Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Artificial pupal cells (chambers) from floral foam for beetles (video tutorial)

At the very start, when a pupal chamber made in substrate by one of my rainbow stag larvae collapsed, I simply did not know what to do. Later, I discovered that there is a possibility of making pupal chambers using either soil, clay or floral foam. However, there was not much information regarding how to make them, so I had to experiment myself, using intuition and any "internet based" experience.  Floral foam, which can be bought cheaply on ebay, was more appealing as "cleaner" stuff, so it became my first choice material. Since then I use floral foam chambers on a regular basis, and found that the rate of survival of many beetles is often much higher than leaving them in their natural cells.  Very often larvae construct their chambers at the very bottom of the substrate where is a high chance of the accumulation of the excessive moisture, which often leads to the poor air exchange and development of the mold and fungi. This is particularly relevant for stag beetle larvae which are normally kept in smaller containers, such as plastic pots or glass (kinshi) jars , and the air circulation in such smaller containers is very poor. Big beetle species, the larvae of which pupate in large boxes are normally not affected, because the good air circulation in bigger volumes prevents moisture from accumulation at the bottom of the containers.

After trying such artificial cells with several beetles I came to the following conclusions:

1) it is best to put the larva which has already molted into a pupa, or at least an immobile larva that undergoing its last stages before the transformation.  The mobile larvae will most likely try to dig itself into the foam and will eventually die. If such larvae is places back into the substrate it will not be able to create another chamber due to lack of energy and will die because of exhaustion.  

2) the size and shape of the pupa should resemble their natural chamber by size and shape as close as possible. In this case take an approximate measurement of the cell from which the larva was removed. If you make the chamber too big, the freshly molted beetle may not be able to flip over, which is necessary for it to pull its flying wings under the elytra. Although most of the natural chambers are positioned very close to horizontal position, some of the species construct chambers with a significant angle or even almost vertical chambers, e.g. Allomyrina dichotoma, so this needs to be taken into the account when constructing the chambers. 

3) Natural chambers, are covered by the layer of soil, which prevent them from complete drying. Artificial chambers can easily dry out even through the small ventilation holes in low humidity surroundings. It is important to maintain the level humidity similar to the one required for the certain.

Here is a short video how I make pupal chambers for my beetles.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Lucanus cervus subspecies

   European stag  beetle, Lucanus cervus cervus is definitely the biggest and one of the most remarkable European beetle. A major male of the stag beetle has impressive mandibules (horns), while females have smaller body and short and strong mandibules. Some exceptionally big males can reach up to 90 mm in size, although normally the size of the males is in the range of 50-70 mm. The females are much smaller, 35-50 mm.  There is a quite strong population of these beetles in the UK; with patchy distribution in Southern part of the country.   Interestingly, if continental Lucanus cervus cervus population is normally associated with woodlands and forests, UK population of the beetle is often associated with  urban gardens, suggesting their importance in preserving populations of this stag beetle species. The development of the larvae of the beetle can take 2-5 years in nature and I understand that the speed of the development similarly to tropical stag beetles often depends on the temperature and nutritional value of the substrate into which eggs were deposited by the stag beetle females. 
   Although Luncanus cervus cervus species is protected in most of the European countries, which prevents their trade and exploiting of their natural populations, it is my understanding that it is not illegal to handle wild caught specimen or even raise the larvae, if they found not in protected habitat in some European countries. I observed adult beetles flying on a warm spring night in our back garden in south London several times with occasional beetle landing/falling onto ground
With continuous interest to this big stag beetle, quite recently live specimen of other subspecies or variations of subspecies of Lucanus cervus became available on Asian hobbyist market. These are Lucanus cervus akbesianus, which is considered as variation of Lucanus cervus ssp. turcicus (Sturm, 1843, antennal club of 6 segments) and Lucanus cervus ssp. judaicus (Planet, 1900, antennal club of 4 segments). Since the area of habbitat occasionally overlap for some of these subspecies/variations, there is a possibility of obtaining a wrongly identified specimen. Therefore an easy identification key could be helpful when such specimen are obtained. 
   Here I found an interesting  diagram showing the characteristics of the shape of manidbules in different ssp/variations. This one could be very useful when obtaining live specimen to confirm their taxonomic position.  
It is my understanding that breeding of protected Lucanus cervus cervus in captivity from generation to generation so far was not extremely successful, so there is still a lot to learn about their breeding specifics. One of the most restricting factors is a limited number of the specimen which can be obtained for such studies. Often, such specimen originate from one heavily inbred population, which would contribute negatively to the survival rate of the captive bred specimen. It is quite possible that using other readily available Lucanus cervus ssp as a model could be very beneficial for learning insights into the raising protected lucanus cervus cervus and restoring their population in nature.

Here are some very interesting reads about  Lucanus cervus.



Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Green and red Protaetia (cetonischema) aeruginosa live beetle video

Just uploaded videos showing two different colour variations of Protaetia (cetonischema) aeruginosa from my collection. Both beetles are stunning, very shiny. Adult beetles normally reach the size of 15-20 mm, and very easy to keep and breed. Adult beetles feed on any fruit really and their larvae will grow well in any decaying organic material such as leaf litter, rotten wood or compost. Plus they are totally safe, a bit shy beetles, and some of them can live several months, which makes them great pets.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Megasoma elephas elephas breeding report (care sheet)

A giant rhino beetle Megasoma elephas elephas is magnificent species from neotropical ecozone which lives in tropical forests from Southern Mexico to Venezuela. The males are one of the largest beetles in the world reaching over 13 cm in size. Considering the fact that the beetle's elytron is also quite wide, the adult beetles look and feel (when handled:) massive. In nature the adult beetles feed on sweet sap from trees and ripe fruits, whereas the larvae are found in decayed organic plant material, such as rotten wood.
Megasoma elephas elephas is one of my favourite species as these beetles are relatively easy to keep and breed. 


