Welcome to my blog

This is where I post various musings about wildlife and ecology, observations of interesting species (often invertebrates)
and bits of research that grab my attention. As well as blogging, I undertake professional ecological & wildlife surveys
covering invertebrates, plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and some mammals, plus habitat assessment and management
. I don't work on planning applications/for developers. The pages on the right will tell you more about my work,
main interests and key projects, and you can follow my academic work here.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Rhinoceros Beetles in Britain? Well, yes and no...

Last night, over a vodka or two, a Russian friend of mine asked me whether we had Rhinoceros Beetles in Britain - we got there after chatting about how his small daughter was interested in bugs. My answer was along the lines of 'no, but...' and shows how the use of non-scientific (vernacular) names can be problematic i.e. it all depends what you mean by 'rhinoceros beetle'.

Generally, rhinoceros beetles are considered to be those in the Dynastinae, a subfamily of the scarabs, Scarabaeidae. Most live in Africa and Asia, although one, the European Rhinoceros Beetle (Oryctes nasicornis), occurs as far north as Scandinavia, though not in Britain. One of Europe's largest insects at around 6cm long, O. nasicornis lives associated with wood of various types (e.g. stumps, sawdust) and is quite scarce, being protected by legislation in some countries. The images below show what a splendid beast it is, and if you visit here, you can see a 3-D image from a CT scan of an Oryctes specimen being rotated.

O. nasicornis adult.

O. nasicornis pupa.
However, although splendid, it still isn't found in Britain, so why my non-committal answer? Well, we do have one species commonly known as the 'Rhinoceros Beetle' - Sinodendron cylindricum which is Britain's sole member of the Syndesinae, a subfamily of the stag beetles, Lucanidae. At 1.5-1.8 cm in length, it may not challenge Oryctes in size, but it is still striking, especially in close-up with its sculptural punctures. They are found in woodlands during May to October, and feed on tree sap; the larvae feed on rotting wood and are particularly fond of beech.

S. cylindricum adult.
So, via a slightly circuitous route, my answer to the original question about the presence of rhinoceros beetles in Britain has to be 'yes, but...' although I'm sure even the relatively small S. cylindricum will be much appreciated by my friend's bug-loving daughter.

Image credits

Oryctes adult: Thanks to 'Epp' via the Wikimedia Commons (public domain).
Oryctes pupa: Thanks to 'Banco de imágenes del CNICE - MEC' via the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Spain license.
Sinodendron adult: Thanks to 'Siga' via the Wikimedia Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.


  1. Hmm, I didn't realize Sinodendron in the U.K. were also called 'Rhinoceros Beetles' - we've got one here in the eastern U.S. (Sinodendron rugosum) that we call the 'Rugose Stag Beetle'.

  2. And to add to the potential trans-Atlantic confusion, in the UK, what we call 'stag beetles' are Lucanus cervus (Stag Beetle) and Dorcus parallelipipedus (Lesser Stag Beetle)...