Beetles at the petting zoo

by Akito Y. Kawahara

The better America (Issue IV/2020)

Not only beetles, but insects of all kinds have a firm place in Japanese culture. Centuries ago, haikus were written about dragonflies and bees. Up to the present day, Beetles remain very popular and their horns lend them special charisma. The most esteemed species is the Kabutomushi - the Japanese Rhinoceros beetle. “Kabuto” means “warrior helmet” - and it is an important symbol for the country's history.

Japanese department stores sell Kabutomushi for around five euros as living housemates. The rhinoceros beetle appears in cartoons, on collectors' cards and in video games. Beetles are bred up and down the country. Even if they are kept in captivity, they will live up to five years as pets. Breeders feed the larvae with fungi, nutritious feed and special mixes, so that they grow into particularly large beetles. Next to the rhinoceros beetle, the stag beetle is also high on the popularity scale. Some species have rarity value: One insect was even sold at an auction for a price of 76,000 euros. The legalisation of beetle imports in 1999 and improved breeding methods and the prices have since become more moderate. The Kabutomushi can still be seen on summer evenings in the open while it sucks oak sap. Some stag beetle species, on the other hand, are rarely sighted in their traditional habitats due to environmental changes.

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