Both beetles can get to be two to three inches long and, with their big horns, you can imagine that the first small boy to stumble across them had the obvious thought: BUG FIGHT! So it's no surprise that this was the traditional way to play with pet beetles.
If you've ever heard of these beetles it's probably in the context of these fights, since it's one of those weird only-in-Japan things that the media loves. So when I wanted to know more about beetle-keeping, my first question, of course, was whether kids still have bug fights. I spoke to my friend Evangela Suzuki, who has experience of both pet beetles and small boys: together with her son, she kept both kinds of beetles at her home in Ibaraki Prefecture.
Despite my concern for animal welfare (and yes, bugs are animals), I was disappointed when Suzuki said she'd only seen the beetle fights on Japanese TV herself, and didn't know of any kids that fought them. "In a way it makes sense not to [battle them]. The really nice beetles are expensive and I would not think kids would want to damage them," she said.
That comment introduced me to the world of modern beetle keeping which, of course, in a modern capitalist society, turns out to involve a whole lot of shopping.
Above is a shop specilized for beetkles hobby in Japan which called Kuwagata
To the Left a japanese magazine dedicated for beetles keeping hobby
courtesy to : www.tofugu.com/japan/pet-beetles-in-japan/
Americans and Japanese mostly have similar opinions about what makes a good pet – in both countries, cute and cuddly creatures like cats and dogs top the list. But there's one big difference: in Japan there's a long tradition of keeping pet insects, especially two kinds of very large beetles.
One is the kabutomushi, called Rhinoceros Beetle in English. The English name obviously comes from their single giant horn. The Japanese name means "helmet bug," apparently from the imagined resemblance to a samurai helmet.
The other is the kuwagata or Stag Beetle. They're named for their double horn, which again, made English speakers think of another animal and reminded the Japanese of a type of samurai helmet.
BEETLES ARE BIG BUSINESS :
These beetles were traditionally caught in the wild, like an American kid might catch a firefly and put it in a jar. Nowadays, though, people who live in cities and can't go out to collect their beetles for free apparently haven't lost the urge to keep them. So a whole industry has sprung up selling beetles and supplies. There are even pet stores dedicated entirely to them, like the one above I photographed in Tokyo.
And if you want to know what Suzuki means by nice, expensive beetles, you can check out the prices for adult beetles at this online store. As I write this, the prices for stag beetles that are in stock, for example, include a few at a low ¥1,000 (10 USD). But the majority are in ¥3,000-¥8,000 range (30-80 USD), and you'll see similar prices at this pet shop in Osaka:
There are also a few on that website, which I presume are rarities that only a specialist would appreciate. They go for prices like ¥50,000 (500 USD) and ¥98,000 (980 USD) – and no, I am not accidentally adding extra zeros to those prices. Putting a pricey beetle like that in a fight would be like putting your brand new sports car in a demolition derby – and even a thirty dollar bug probably isn't something you're going to throw into a cage match.
In fact, the more expensive beetles are geared less toward kids than to adults who are beetle otaku (of course there are beetle otaku, are you even surprised? There are so many kinds of otaku). Fortunately, for kids and cheapskates, there are other ways.
BARGAIN BEETLE SHOPPING
Kids definitely still want these bugs – Suzuki says that her son begged for one – and stores find a way to cater to them. "Sometimes stores will have lotteries where kids can pay a few yen for a raffle ticket and try their luck in winning a more pricey beetle," she told me. But another less expensive way is to raise them from grubs: "One pet shop a town over from us always sets up a big square pit of dirt where kids can dig for a Kabutomushi grub for only 100 yen."
These bargain beetles are a good deal for the shop too because, once you own your beetle, you need your pet bug supplies – and raising from a grub means extra things to buy. Raising bugs from babies is different from most other animals because they don't just start out as small versions of their adult selves and get bigger. They undergo a transformation to a totally different form. So the needs of the grub and the adult beetle are different – requiring, of course, shopping for different supplies at the different stages. There are all kinds of products available, including special fruit jellies sold in tiny cups to feed the adult beetles, as seen below.
Beetles are so common as pets that even 100 yen stores sell supplies during summer. And of course now you can get them online – as I'm writing this, an Amazon Japan search returns 79 pages of results.
