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【Seasonal】Summer, the time to catch beetles for kids2015.07.31

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Their robust appearances somehow appeal to not only children but also grown-ups in Japan.

It is one of the most popular summer activities for elementary school kids and their fathers to catch Japanese rhinoceros beetles and stag beetles. For some urban dwellers, it is even like a dream to encounter them in the wild. Reflecting such demand, many country inns attract these families by providing special tours in summer to collect the insects. The black creatures are also easily available at supermarkets and home centers all over the country when they become adults from around June to August.

In Japan, rhinoceros beetles are called “kabutomushi” and stag beetles “kuwagatamushi.” It is interesting that both of their Japanese names are associated with a samurai warrior helmet. “Kabuto” means the helmet and “mushi” means a bug. A male rhinoceros beetle has a prominent Y-shaped horn sticking out from its head. The head part looks like the helmet. “Kuwagawa” is a horned ornament on the front of the helmet. A male stag beetle is characterized by its jagged jaws that resemble the antlers of a stag or male deer. Only a few species of rhinoceros beetles live in Japan. In contrast, nearly 50 kinds of stag beetles are found in the country.

The beetles inhabit broadleaf forests. Two of the most important environmental conditions for their life are the existence of trees coming out sugary saps and leaf mold or rich compost. They feed on tree saps and their larvae grow in leaf mold. It is usually difficult to meet these conditions in metropolitan areas.

The best time to catch them is 8 to 10 p.m. in the evening or 4 to 6 a.m. in the morning as they are active at night. In addition to the trees bleeding saps, the beetles can be found near outdoor lights, convenience stores and vending machines as they are drawn to the light like other insects.

It is fairly easy to keep the beetles as pets, which contributes to their popularity. A rearing kit is widely available, typically coming with a case, a twig, bedding, jellies and a feeding plate.

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