Whenever you encounter the eastern Hercules beetle (Dynastes tityus), you may be astonished at it size and perhaps fear it might bite you.
The eastern Hercules beetle is indeed large, in fact, since it can attain a length of around 2.5 inches, it is probably the largest beetle you will see in your backyard.
However, while it appears dangerous, it will not bite or sting. It much prefers to eat rotting fruit or the sap exuded from ash trees than human flesh.
Both male and female eastern Hercules beetles range in color from olive green, to tan and gray. Their exoskeletons display multiple black spots. No two beetles have the same number and distribution of spots. Consequently, researchers use the spots to identify individuals.
As you can see from the photos that accompany this blog, males sport two pronotal horns that some described as looking like the horns of a rhinoceros. The males use these horns when fighting for the opportunity to mate with females. Females lack horns.
Although they are found throughout Georgia, the homeowners that are most apt to find one of these giant beetles are those have yards that feature scattered hardwood trees, especially those where rotten limbs have be allowed to remain on the ground. Eastern Hercules beetle larvae feed on rotting wood, especially oak.
Since eastern Hercules beetles are nocturnal, it is unlikely that most of us spot one unless it is drawn to an outside light.
The strength of eastern Hercules beetles is legendary. Perhaps that is the reason we sometimes refer to it as the ox or elephant beetle. It is said that it can lift an object 850 times its own weight. This is the equivalent of a human lifting nine fully-grown elephants.
I hope you will have the opportunity to spot this gentle giant in your yard. It represents one of the countless animals that are hiding in plain sight in our backyards.