entomologists, as a result of their observations over the past few years, have revealed one unpleasant fact. Its essence lies in the fact that in places where herds of domestic animals, mainly horses and cattle, graze, the number of scarabs is constantly fluctuating.
They began to look for the cause and it turned out that the fluctuations in the number of beetles are directly related to the insecticides used by farmers to combat parasites: fleas, horseflies, etc. Insecticides are excreted from the body of animals through excrement and thus, the beetles, eating essentially poisoned manure, die. Fortunately, the treatment of animals with insecticides is seasonal, so the number of beetles is quickly restored.
The scarab beetle living on the Crimean peninsula is listed in the Red Book of Ukraine under the status of a vulnerable species. If we take into account the fact that the work of the North Crimean Canal was stopped, as a result of which the soils began to be salted throughout the peninsula, then we should expect that the conditions for the beetle in Crimea will only worsen.
The scarab beetle is not at all dangerous for people: it does not pile up, does not damage plants and products. On the contrary, feeding on manure, beetles enrich the soil with minerals and oxygen. Among the ancient Egyptians, the scarab beetle was considered a symbol that maintains a connection between people and the God of the Sun (Ra). They believed that the insect should accompany a person both in earthly life and the afterlife, symbolizing the sunlight in the heart. With the development of science and medicine, modern Egyptians have learned to treat death as inevitable, but the scarab symbol has remained in their lives forever.