BRINGING UP BEETLE BABY :
Suzuki raised a kabutoumushi from a grub after her son, who was six at the time, had begged for one for a while. It turned out that despite his desire for a big horned beetle, the squishy little grub frightened him. So as often happens to moms, the beetle became her pet. The grub needed a special peaty type of soil to both eat and dig in. Then, when it changed into an adult, the setup was fancier: "Once in beetle form, the bedding had to be changed to one of two layers, the first layer kept damp (but not too damp to cause mold or mildew) and a dry layer that allowed the beetle to climb and dig. Leaves and logs are put in not just to allow the bug to hide, but also in case it falls over it has something to grab onto to pull itself upright."
It was a pretty high maintenance pet, in her opinion. The right level of humidity is important – damp but not too damp, because that causes mold and mildew. And they need to be kept clean: "They also have a tendency to spray excrement everywhere, so lots of cage cleaning. There was a special screen cloth to put over the case that kept moisture in and small flies out," she said. "Many flies are attracted to the fruit jelly and could breed if not kept out of the cage. Some people fed the beetles bananas and other fruits before the jellies became an alternative and caused the beetles to become very stinky."
She named her beetle Sam and said she became very attached to him, which is a bit sad because they only live for about a year. Nine months of that is as a grub, with about three for the metamorphosis. So you only get two to three months with your adult kabutoumushi.
Suzuki also kept a kuwagata, which she acquired in the more or less traditional way: she found it on the pavement outside her house. Her son finally had his dream pet, which she says had a very different personality: temperamental, in contrast to "sweet and kind" Sam. "My son is quite proud of that pissy little beetle because the one time it escaped, we found it had killed a cockroach," she said.
(If you're living in Japan and are interested in trying to catch your own beetle, since you probably won't be lucky enough to stumble across one, this link (in Japanese) explains how.)
Another difference with the kuwagata is that it can hibernate over the winter and live for several years. With some animals that hibernate it's complicated to reproduce the conditions in captivity, but apparently that may not be so hard for the average Japanese beetle owner. "Japan doesn't have central heating so it was pretty chilly in our home during winter," Suzuki said. "Our home was still warmer than the outside but I think the indoor conditions were not so much different in humidity or temperature to that of the outdoors." Nice that there's one bright side to having to spend the season huddled around the kotatsu, I guess.
MEET THE BEETLES
Of course you know that one of the grand things about Japan is that if you can't have your own pet, there are places to go to hang out with them. Everyone knows about cat cafes, which have even started to spring up in other countries, but there are also cafes with rabbits, various birds, reptiles, and even goats.
Never fear, bug lovers. You are not left out: you can go to Mushi Mushi Land.
"Mushi" means "insect" and this park has bug exhibits, bug themed rides, and the requisite slightly unnerving costumed mascot seen in the video above. There's also lodging and a restaurant, which from the photos appear to be reassuringly free of bugs. I mean, I am really very interested in insects, but there is a time and a place for everything.
Closer to where most tourists are likely to be, namely Tokyo, the Tama Zoo in the western suburbs has a very large Insectarium. Not only does it have lots of live insects of many kinds, it's decorated with all sorts of insect art pieces, like the stag beetle mosaic above. If you're travelling with friends who aren't convinced they want to see beetles, you can send them off to the big indoor free-flight butterfly exhibit. It's perfect for those unfortunate people who haven't learned to appreciate the appeal of enormous horned insects.
By the way, if you live in the US and this article has made you dream of a pet beetle, you don't have to move to Japan. We have similar native species and there is a small but enthusiastic community of people who keep pet insects. This is one site that seems to have them for sale occasionally, and there are other types of beetles for sale. The latter is also the place to go for exotic roaches – which I have been told more than once make great pets. But that's a story for another time.
For detailed info on caring for a pet beetle:
Stag Beetles and Japan:
- Stag beetles are large beetles with fearsome-looking mandibles that are nearly as long as the beetle's body and resemble the antlers of a stag.
- Stag beetles and rhinoceros beetles mop up tree sap. Only male rhinoceros beetles have horns. Male stag beetles have longer mandibles than females.
