The rhinoceros beetle is a colossus in insect terms and is ranked as one of the mightiest animals on earth compared to its body weight. You have probably heard that it can carry up to 850 times its own weight without even buckling at the knee segments, incredible!
That said, it’s worth mentioning that if an elephant were shrunk to the size of a bug its strength in relation to its weight would increase x-fold, and yet it would quite possibly be able to fly with its ears. This is down to a phenomenon known as the scaling law originally recognized by Galileo.
My Pet Rhinoceros Beetle
Despite its size, appearance and relative brute force, the rhinoceros beetle is not generally deemed a pest bug, neither does it bite nor sting. In some countries like Japan rhino beetles are considered as loveable creatures and larvae are sold to kids in shops. Not to go perch fishing with, but to rear as domesticated bugs. Imagine seeing your pet going through complete metamorphosis!
The best way to pick up your adult beetle is like you would a crab, you simply hold it by the flanks of its carapace at midpoint, unless you like the thrill of it clinging onto your finger with its claws.
These claws are just one in a panoply of purpose-made tools for clinging, excavating and clearing away. Indeed the rhino beetle is a fully equipped burrowing machine, and many a budding engineer would be inspired by the fascinating working parts of its levers and segments that extend its strength further.
The rhinoceros beetle is able to dig for safety using its powerful forelegs, the upper parts of which are shaped to spade away the earth. Then there is the horn, not only for rutting but also for plowing through the forest bed blazing a trail behind it.
With such amazing capacities along with adaptability and the ability to fly, it is frightening to think that if such 6 legged creatures grew to the size of a human, they would have every chance of ruling the world.
What Prevents Insects From Growing Bigger?
We mentioned earlier the scaling law. Galileo identified that if the diameter of a sphere is increased twofold, the surface area is multiplied by four and the volume by eight. This signifies that elements of a body are not scaled up by the same amount.
To put it plainly, if an insect grew to the size of an elephant without radically changing the original shape of its body, it would be so heavy in proportion to its legs that it wouldn’t be able to shift its own carcass, let alone lift 850 times its own weight.
So rest reassured, even if someone invented a magic hormone pill to grow insects to the size of a human, the resulting bugs would be about as nimble as a wheel dozer with flat tires.
Paul C.R. Monk
Influenced by the works of French naturalist Jean Henri Fabre, Paul has been an enthusiast of entomology for many years. He is also a fiction writer, his forthcoming novel is about a boy who undergoes a strange metamorphosis.
Visit his website at the above link for more about the storyworld and features about the purpose of bugs in nature.