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Rainbow Scarab Beetle (Phanaeus vindex)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Rainbow Scarab Beetle

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The glittery female Rainbow Scarab Beetle is a delight to the eyes but the male means business.

Updated: 01/05/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Harmless insect icon
Shiny 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: Phanaeus
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            Species: vindex

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Phanaeus vindex
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 10mm to 22mm (0.39" to 0.86")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: green; red; copper; yellow; blue; black
Descriptors: colorful; harmless; metallic; shiny; flying; horn

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 10mm (0.4in) and 22mm (0.9in)
Lo: 10mm
Md: 16mm
Hi: 22mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Rainbow Scarab 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 Rainbow Scarab Beetle. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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