Friday, August 25, 2017

Accidentally Rhinoceros Beetle Breeders

"Oh don't worry," they said. "They'll be dead soon. They've already lived most of their lives," they said. "Take them home and show them to your children," they said. I didn't have anything to lose, so I took them in.

It happened like this; a higher-up at my job came into my workplace in the middle of July. He was given the task of getting rid of a plastic tank full of rhinoceros beetles. "Will somebody take these?" He asked. "They were a pet project of one of our workers," he said. Me and my co-workers looked at each other, all of us with that "Not it!" look on our faces.

"Can we keep 'em?" I asked my team.

"No one will be around to take care of them in the summer," one worker said. "Why don't you take them home to your sons?" Another one of them suggested. I was half-excited. My 2nd son especially is into bugs! He'd be so excited to see some up close!

I was on the fence. The higher-up said "Don't worry. They'll be dead soon. They've already lived most of their lives."

"OK," I said to myself, "they'll be dead, and the boys will get to see rhinoceros beetles up close. Sure, why not!"

The plastic case was half-full of dirt, and save for two or three pieces of wood, it looked completely empty.

"Where are they?" I asked. "They're in the dirt," the higher-up said. "They sleep during the day and are active at night. There should be three or four," he said.

"Cool!," I thought. "The more, the merrier."

So I got home and showed my wife. I know for a fact she is disgusted by bugs and creepy crawly creatures. She really likes butterflies, but only to look at them. She'll flinch and flee if one actually comes close. Strangely enough, she was excited to have them, and she concurred; it would be a good opportunity for the boys
That night, after the boys had fallen asleep, and after I retired to my room for internet browsing, my wife knocks on the door. I open it and with an excited smile on her face she said "You've got to come see this!" I walk with her to the living room, and sure enough, there were 5 creatures stirring. All of them were out and about. It looked like there were 2 males and 3 females. (Males have a pronounced horn, and females do not.) The males were tussling and throwing each other around. "Should we wake up the boys?" Aki asked. "Nah, let's stay up late during the weekend when they won't have school the next day."

I had my fill, and wanted to go back to internet browsing, but Aki was so excited to see the bugs, she kept calling me over. "I thought you hated bugs!" I said. "I do," she said, "but I just can't keep my eyes off of them." I was chuckling inside. I'd never seen my wife so excited over bugs. All night we could hear buzzing, crawling noises from the living room.

The next day, when I get home from work, she has this bag of supplies she bought for the beetles. Food, food containers, new logs, and nutritious dirt moisturizer. She had read up on bug care and she was certain all of what she bought was needed.

"But they'll be dead soon! Are you sure they'll need all of this?" I asked.

"Don't you want them to live as long as possible?" she retorted back.

"I guess," I said.

"Can you put the logs in, put the moisturizer bottle in and feed them?" she asked.

"Can't *you* do it?" I asked. "How is it you buy these things and can't even open the cage yourself?"

"I'm too afraid!" She said.

"Fine," I relented. Such a funny situation... the bug hater who cares so much for these bugs we just got, and she can't even bring herself to open the cage.

One of our son's friend's parents had heard about our bugs, and they commented that they had two bugs but they died. Since they stopped coming out at night, they told their kids that they were sleeping in the dirt. So Aki and I decided to give our friends a male and female. 5 bugs was a lot, even for us. At night, the males would often be duking it out with each other anyway. I think the one male was happy to have two females to himself. My wife named our male "Taiga," and the females "Kabuko" and "Kabuna." (A play on the Japanese word for rhinoceros beetle, which is "kabuto mushi".)
One or two weeks later, she buys this block of dirt or what not. (I don't know what it is.) "It's for the babies," she said. "My sources tell me the females will lay 20 eggs or so each. We must put them in this so that they'll grow nice and strong."

"What???" I thought to myself. "Those bugs were supposed to have died already! She wants to breed them now?"