- Japanese are fond of buying and collecting beetles and keeping them as pets. They are particularly fond of stag beatles, fearsome- looking black insects with large jaw-like mandibles, and rhinoceros beetles, similar to stag beetles except the have a large "horn" protruding from their thorax above their head.
- Stag beetles possess mandibles that are nearly as long as the beetle's body and resemble the antlers of a stag. Varying in lengths from 0.6 centimeters to 8.5 centimeters, they are smooth, black or reddish brown. Males are larger than females and have enlarged mandibles that are used in fights over females. There are about 1,000 species of stag and rhinoceros beetles in the world, with 20 species in Japan. Generally found in the forests and mountains around rotted logs and oak trees, the Japanese species are between 5 centimeters and 8 centimeters in length and hibernate in the winter.
- In the wild, stag beetles are active mostly at night. Despite their large size they, like all beetles, can fly. Eggs are laid in decaying tree stumps or roots. Larvae live in rotten logs or are buried in the soil, feeding on rotten wood. Once they are large enough they pupate. Adults either do not feed on drink fluids such as nectar or sap, which they can smell.
- In November 2007, new species of stag beetle---the takaneruri kuwagata beetle or Platycerus sue Imura---was discovered in Japan. Males have a turquoise metallic luster; females are bronze colored. Almost immediately after its discovery catching the beetle was banned and the place where it was found was kept secret after a pair of the insects was put for auction in the Internet for $1,000.
In the US:
STAG BEETLES AND OTHER KINDS OF BEETLES
courtesy to : www.factsanddetails.com/world/
- Beetles are the most plentiful family of animals known. It is estimated that one out of very four animal species on earth is a beetle. When British biologist J.B. S. Haldane was asked by a group of theologians about what he thought about God as creator, he replied that God had "an inordinate fondness for beetles." The name "beetle" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for "to bite." [Source: Douglas Chadwick, National Geographic, March 1998]
- Beetles are found almost everywhere in the world. Some live in ground, some lives live in trees and some live in the water. Thus far abut 350,000 species of beetle have been described in the scientific literature but the true number of beetle species may be in the millions. One tree in Peru yielded 650 beetle species.
- Ancestors of beetles had two sets of wings like dragonflies. As they evolved one set of wings developed into a hard shell that gave the insects protection from predators. The number of beetle species increased dramatically when flowering plants became the dominate form of vegetation on earth. Many beetles eat flowering plants and their diversity is related to the diversity of flowering plants. In some cases groups of beetles that eat flowering plants are 1,000 times more diverse than beetles that eat other kinds of plants.
- The scientific name for the order to which beetles belong, Coleoptera , means "sheathe wing." All beetles have four wings. The front pair form a thick, hard, shiny, protective shells that opens when the beetle wants to fly. The back pair are used for flying. They ingeniously fold inside wing covers and spring open when the wing coves are opened. Most beetles don't use their wings much: often just to make quick escapes like flying chickens. Beetle wings are delicate and probably would be damaged if they were not protected by the covers.
- Some beetle species are quite colorful. Colors of all sorts, combinations and hues are found in their hard, armorlike front wings---their shells.
- Websites and Resources on Insects: Insect.org insects.org ; Insect Images.org insectimages.org ; BBC Insects bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Insect ; Insect and Arachnid entomology.umn.edu/cues/4015/morpology ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Virtual Insect home.comcast.net ; National Geographic on Bugs National Geographic ; Smithsonian bug info si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/buginfo ; Entomology for Beginnersbijlmakers.com/entomology/begin ; BugGuide bugguide.net ;
- Websites and Resources on Animals: ARKive arkive.org Animal Info animalinfo.org ; Animal Picture Archives (do a Search for the Animal Species You Want) animalpicturesarchive ; BBC Animals Finderbbc.co.uk/nature/animals ; Animal Diversity Web animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu ; International Field Guides media.library.uiuc.edu ; animals.com animals.com/tags/animals-z ; Encyclopedia of Life eol.org ; World Wildlife Fund (WWF) worldwildlife.org ; National Geographic National Geographic ; Animal Planetanimal.discovery.com ; Wikipedia article on Animals Wikipedia ; Animals.com animals.com ; Endangered Animals iucnredlist.org ; Endangered Species Resource List ucblibraries.colorado.edu ; Biodiversity Heritage Library biodiversitylibrary.org
Kinds of Beetles :
- Some species of beetles are excellent swimmers. Other are superb diggers, runners, and flyers. There are species of beetle that can walk on glass surfaces, skirt across water, prosper in the mouthpiece of bees, communicate by rubbing their wings against their abdomens, lay their eggs in dead rats, and disguises themselves as dung balls to attract prey. Some beetles piss like a dog by lifting one leg. Others use their poop to plant trees.
