Expert urges public to protect distinctive beetle as numbers decline

Chiayi,  A Chiayi-based entomologist has urged people to protect Taiwan’s distinctive Japanese rhinoceros beetle, which has suffered steep population declines in recent years due to its growing popularity as a pet.

The beetles, which are found across East Asia and easily recognizable by the distinctive horns found on the males, emerge from underground between May-August to mate and deposit their eggs, often dying within a month.

In Taiwan, the highest populations occur in Chiayi County, due to the prevalence of Griffith’s ash, a preferred food source.

However, the species has experienced a marked decline in recent years, to the point of outright scarcity in Chiayi this summer, residents say.

One of the causes, according to entomologist Lin Ming-ying (林明瑩), an assistant professor at National Chiayi University, is that people capture the beetles to keep as pets, disrupting their life cycles and causing year-on-year population declines.

To protect the species, Lin encouraged people to observe the beetles in the wild, pointing to the example of neighborhoods which have repurposed common areas as beetle sanctuaries.

Those who want to keep the beetles as pets should consider buying their larvae at a pet store, rather than catching them in the wild. This also makes it possible to observe the different stages of the beetle’s life cycle, Lin said.

During Taiwan’s summer months, the beetles can be found feeding on rotten fruit and tree sap — particularly sap from Griffith’s ash trees, Lin said.

“If you see long vertical strips of peeled bark — those are their masterpieces,” Lin said.

 

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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