Eastern Hercules Beetle

Male eastern Hercules beetle walking in grass
Scientific Name
Dynastes tityus
Scarabaeidae (scarab beetles) in the order Coleoptera (beetles)

The eastern Hercules beetle is a breathtaking animal. Like its Greek-hero namesake, it is big and strong. Males can be nearly 2½ inches long, counting the two forward-pointing horns. The horns are used for male-male contests for the best breeding sites, much as deer and elk use their antlers. Females lack the horns.

Hercules beetles are harmless to people.

Hercules beetles can vary greatly in the amount of spotting; some are almost completely black or brown, while others are mostly tan, pale green, or yellow, with irregular spots.

As grublike larvae, they eat rotting wood, ultimately helping to enrich soils.

Learn more about this and other scarab beetles on their group page.

Other Common Names
Rhinoceros Beetle
Unicorn Beetle

Look for Hercules beetles in deciduous forests and around lights at night.

There is some concern that Hercules beetles will soon be declining, as decaying ash trees are some of their favorite rotting trees to use as larval nurseries. As ash trees decline and ultimately disappear entirely because of the invasive emerald ash borer, Hercules beetles might eventually become more scarce as a result. Following this reasoning, during the years that the dead ash trees are on the ground and rotting, we might see a short-term increase in Hercules beetles. But once the ashes have disappeared entirely, the Hercules beetles might become endangered themselves.

The larvae eat rotting heartwood, usually of deciduous trees, and the adults eat rotting fruits and tree sap.

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About Land Invertebrates in Missouri
Invertebrates are animals without backbones, including earthworms, slugs, snails, and arthropods. Arthropods—invertebrates with “jointed legs” — are a group of invertebrates that includes crayfish, shrimp, millipedes, centipedes, mites, spiders, and insects. There may be as many as 10 million species of insects alive on earth today, and they probably constitute more than 90 percent all animal species.