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Elephant Rhinoceros Beetle (Megasoma elephas)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Elephant Rhinoceros Beetle

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Image Credit: Kathy D. in Manzanillo, MX
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This huge, tropical beetle is all kinds of special, and it is under threat from habitat loss and collectors.

Updated: 01/03/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Elephant Rhinoceros Beetle is a mammoth Scarab beetle that is native to Central America and Mexico. The female looks like a typical Scarab, but the male is unique in a few ways. Like other Rhino Beetles, the male has two horns that project from the head: one is short and between the eyes, the other is quite long and curved, extending forward like an elephant's trunk and ending in a forked tip. These horns are used in battle against other males when competing for a female. Two more horns point out and forward from the pronotum ('shoulder' area). The head, pronotum, and wing coverings (elytra) of both sexes are covered in fine, short, orange-brown hairs that give it a velvety or flocked appearance. These hairs may rub off over time, leaving the beetle completely black. Aside from all of these wonderful characteristics, this species' size is really what captures attention. It is so large that it may require two hands to hold it. Rarely do insects in North America reach sizes that big.

Because of its remarkable traits, this beetle is often captured by collectors and those seeking trinkets from its body parts. In addition to this threat, much of its rain forest habitat is getting developed, so its population numbers are declining. Females use decaying logs to lay fertilized eggs. Harvesting lumber removes possible nest sites. Larvae spend over 2 years underground, just feeding and growing. Tilling the ground or removing vegetation destroys the larvae. The adult only lives for a few months, leaving little time to reproduce.

Look for adult beetles at night on tree trunks drinking sap, or on the ground, feeding on the ripe fruit that falls from the trees. Be sure to leave them where they are so the population can continue its presence in that area.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Hairy insect icon
Spiny / Spiky insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Scarabaeidae
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          Genus: Megasoma
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            Species: elephas

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Megasoma elephas
Other Name(s): Elephant Rhino Beetle
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 70mm to 150mm (2.75" to 5.90")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; black
Descriptors: large; big; brown; velvet; flocking; two horns; snout; trunk; long nose

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 70mm (2.8in) and 150mm (5.9in)
Lo: 70mm
Md: 110mm
Hi: 150mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Elephant Rhinoceros Beetle may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Elephant Rhinoceros Beetle. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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