-Tiger beetles can scurry along at two feet a second, which means if they were enlarged to the size of a race horse they would move at 250 miles per hour. Some species of burying beetles can lift 200 times their own weight. In a forest in Indonesia in the 1850s, Alfred Russel Wallace was amazed by what he thought was the fragrance of roses in a rain forest. He was even more surprised when he discovered the smell came from tiger beetles not flowers.
- Unusual beetle species include wingless black-and-orange trilobite beetles from Borneo; the bizarre four-inch-long-horned beetle from French Guiana. Some species of ladybug practice cannibalism and allow a bacteria to enter their eggs that kills males but allows females to survive. They female in turn eat the male embryos. Blister beetles can cause the skin to peel. They are the source of Spanish fly.
- Some beetles have some unusual features. Bombardier beetles have a highly efficient combustion chamber in a gland near their anus that shoots boiling-hot chemicals at would-be predators. TheMelanophila beetle, which lays its eggs in freshly burned wood, has evolved a structure that can detect the precise infrared radiation produced by a forest fire, allowing it to sense a blaze a 100 kilometers away. This talent is currently being investigated by the U.S. Air Force. [Source: Tom Mueller, National Geographic , April 2008]
- There are about 150 families of beetles. The scarab beetle family contains more than 30,000 species. The largest family, the weevils, contains 60,000 species counted so far and is the largest family of living organisms on earth. They have large mouthparts usually affixed to the tip of their snout that allows them to bore deep holes and deposit their eggs eve in the hardest seeds or nuts. They are also often also excellent fliers. See Boll Weevils, Cotton, Fabric.
Stag Beetles as Pets in Japan
- Stag beetles make good pets. They take up little space in small Japanese dwelling, require little care and can be left alone for long periods of time. Some live to be five years old, which is longer than most hamsters.
- Stag beetles are usually kept in plastic boxes. Some wood is usually placed in their box to make them feel at home. Instead of sap, the beetles are usually given pieces of cucumber or watermelon with a ball of cotton wool soaked in sugar. Pet shops sell a special jello used to feed them.
- Pet shops say their most enthusiastic customers are men in their 30s and 40s. One adult beetle collected told Reuters, "I liked insects, even as a child. The shape, the black color, how it shines and the smart appearance of the beetles is what I like best."
- Another collected said "When I raise it and hold it in my hand I feel affection for it...They had different personalities---this one shy, that one is more aggressive, and so on." Schools sponsor beetle-hunting field trips for their students.
Buying Stag Beetles in Japan :
- Stag beetles can be purchased at pet stores, department stores and shops that specialize in beetles. Enthusiasts can buy beetles from vending machines for ¥400. Credit card holders can order them through the Internet. The beetles are usually sold in pairs.
- Millions of dollars worth of beetles accessories are sold every year. The are groups tours to the Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia whose sole purpose is to collect stage beetles.
- Most pet shop beetles sell for the equivalent of four or five dollars. High-priced ones go of as much as $2,500. Generally the bigger, the more valuable. Nepalese Dorcus antaeus, a type of stag beetle prized for its size, was selling for around $3,000 in the summer of 2001. Monster over 10 centimeters sold for $8,000 or more.
- A massive Japanese stage beetle said to be a "black diamond" with "one in hundred of million" size was sold for $89,000 to a 36-year-old company president from a Tokyo insect specialty shop called Waku Waku Land. It was considered so valuable because of its size (9 centimeters).
- The market for beetles is highly volatile. Big one that are worth thousands can be become worth hundreds in a matter of months depending on supply and demand and trendiness. The price of Japanese stage beetles collapsed after it was discovered how to breed them.
