Eastern Hercules Beetle

Dynastes tityus

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Male eastern Hercules beetle walking in grass
Male eastern Hercules beetles (Dynastes tityus) can be nearly 2½ inches long, counting the horns, which are used for male-male contests, much like the horns of deer and elk. Females lack the horns.
Other Common Name
Rhinoceros Beetle; Unicorn Beetle
Family

Scarabaeidae (scarab beetles) in the order Coleoptera (beetles)

Description

The eastern Hercules beetle is a breathtaking animal. Like its Greek-hero namesake, it is big and strong. Males can be nearly 2½ inches long, counting the two forward-pointing horns. The horns are used for male-male contests for the best breeding sites, much as deer and elk use their antlers. Females lack the horns.

Hercules beetles are harmless to people.

Hercules beetles can vary greatly in the amount of spotting; some are almost completely black or brown, while others are mostly tan, pale green, or yellow, with irregular spots.

As grublike larvae, they eat rotting wood, ultimately helping to enrich soils.

Learn more about this and other scarab beetles on their group page.

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Male eastern Hercules beetle on bark
Eastern Hercules Beetle (Male)
The eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus) is huge and strong. The larvae eat rotting heartwood, usually of deciduous trees, and the adults eat rotting fruits and tree sap. Males have two forward-pointing horns used for battling other males for the best breeding sites.
Habitat and conservation

Look for Hercules beetles in deciduous forests and around lights at night.

There is some concern that Hercules beetles will soon be declining, as decaying ash trees are some of their favorite rotting trees to use as larval nurseries. As ash trees decline and ultimately disappear entirely because of the invasive emerald ash borer, Hercules beetles might eventually become more scarce as a result. Following this reasoning, during the years that the dead ash trees are on the ground and rotting, we might see a short-term increase in Hercules beetles. But once the ashes have disappeared entirely, the Hercules beetles might become endangered themselves.

Foods

The larvae eat rotting heartwood, usually of deciduous trees, and the adults eat rotting fruits and tree sap.