Goliath Beetle Facts

Scientific Name: Goliathus

Goliath beetle

SHAWSHANK61 / Getty Images Plus

Goliath beetles are any of five species in the genus Goliathus, and they get their names from Goliath in the Bible. These beetles are considered the largest beetles in the world, weighing the most as juveniles and having the capacity to lift much heavier objects relative to their size. Goliath beetles can be found in tropical and subtropical rainforests in southeast Africa. They are part of class Insecta and are scarab beetles.

Fast Facts

  • Scientific Name: Goliathus
  • Common Names: African Goliath beetle
  • Order: Coleoptera
  • Basic Animal Group: Invertebrate
  • Size: Up to 4.3 inches long
  • Weight: Up to 1.8 ounces
  • Life Span: Several months
  • Diet: Tree sap, rotten fruit
  • Habitat: Tropical and subtropical rainforests
  • Population: Not evaluated
  • Conservation Status: Not evaluated
  • Fun Fact: Goliath beetles are the largest beetles in the world.

Description

Goliath Beetle
A male Goliath Beetle sits on a carpet of dead leaves. David A. Northcott / Corbis Documentary / Getty Images Plus

Goliath beetles are some of the longest and heaviest beetles. They range from 2.1 to 4.3 inches long and weigh up to 1.8 ounces as adults, but as much as 3.5 ounces during the larval stage. Coloration depends on the species, but most are a combination of black, brown, and white. Males have Y-shaped horns on their heads, which they use in fights for territory and potential mates. Females have wedge shaped heads that are used to burrow. These beetles have six legs with sharp claws and two sets of wings. The claws allow them to climb trees. The outer wings are called elytra, and they protect the second, softer pair of wings that are exposed when they spread their elytra. The inner, softer wings are used for flying. They are also very strong, carrying loads up to 850 times heavier than their weight.

Habitat and Distribution

All species of Goliath beetle are native to southeast Africa. They prefer warm climates and dense rainforests. While most are found in tropical regions, a few species can be found in subtropical regions as well.

Diet and Behavior

As adults, Goliath beetles eat foods high in sugar, which includes tree sap and rotten fruit. Juveniles need more protein in their diet, so they also eat plant matter, dung, and animal remains. This helps the ecosystem, as they remove excess decaying plant and animal matter from the environment.

Throughout their lives, Goliath beetles go through metamorphosis in four stages, starting as eggs, then larvae, then pupae, and finally as adult beetles. During the wet season, larvae make a cocoon out of soil and become inactive for three weeks. They shed their skin, reduce their size, and become pupae. By the time the wet season arrives again, the pupae have opened their wings, grown an exoskeleton, and emerged as adults.

Goliath beetle on a hand
Ralph Morse / Getty Images

Reproduction and Offspring

Mating season occurs in the dry season when adults emerge and search for potential mates. After mating, females lay their eggs, and adults die soon after mating. These insects have a lifespan of only a few months. Since larvae require high amounts of protein, females lay their eggs in protein rich dirt. Larvae live in the soil and hide underground where they grow at a rapid pace and reach up to 5 inches in length in just 4 months. When the rainy season arrives, larvae burrow deep into the ground, become inactive and transform into pupae during this time.

Species

goliath beetle
Goliath beetle - male. Anup Shah / Corbis Documentary / Getty Images Plus

There are five species in the genus Goliathus:

  • G. goliatus
  • The royal Goliath beetle (G. regius)
  • The chief Goliath (G. cacicus)
  • G. orientalis
  • G. albosignatus

G. goliatus are predominantly black with white stripes, while G. regius and G. orientalis are mostly white with black patches or black spots respectively. G. cacicus has brown and white coloration with black spots, and G. albosignatus is black with brownish orange and white spots. The largest species is G. orientalis, while the smallest is G. albosignatus. Additionally, there is a rare species known as G. atlas, which only occurs when G. regius and G. cacicus cross breed.

Conservation Status

All species of Goliath beetle have not been evaluated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The only recognized threats to Goliath beetles are their removal from the wild for the pet trade.

Sources

  • "Goliath Beetle". Its Nature, 2008, https://itsnature.org/ground/creepy-crawlies-land/goliath-beetle/.
  • "Goliath Beetle Facts". Soft Schools, http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/goliath_beetle_facts/278/.
  • "Goliathus Albosignatus". Natural Worlds, http://www.naturalworlds.org/goliathus/species/Goliathus_albosignatus.htm.
  • "The African Goliath Beetles". Natural Worlds, http://www.naturalworlds.org/goliathus/index.htm.