Stag Beetle Fights in Japan :
- Beetle fights are held in small rings with the objective being for one beetle to turn its rival over or drive him out of the ring.
- Describing a stag beetle fight, Masaki Iijimi of Reuters wrote, "Two giant black beetles lunge at each other on top of a log as dozens of children and adults watch eagerly. The long curved mandibles of the fighting stag beetles make clacking sounds on contact...The crowds gasps as a beetles lifts up its seven-centimeter opponent with its jaws and flings it off the log."
- In the wild stag beetle males fight each for prized sap wounds. Sap wounds are also where males hang out in hopes of attracting a female. Males fight over the right to mate. To prepare their beetles for fights some collectors forced them to pull weight or have them fight smaller opponents to build up their confidence.
- Mushi King, See Games
Mushi King, a beetle
fighting arcade game
Mushi King :
The biggest video game craze in the mid 2000s was Mushi King: the King of the Beetles---a game that involved separately buying cards with images of large beetles---such as the Giraffe stag-beetle, the saw-tooth stag beetle or the Thailand five-horned beetle---on them and various information and feeding them into an arcade machine that show 3-D images of the beetles battling to the death.
- Mushi King (“Bug King”) was introduced in 2003 by Sega who made money both from the selling of the cards and from the machines that played the cards. The game and cards were especially popular with preteen boys who fed cards into machines at toy stores and arcades. As of March 2007, 420 million cards and half million copies of the software that allowed the game to be played at home on Game Boy or PlayStations had been sold. At its peak more than 13,000 Mushi King arcade machines were in 5,200 locations.
- There are 856 Mushi King cards, each one with a real beetle species. They sell for ¥100 a piece and are available only from the arcade machines. Each card carries a number that measures the beetle's strength and stamina, which can be enhances with supplemental special “skill” cards. The beetles use moves like those found in profession wrestling. Each has a special Finishing Attack such as a Running Cutter, Tornado throw or Rolling Smash which it use to finish off an opponent.
- Cardholders can battle other cardholders or beetles on the machine. The battles begin after the machine scans the bar codes on the cards. Players chose when and how to attack and the outcome is based as much on their skill and the values on their cards.
- Mushi King is a make-believe version of an insect fight staged in a small ring such as those held between crickets in China. There is a television animation series that goes along with the game as well as merchandise such as lunchboxes and gloves.
Sources of Stag Beetles in Japan :
Most of the stag beetles sold in Japan are Japanese varieties. More and more large beetles from the jungles of Indonesia, Malaysia Cambodia, Nepal and India and being brought in the country. Some of these have exotic colors such as gold and iridescent blue-green. Finding beetles for the Japanese beetle collecting market is quite lucrative. More than 500 different species stag beetles, a third of the world's known species, have been imported to Japan from Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia.
- Originally foreign beetles were not allowed in the country due to fears they might multiple and destroy crops. That changed on November 1999 when the government approved 31 kinds of foreign stag beetles for import. By January 2001, a total of 74 species had been approved.
-- In Japan, wild stag beetles are collected from oak trees that have been cut so that sap oozes out. The beetles as well many other kinds of insects are attracted to the sap. There are tour to the Philippines and Indonesia to collect beetles and other bugs there.
- These days most of the beetles sold commercially are bred in farms. A typical farm produces 4,000 or so beetles and requires relatively little investment. The beetles are basically fed and left alone. In August adults lay eggs and wild beetles are introduced to prevent too much inbreeding. Desired traits such as large size and color are singled out and breed. Many collectors breed them at home and say that is the most interesting aspect of their hobby.
Beetle and Insect Poaching and Smuggling in Japan
The stag beetle is a genus name for beetles with a flat body. It has jagged lower jaws that resemble a stag's antlers poking out of its long head segment. There are many varieties of the stag beetle (39 in Japan alone); the largest of these can grow to as long as 8 centimeters (3.1 inches).
- Japanese beetles are face extinction as they are cross bred with non-native stag beetle specie's from Southeast Asia that have been introduced as pets. They are also threatened by hunting for pets.
