At the end of last summer, a friend approached me and asked if we wouldn’t like to have some rhinoceros beetle larvae.
They say who you’re friends with says a lot about you, right?
If you live in Japan, or if you have a son or a brother or a dad, then you already know that guys love weird bugs. The Japanese rhinoceros beetle is a pretty amazing specimen, especially the male. He grows as big as the palm of a preschooler’s hand, and has a black, pronged horn on his stately forehead that very much resembles a kabuto, samuarai headgear. Thus is his Japanese name, kabuto-mushi, Ye Olde Helmet Head.
But, to be frank, I prefer to admire these warriors of the insect world from afar, and preferably with glass between us. I wasn’t too convinced of the wisdom of bringing home a grub. But my friend had 60 of them and was desperate, so I agreed to take two.
Since that time, they have lived in plastic containers in our living room. For the first few months, I didn’t have to do anything to them except watch them grow. Then as they got bigger, they began to poop like an old man from a Fibercil commercial, and I had to occasionally change part of their dirt, and add new dirt. I was lucky enough to get some of this special beetle larvae dirt from my neighbor, who is raising three larvae and a bucket of rice, in addition to three boys. She accidentally ordered two bags. Of dirt, not rice or boys.
The larvae got bigger and bigger, and as they grew they kind of started to grow on me. Me Too has named one of them Flower, full name is Flower Hedgehog. (We don’t ask.)
About a week ago, I noticed one of the bugs had stopped moving. It had dug a kind of burrow around itself, right in the bottom corner of it’s container. I figured it was dead. For all the fabulousness of the adult insect, apparently the young are quite fragile and prone to such old time Southern Belle theatrics as dying of shock or being burned by someone’s touch. I’m Southern myself, though not exactly a belle, so I guess I could relate well enough.
Poor critter, I thought.
Then Me First informed me, quite matter-of-factly, that they dig this burrow type thing, sleep for seven days, and then change. The word he used was “cocoon.” I have no idea if that is the correct term. But I let it be.
Today, I just happened to peek in on the little guy and caught him in the act of shedding his baby skin, revealing a white, beetle-like shape beneath. It was amazing to watch. He would swell and stretch up, take a deep breath, and the old skin would slither down just a bit. He struggled and carried on for over an hour. Eventually, everyone else got bored of watching and I was torn away.
When we came back a few hours later, his new skin had started to harden and change color.
What a thrill, to catch him in the process of metamorphosis.
The other larva, I guess, is a bit more shy. I haven’t seen Flower Hedgehog in several days, so I assume she’s made her nest in the middle of the dirt, where she can change in private.
But what on earth am I gonna do with TWO giant freaking beetles in a few weeks….
** I’ve refrained from adding images for the weak of heart.