When you think about pets you might think of cats and dogs. Maybe also fish and birds or even more exotic animals like reptiles and amphibians. But have you ever considered keeping a beetle as a pet?
What might seem like an unusual idea to some of you is commonplace in Japan. Once the hot summer air is filled with the cries of cicadas Japanese kids run outside and catch beetles as their new best friends. Today we want to give you a beginner’s guide into how to keep a pet beetle in Japan, focusing on the two most popular species: the stag beetle (クワガタムシ, kuwagatamushi) and the rhinoceros beetle (カブトムシ, kabutomushi).
Getting a beetle
So, you have decided you want to try your luck as an apprentice beetle keeper, but where do you get your new darling?
The first option is catching your beetle yourself. Many Japanese kids prefer this method since catching a wild beetle with your own hands is part of the fun. That’s why some schools even organize beetle hunting field trips during the summer. Equipment like small plastic boxes and nets on long sticks can be found in pet stores or even in your nearest 100-Yen shops. Some websites offer special beetle hunting kits that include a plastic box and beetle jelly to attract the insects. They can be put into high grass and all you need to do is to come back and check if a beetle got trapped.
If you are not a fan of tracking beetles down by yourself you can also order them online or buy them in pet stores. This method is way easier and also allows you to choose which kind of beetle you want. Common beetles are low-priced with males costing around ¥1,000 and females ¥300 to ¥500. Usually they are sold in pairs of two with one male and one female beetle.
Another possibility is to not get a full-grown beetle but a beetle larva instead. They might not be as much fun or as interesting as adult beetles, but you can experience the joys of watching your pet grow and turn from a grub to a beautiful beetle. Larvae are usually kept in plastic bottles filled with woodchips and a fungus, where they will eat and grow for several months. To get some larvae you can either buy them for a few hundred Yen or go out into the wild and look underneath some old logs. If you are lucky you will find your future pet.
You have either found your perfect pet in the wild or it has arrived in the mail – now it’s time to think about what equipment you will need.
First of all you need a beetle case, made out of plastic, as a new home for your pets. They come in varying sizes and usually have a secure top part with an extra lid for feeding and slits to let fresh air in. Make sure you don’t position it in direct sunlight since beetles are not a fan of high temperatures or excessive sun exposure. Also, it shouldn’t be too small since a lack of space can lead to stress for your pets.
Next, you need a beetle mat to give your nocturnal pets a chance to hide during the day. You could fill the box with soil from your backyard but if you want to make sure that there are no pesticides or disturbing insects inside you might want to buy special beetle soil. It is high in nutrients and perfect for your pet. Since many beetles dry out easily you should make sure to moisten the soil with a spray water bottle.
To make your beetle’s new home even cozier you should put in some old wood, decaying leaves and small branches. Also, to make feeding easier you can buy wooden food dishes to prevent food from spilling around the box. Speaking of food, you will need lots and lots of beetle jelly. These little jelly cups consist of fruits, sugar and proteins to promote growth and health of your new pets.
That’s pretty much what you will need to start your beetle family. There are also more accessories like protective sheets that keep black flies away from your pets or supplements that get rid of bad odors and possible mites. It is up to you to decide how much to invest in your new hobby.
Deciding for a beetle as a pet means that you won’t be able to interact a lot with it since these creatures are rather shy and prefer not to be disturbed. You can put them on your hands and look at them up close, but you shouldn’t do this too often since stress is poison for the health of your pets. However, there is one thing people like to do with their insect friends – beetle fights.
Some of you might have already seen videos online that show beetles attacking each other. The impressive horn of the rhinoceros beetle and the pincers of the stag beetle are actually not deadly weapons, but they can be used in fights if the animals get irritated. It needs to be said though that beetle fight competitions are only rare occasions and most people do not keep their pets for these purposes. Especially since some beetle species can be expensive – prizes can go up to hundreds of US dollar – owners wouldn’t want to harm them in a fight.
Beetles are kept as beloved pets, most often either out of curiosity or as a summer hobby. The Japanese have a different mentality and different customs from many Western countries; that’s why even though keeping beetles as pets might seem weird to a lot of foreigners it is a cherished hobby for Japanese children. Some adults keep pet beetles as a reminder of their childhood and those carefree summer days of their past.
What do you think of the Japanese pet beetle culture? Have I convinced you to get yourself a new little friend or do you even already own beetles? Feel free to share your opinions and experiences in the comment section down below.