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Care Guide Series 1:

Beetles

Care Guide 1.2:

Flower Beetles Overview

Written by Mark Nelson

Introduction

Flower Beetles for me, are by far the most rewarding invertebrate species to keep by a long shot! They don't take up too much space, there is a huge amount of variety available in all sorts of different colours and sizes and most importantly, they are relatively easy to care for,

Regardless of the species that you choose this is an all round guide to provide a baseline of all the materials and equipment you would need to adequately care for your flower beetles. Environmental conditions (temperature, humidity etc) may differ from one species to another. Some species may be housed communally where as others may have to be separated due to their cannibalistic nature. So it is important that you research each species carefully to understand their more specific requirements.

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Enclosure design

When determining the size of the enclosure for your flower beetles there are a number of factors to consider; the size of the beetles, how active the species is and how many individuals you need to house. The larger and more active the species, the more space it will require. Equally, if you have a smaller species but are planning to house a large communal group, then you will need a bigger enclosure.  

The main consideration is that the enclosure you choose should have enough depth that you are able to provide substrate for the beetles to bury and lay their eggs in. While also having enough room left over for the beetles to come up to feed, mate and fly / move around. There should also be ventilation but not so much that the substrate becomes too dry! 

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Substrate

One question we are frequently asked is 'What is substrate?!'

Substrate is the surface which an animal or plant lives, grows, or obtains its nourishment from. Flower beetle substrate usually consists of soil, rotten leaves and rotten wood. The biggest concern for a beginner is figuring out how to determine which substrate is best for your chosen beetle species. How do you know if the leaves and wood are rotten enough? Is it too rotten? Where can I collect these materials? Can I just purchase it instead?

 

Purchasing substrate is an option but it can become expensive, especially if you have lots of beetles/larvae. For most hobbyists making your own is going to be the cheaper and preferred option.

A good place to start when preparing substrate for any species of flower beetle is with a mix of 6 parts decayed oak/beech leaves: 2 Parts decayed oak/beech wood (mulched into flakes): 2 parts soil/forest floor humus (organic material formed by decaying leaves, wood and other organic matter created by microorganisms that live under the ground). This can then be altered or added to in order to tailor it to the species you are keeping. 

 

Be sure to understand the required ratio of your chosen species by checking out care sheets specific to that species. This is just a general guide to get you started.

If you would like more advice about collecting your own substrates then please see our more detailed guide here. 

 

Disclaimer: If you choose to collect your own substrate, then you do so at your own risk. The Insect Farm accepts no responsibility whatsoever for any injuries caused. It is your responsibility to ensure you are wearing all the appropriate protective equipment. Just as it is your responsibility to obtain permission from the appropriate person. If collecting on private land then you should get permission from the landowner. If collecting on public land then you should get permission from the local council. 

Feeding Flower Beetles

Larvae feed on the substrate in which they live. However, there are a number of additional supplements you can add, which provide larvae with extra nutrients and proteins that help to increase growth. We often add a selection of fruit and veg to the substrate including, apples, oranges, pears, blueberries, courgette, carrots and sweet potatoes. They are chopped up into cubes so they can be evenly distributed throughout the substrate. Some breeders also provide extra protein by offering Bakers Meaty Meals dog food. We find that this encourages mite infestations if not regularly checked and replaced. Whereas, dried gamarus shrimp provides the same protein boost while attracting fewer mites, meaning it can be mixed in and left until eaten. 

Adult Beetles feed on a mixture of ripe or rotting fruit provided that it is not left for too long, otherwise it will start to attract pests. You can use a wide range of fruit including; banana, apples, kiwi, mango, papaya, melon, grapes, oranges, figs, peaches, plums. Always slice the fruit in half to expose the juicy centre and replace it every 2-3 days. We also offer jelly pots, which are available in a number of flavours and help to provide extra vitamins and nutrients to encourage egg laying.

Breeding Flower Beetles

Breeding flower beetles is pretty straightforward. First you will need a healthy adult male and female of the same species. Provided that you have done plenty of research and can provide all the correct conditions then the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to leave them to it! The biggest mistake you can make is to interfere. As long as you are replacing the fruit regularly, the males spend more time above ground than the females. Males wait by the fruit so that when a hungry female emerges to eat, he is then able to mate with her. The male should not require any encouragement. If you haven't seen them mating, don't panic, they will often mate during the night when no one is watching. 

Once mated the females will bury into the substrate to find a suitable place to lay their eggs. It's important that you provide them with plenty of substrate. The size and number of the eggs will depend entirely on the species. It is important that you be patient, because some females can remain buried for weeks at a time. Just keep replacing the food so that when they do surface, they can refuel before burying again! 

 

Personally I wait until the adults have come to the end of their life or until they haven't resurfaced for at least 6-8 weeks before checking the substrate to see if there are any larvae. This gives all of the eggs plenty of time to hatch before I dig through the soil to see how many larvae there are. If you do this too soon you will run the risk of squashing the eggs and smaller larvae so be patient! 

 

Something to bear  in mind if starting with a group of animals is that the females will sometimes dig up and damage the eggs of the other females in the group. Therefore, with larger groups we move the adults to a new laying container/enclosure every 4-6 weeks or so. This will increase the number of larvae you produce, but does take up much more space. 

Adult Flower Beetles vs Larvae 

Another question we are asked a lot is 'Should we start with adult beetles or larvae?' 

The honest answer is it really doesn't matter, it all comes down to personal preference. As long as you provide them with excellent care you will reap the rewards, regardless of where you start. There are pros and cons to both as always but most hobbyists find much enjoyment in keeping adults and larvae. After all, that's what the hobby is all about. Having said that, here are my thoughts. 

Adult flower beetles are active, spend plenty of time above ground and make great displays. When they are not above the ground flying, climbing, feeding, mating etc they will bury themselves in the substrate. Whereas, Larvae will remain completely unseen and buried in the substrate. Uuntil you check on them which we do not recommend doing more than once a month.

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Adults are more expensive. For example a pair of Giant African Flower Beetles will cost between £40 and £60 depending on the size and the colour but for £40 you could purchase between 8 and 10 larvae. 

 

When buying adult beetles it is very difficult to age them. You can ask the seller, but beware as some sellers will sell off older beetles for the same price as a fresh pair. Do plenty of research, ask around to see if the seller is reliable and trustworthy. The opposite can be said for buying larvae, you can examine the larvae to see what stage it is at (1st, 2nd or 3rd instar) and to make sure it is healthy. A reputable seller shouldn't have a problem with you doing this. When buying larvae you are also in control of the rearing conditions so when they reach adulthood you know the beetles are fresh.

It is still important to make sure you trust the seller, even when buying larvae. I have personally purchased larvae before only to find out 18 months later, when the beetles finally emerged, that they were a totally different species. By this point the seller didn't want to know! So I stress again, do as much research on the seller as you do the animals!

Larvae do require a lot more patience than adults. Some can take between 18 and 36 months to develop from egg to adult. There are faster growing species but they will still take 6-12 months to develop. If you aren't prepared to wait that long then start with the adults. I will also add that in my opinion beginners would do better to start with larvae and learn about the correct rearing conditions first. This way you won't be completely out of your depth when the adults emerge and breed leaving you lots of larvae to care for.

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions please feel free to send us a message via our contact us page!

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Picture 1: Really Useful Box (RUB)

Picture 2: Exo Terra tanks

Picture 3: Custom Aquaria tanks

Picture 4: Decayed leaves

Picture 5: Decayed wood

Picture 6: Mixed decayed leaves and wood

Picture 7: Stephanorrhina bella 

Picture 8: Beetle larvae