Once the eggs are hatched, the larvae normally consume the egg's skin and start feeding on substrate right away. The speed of the development of the larvae depends on the temperature and nutritional value of the substrate. The temperature between 18-25C is fine for the larvae. The substrate for the new larvae should be finely mulched, preferable with some forest humus in it, which the larvae will readily consume. I noticed that my M.e.e. larvae developed quicker on the substrate composed mainly of decayed leaf litter with occasional supplement with dog food pellets,  rather than on the rotten wood or fermented rotten wood. The humidity of the substrate can be from quite moist to just moist; the larvae develop normally in both of them. The larvae of a similar size can be kept together in small containers. The only condition is that the area of the bottom of the container should be large enough for all the larvae to stay at the lower level. It is important that the box should have enough holes for a good air circulation, in order to prevent the accumulation of toxic ammonia derived compounds. The substrate can be replaced only after the most of it was consumed by the larvae. On average the L1 stage of the larvae takes from 3 to 5 weeks, the L2 stage of the larvae takes 6-9 weeks, and the L3 stage takes from 8-16 months. The larvae molt to change their head capsule, as this part does not grow, so the larvae of different stages differ by the size of the head capsule.  The good-developed female larva reaches the pupation weight at 60g+, when for the male larvae this weight is 90g+. The male larvae can be as heavy as 140g+. Once the larvae have reached this weight and  became yellowish in colour it is then transferred into the bigger box for the pupation. The larvae creates the pupation chamber which is quite big, so the volume of the substrate needs to be taken into consideration. The lower layer of the subtrate in the pupation box should be replaced with some potting or top forest soil; this will help the larvae to form sturdy pupal cells. For example, for 4 big larvae the pupation box should be at least 25-30L in volume. It takes 2-3 months for the larvae to form the chamber and pupate. During this period the larvae should not be disturbed. The larva often creates the chamber next to the wall of the container so its transformation can be observed through the translucent wall of the box. Normally after 3 months waiting I remove the pupae and transfer them into the artificial pupal chambers. 

Left- the pupal chamber constructed near the wall of the container. Middle - opened camber with a female pupa inside. Right - the male pupa.

When the pupa turns into an adult beetle it requires about several days for its elytra to harden completely. After that the beetle stays inactive for 4-6 weeks. The active adults will eat any sweet ripe fruit such as pear, but overripe banana or beetle jelly will be the best food for them. The temperature should be between 20-25C and the level of humidity in the enclosure should be high, as naturally they live in a humid tropical environment. The beetles have very long legs and are very grabby, so sometimes it takes quite an effort to take it off your hand. 
Although many breeders suggest feeding the female of a rhino beetle for about 2 weeks before mating, I did not see any significant difference in number of eggs laid between "pre-fed" and fresh females, especially if you are going to have only one pair of adults in the breeding box. The egg laying setup is similar to any rhino beetle setup; the potting soil is mixed with some mulched decayed leaves and wood and the lower layer is compressed with a hand. A few bigger chunks of wood should be placed at the top of the soil so the beetle could grab if it flips over. The eggs and the fresh larvae can be collected after about 1.5-2 months. The female may lay somewhere between 30 and 60 eggs, but sometimes more.  The most of the eggs will be laid in the compressed bottom layer of the box.

Left- freshly eclosed male, right photo - female, both with still soft elytra

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Goliathus on the loose

Purely by an accident I spotted my like yesterday-still-dormant Goliathus orientalis preissi male, which apparently finally woke up from its sleep and escaped from his box. Still a bit wobbly from several month inactivity, however, he has not died instantly, which is a good sign:)

Big hopes for this specimen as he is from a different line than my females, so hopefully he will assist in production of F1 offspring!

Two first photos were taken after my 15-min struggle trying to unclench the beetle from the beam in the enclosure. Various approaches were used including spraying the goliath beetle with water, which in fact did not help at all:)))

Finally he capitulated and was transferred into an individual box!

Freshly eclosed goliathus orientalis preissi males are absolutely stunning: white, black and very dark red, please see the photo number 3

Please contact me at beetlesaspets@gmail.com regarding any related issue or availability of the larvae of these species.  

Friday, 15 January 2016

A giant rhino beetle, megasoma gyas porioni

A relatively new to my collection, Megasoma gyas porioni from Brasil.   The beetles are really magnificent, very similar to Megasoma elephas elephas species. I know that many breeders use fermented wood to raise the larvae of these species. However, because I used decayed leaf litter successfully to raise Megasoma elephas elephas larvae before, I tried the same substrate with Megasoma gyas porioni larvae, occasionally adding some dog food pellets as a protein supplement. In such substrate the larvae grow strong and healthy, so it seems that leaf litter is a good alternative for the decayed or fermented wood substrate. Interestingly, compared to M. elephas, which are quite short-lived, adult  M. gyas porioni live substantially longer; two of my males lived for 10+ months. Here is the photo-set of these beetles. The beetles have quite wide body so they feel really massive when holding them in your hand. The male is not the biggest of its kind but still pretty impressive!

Please contact me at beetlesaspets@gmail.com regarding any related issue or larvae availability.