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Did you know that the ancient Egyptians worshiped poop-eating beetles?

There are many types of scarabs, and these hard-shelled beetles are as diverse as they are interesting. Some are brown or black, while others have bright colors or a metallic sheen. They live in almost every corner of the world and are among the largest insects we know of.

scarab facts

  • There are more than 30,000 species of scarabs.
  • Scarabs have stiff forewings called elytra.
  • Dung beetles are a type of beetle.
  • Certain species of scarabs can wreak havoc on plants and gardens.
  • The ancient Egyptians worshiped Scarabaeus sacer , a dung beetle scarab.

Species, types and scientific names of scarab beetles

While most people think of one specific species, scarabs refer to the entire family of beetles, which number more than 30,000 species. Their scientific name is Scarabidae , and they have at least 19 subfamilies. They belong to the order Coleoptera, which includes all beetles. Beetles are characterized by stiff forewings called elytra. This order is the largest in the insect world, comprising more than 25% of all known species on Earth.

Some well-known scarabs include the dung beetle, which is actually the informal name for a different species of scarab that rolls its droppings as part of its behaviour. The Japanese beetle, jewel chafer, and Hercules beetle are other examples of members of the scarab family. Scarabaeus sacer was a dung beetle worshiped in ancient Egypt and the beetle most people associate with the scarab family.

Scarabs belong to the class Insecta, the phylum Arthropoda, and the kingdom Animalia. Knowing where these different beetles fit in the animal kingdom is important because they make up a large part of the insect world.

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Appearance: How to Identify Scarabs

Like all beetles, scarabs have stiff forewings, which give them a rounded appearance. They have antennae on the front of their body. They use these to sense odors in their environment. One of their most distinctive features is that their antennae end in a three-pointed rod. They can clump them or loosen them, depending on how they need to use them to smell.

Many also have horns near the antennae. Although they are not large, scarabs do use these horns to fight each other. They have scallops around the edges of their legs to aid in digging. This is another trait that many people associate with scarabs.

green beetle a type of scarab beetle
The green beetle, pictured here, is a species of scarab. They have a jewel-like sparkle.


Due to the large number of species, scarabs also vary in size. The smallest species are about 0.2 inches long, while the largest species are over 4 inches long. The African giant beetle, Goliathus giganteus , is one of the heaviest known insects in the animal kingdom.

Some have brightly colored elytra, while others are brown and black to blend in with their surroundings. They can be very large and distinctive, making them popular with bug collectors. Brighter varieties make great additions to your collection.

Habitat: Where to Find Scarabs

Because there are so many different species, their habitats vary widely. Prefers environments with droppings or rotting vegetation. They can live in a wide variety of habitats as long as they have a food source. They are found on every continent except Antarctica. These include North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia. In some areas, they are natural residents. Other regions have been introduced. Still others see scarab species becoming invasive.

In general, scarabs prefer temperate environments because their food is plentiful. They also love gardens and cultivated plant environments, although gardeners don't like them very much. However, some do live in caves in the Arctic. The diversity of habitats directly reflects the diversity of species.

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Diet: What Do Scarabs Eat?

Many species of scarabs eat feces or dead and decaying plants. Scarabs, thought to be dung beetles, typically roll balls of dung that they then take home with them. It was a notable behavior that led people to give them the name dung beetles in the first place.

Dung beetles eat the nutrients that remain in the feces of larger animals after they have eaten and digested their food. They are very discriminating, and some species eat only the droppings of carnivores, while others eat only the droppings of herbivores. The ancient Egyptians were fascinated by dung beetles as a symbol of the cyclical nature of life on Earth.

Other species prefer living plants such as leaves and vines. Fruit and fungi that fall on the forest floor are also popular food for scarabs. They are relatively small and don't need to eat a lot. Some do hunt small insects and larvae.

Prevention: How to Get Rid of Scarabs

In general, most species of scarabs do not pose much of a threat. In fact, some areas of Australia actually bring in dung beetles to dispose of their farm waste. When introducing scarabs, or any new animal, into the environment, it is crucial to take steps to control their populations.

However, some species can cause problems for gardeners and farmers. The European scarab and the Japanese beetle are two species classified as invasive. They have spread beyond their natural habitat, where populations are limited by predators and environmental conditions, into areas where they can reproduce without these natural controls.

When they are larvae, scarabs can feed on roots, causing damage. Some adult scarabs can damage leaves and fruit, inhibiting growth. Evidence of a scarab infestation looks like most other garden problems, with plants failing to grow or showing yellow or brown leaves. For the worst infestation, the roots of plants and grasses will be vulnerable. You may even see larvae feeding on the roots when you pull up fragile plants. Adult scarabs are quite large and easy to see flying around, more frequently at night.

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Insecticides are most effective against adults and larvae. Because these can be heavy chemicals, it is best to work with a professional disposal company to determine a safe and effective solution. You can also remove scarab larvae and adults as they are found, although this is not as effective when dealing with a major infestation.

insects similar to scarabs

Ladybug: Another beetle member in the order Coleoptera, ladybugs are beetles of the family Coccinidae.
Junebug: Although often considered alone, the Junebug, or member of the genus Scarab, is actually a type of scarab. Due to the time of year when they are most abundant, they are known as June bugs.

See all 289 animals that start with S

People are fascinated by many species of scarabs because they roll over and eat poop. One was even worshiped by the ancient Egyptians.

There are more than 30,000 species of scarabs belonging to the family Scarabidae, with multiple subfamilies and genera.

Scarabs are usually harmless to humans, but they can fly around and be a nuisance. However, they can cause damage to plants and gardens. Many gardeners treat scarab beetles with insecticides.

The biggest difference between dung beetles and scarabs is their size and morphology . Although scarabs are a type of dung beetle, they are smaller than many other members of the family.