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Eastern Hercules Beetles

The eastern Hercules beetle is one of the largest and heaviest insects in the U.S. In South Carolina, there is only one Hercules beetle species, Dynastes tityus. These insects are a type of beetle in the family Scarabaeidae – the same family as June beetles, Japanese beetles, and dung beetles.

Adults can be nearly 3 inches long and are a tannish to greenish color with black spots. Adult males have large horns on their heads, hence the common name rhinoceros beetles. Males with larger horns were able to obtain more nourishment as larvae. The horns are used when males “fight” to mate with females. Females do not have horns. Larvae are grub-like and can get as big as an adult’s finger.

These beetles are not pests, and little is known about adult feeding habits (though they have been observed to feed on tree bark and leaves). Larvae feed in rotting hardwood stumps and on dead leaves and other rotting material.

Despite their appearance, these beetles are not dangerous to people. That said, if you do pick one up, you might feel a little scratch from the small claws on the ends of its feet. However, they won’t bite you or jab you with their horn. Rather, if you’re lucky enough to see one, just enjoy the sight of one of the largest beetles in South Carolina!

Eastern Hercules beetle on a branch. Notice the horns on the head, indicating that it’s a male. David Coyle, ©2021, Clemson University.

Eastern Hercules beetle on a branch. Notice the horns on the head, indicating that it’s a male.
David Coyle, ©2021, Clemson University

Eastern Hercules beetle on the author’s hand. Notice the claws on the ends of the feet. These beetles are attracted to lights, which is where this one was originally captured. David Coyle, ©2021, Clemson University

Eastern Hercules beetle on the author’s hand. Notice the claws on the ends of the feet. These beetles are attracted to lights, which is where this one was originally captured.
David Coyle, ©2021, Clemson University

Eastern Hercules beetle larvae are large grubs. These were found in the rotting middle of a maple tree that was cut down in Charleston County. Meredith Bean, ©2021, Clemson University

Eastern Hercules beetle larvae are large grubs. These were found in the rotting middle of a maple tree that was cut down in Charleston County.
Meredith Bean, ©2021, Clemson University

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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