The glittery female Rainbow Scarab Beetle is a delight to the eyes but the male means business.
The colorful, metallic females inspired the common name for the Rainbow Scarab Beetle. Males are completely black or shades of dark blue. In a way, males compensate for a less showy color by sporting a curved horn that grows out of the head like a rhinoceros. Males also have high ridges on the pronotum (shoulder plate). Females lack both horns and high ridges, but have metallic green wing coverings, a sparkling red pronotum, and hints of gold on the head.
Larvae, like all beetles, are grubs: plump, white, wormy creatures that curl into a c-shape. Rainbow Scarab Beetles are extremely good at degrading feces. When breeding, these tunneling insects dig a chamber in the soil under a pile of dung and roll the dung into feeding balls for hatching larvae. Eggs, along with balls of dung for food, are laid in the chamber. Offspring molt and pupate underground emerging as adults. They feed on the dung balls as they develop. Adults also eat animal dung, preferring pig and opossum dung over others. This unique diet is a critical part of recycling nutrients in an ecosystem. The benefits of the beetle;s existence are well-known in conservation because they help reduce damage created by large quantities of dung left behind by ruminants (plant-eating animals like cows). Rainbow Scarab Beetles also seem to out-compete a species of blood-sucking horn fly, making it difficult for the horn fly to establish a population, much to the relief of local cattle.
Scientific Name: Phanaeus vindex
Size (Adult; Length): 10mm to 22mm (0.39in to 0.86in)
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Antennae: Beetles have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and mandibles (jaws).
Thorax: Holds the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Elytron: One of two wing cases on a Beetle that protects its wings (plural: elytra).
Wings: Appendages used for flying and kept under the elytra until needed.
Abdomen: Houses organs related to circulation, reproduction, and excretion.
Legs: Beetles have three pairs of legs located at the thorax, numbering six legs in all.