- Some of the species that have been approved in Japan are protected species in the countries they originate from. This has led to lucrative market for beetle poaching and smuggling, which is less risky than smuggling other animals because they are much smaller than other protected species and can easily be hidden in luggage. Particularly prized are the giant stag beetles found only in northen India, Nepal, Bhutan and Taiwan.
- In August 2001, two Japanese men were arrested at Nepal's international airport for attempting to smuggle 271 pairs of indigenous stag beetles out of the country. Earlier a Japanese man was arrested in the Daman forests of Nepal for collecting insects without a permit. He was found with 49 varieties of insects. Violations involving stag beetles have also been reported in Brazil, India, and Taiwan.
- Steeling beetles from shops also occurred. One shop in Tokyo had 80 beetles worth $70,000 stolen. It was not clear weather the thief was a professional thief after money or a fanatic collector after the prized beetles.
- In December 2003, two Japanese men were arrested at Sydney airport, trying to smuggle out rare beetles and butterflies from Lord Howe Island. The men faced punishment of 10 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000. Authorities were expected to be harsh with them to set an example. The insects were airlifted back to Lord Howe Island.
Hercules beetle fight
Beetle shop in Japan
beetles unboxing ..
Rhinoceros and Stag Beetles
Japan's warm, humid summer nurtures a diverse cast of insects, including cicadas, dragonflies, butterflies, ladybugs, long-horned beetles, and the Japanese gold beetle. And many elementary and middle school students--mostly boys--devote a good part of their summer vacation to collecting these creatures. The bugs are popular subjects for summer homework and individual research projects. The two biggest favorites are the Japanese rhinoceros beetle and the stag beetle.
The Japanese rhinoceros beetle has a thick, oval-shaped body and a glossy black-brown sheen. Its length ranges from 3.5 to 5.5 centimeters (1.4 to 2.2 inches). The male is characterized by a prominent Y-shaped horn sticking out of its head.
Catching these beetles is easy. All you have to do is go to a wooded area with lots of oak trees early in the morning and find a tree that has sap coming out of its trunk. Many insects come to feed off of this sap, so there's a good chance that you'll find rhinoceros and stag beetles among them.
How do children who live in the city with few wooded areas get their beetles? The answer is simple for them, too. They go to the department store! Many of the outlets sell a wide variety of insects.
One large department store in Tokyo sells Japanese rhinoceros beetles for about 800 yen (7.60 U.S. dollars at 105 yen to the dollar) for a male and 300 yen (2.90 dollars) for a female. For the stag beetle, the price is around 1,000 yen (9.50 dollars) for males and 300 yen for females. The reason stag beetles cost more is because they live
for up to five years, compared to the Japanese rhinoceros beetle, which hatches in early summer and dies in the fall. And since the females do not have horns or big jaws, the males tend to be more popular--and therefore about twice as expensive.
The largest type of stag beetle in Japan is called o-kuwagata. These are popular not just with kids but adults, too; a 7.5-centimeter (3-inch) beetle of this type sells for anywhere from 40,000 to 150,000 yen (380 to 1,430 dollars), depending on whether its has been bred or is from the wild and on other factors. The larger ones are sometimes called "black diamonds," and those close to 8 centimeters (3.1 inches)--even if they have been bred by humans--can fetch several million yen (tens of thousands of dollars).
Recently wholesalers that breed and sell these beetles have been increasing. And in some areas like Miyazaki and Gifu Prefectures, one can now find vending machines selling these insects. Some people, though, think that this isn't a good idea, since it encourages people to take the value of life lightly.
Photos: (From top) The Japanese rhinoceros beetle (Kouichi Tanaki); theo-kuwagata, or great stag beetle (Shouji Tsurusaki); a bunch of Japanese rhinoceros beetles, including some hornless females, gather on a sappy tree trunk (Kouichi Tanaki).
Beetles they sell in a shopping mall in Japan.
JAPAN: OSAKA: COUNTRY IS GRIPPED BY BEETLEMANIA
Recommended websites and You tube Channels :
- You Tube : Beetle Breeding Daniel Ambuehl
- You Tube : kingdomofbeetleTW
by Orin McMonigle
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- “For the love of rhinoceros and stag beetles ” First Edition
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