Reluctantly, I got on the crazy train. For best efficiency, we're supposed to drill holes in the block, stick the eggs in and bury the block in dirt. We would need a bigger cage because the one we have now is too small and is already occupied. We decided to buy another cage, sift the dirt for eggs and put the bugs in new dirt so they'll be happy.
Today, I did the sifting. I moved the bugs to a temporary cage, took out the block from its package, drilled holes in the block, and prepared to sift the cage dirt for eggs. I found quite a few, but to my surprise, I found 2 grubs already hatched.

I was amazed. I stuck as many eggs in the holes as best I could. Then I buried the block halfway in the newer, bigger cage with brand new dirt. (Special dirt for bugs.) Then, I scattered the remaining eggs around the block, and placed the two grub babies in close proximity, and poured the remaining dirt around and on top of the block. After adding some water, the rhinoceros beetle nursery cage had been complete.

For the adults, I poured some of the sifted dirt back into their old cage, poured in new dirt and dipped it off with the old dirt. Then I placed two food jellies in their food containers for them. Tonight they'll be happy campers in their fresh new dirt.

And here I am writing this blog post thinking, how did I ever agree to help breed these things...

What's next? What will I need to do for these critters once they're hatched? I don't know! But I'll soon find out.

It's official. We're expecting rhinoceros beetles. Perhaps we'll have new bugs next year?

 The adult cage and the baby cage side-by-side.

Japan's Infatuation With Bugs
The Japanese people have a love affair with bugs.

Children are exposed to them at a very young age, and they learn about them in school.

There are entire volumes on bugs just for children.

During the summer, children go out with their cases and nets to hunt for bugs, including rhinoceros beetles, stag beetles, cicadas, katydids and more.

 Children armed with their nets and carrying cases hunting for bugs
A favorite among children is the rhinoceros beetle, known as "kabuto mushi" (甲虫) in Japanese. Another favorite is the stag beetle, known as the "kuwagata" ( 鍬形).

Children like to keep them as pets.

They either go out and hunt for them, or they can buy them at pet shops or specialized shops for beetle keepers.

 Special beetle shop; you can buy beetlos at many different stages here.

Some children breed them from eggs, to grubs, to full grown adults, and parents, many of them having gone through the same childhood experiences, are more than happy to let them.

Insects are such a part of Japanese culture, that it's no surprise that they find their way into various media, including video games and TV shows.

The first bug I remember seeing in a video was a stag beetle in the NES game "Kirby's Adventure."

Defeating Bugzzy gave kirby the "Backdrop" ability.

Stag and rhinoceros beetles are known for their ability to throw each other, and children often pit them against each other in "bug sumo" matches.

 Rhinoceros beetle vs stag beetle; who will win?

For this reason, characters with these bugs are often depicted using powerful throw abilities.

I remember playing Megaman X in my youth and wondering what in the world was a "Kuwanger."

Well, now, as an adult having studied Japanese, I think I know where it came from. Perhaps when the developers at Capcom were translating the game, they didn't know the English word for "kuwagata" (stag beetle) and came up with "Kuwanger" instead.

 "Boomer Kuwanger" - What the hell's a "Kuwanger..."

The rhinoceros beetle would make an appearance in Megaman X 3 as "Gravity Beetle."

 "Gravity Beetle" - But what kind of beetle is the question...

The Masked Riders, or "Kamen Raidaa" (仮面ライダー) is a Japanese "hero show" of long-standing. It's pretty much like the more famous "Power Rangers," in almost every way, featuring 5 or more main heroes (one of them often a girl), that wear suits and have special abilities to beat bad guys. Every year, a different series is aired, each series having their own distinct theme. "Kamen Riaidaa Ex Aid" just finished, and the new "Kamen Raidaa Birudo" ("Build") is just beginning. (This the 27th Kamen Raidaa series!) The 16th installment was "Kamen Raidaa Kabuto," and the theme was the rhinoceros beetle.

 Yes, an entire TV super-hero show based on the rhinoceros beetle.

And who reading this is old enough to remember the "Big Bad Beetleborgs" which aired in the US?

In Japan, this show was called  "Juukou Bii-Faitaa" (重甲ビーファイター, literally "Heavy Shell Bee-Fighter", a portmanteau of the English words "beetle" and "fighter".)

Yes, the Japanese sure do love their beetles...

That's it for this post. Until next time!