Family Scarabaeidae - Scarab Beetles
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Coleoptera (Beetles)
Suborder Polyphaga (Water, Rove, Scarab, Long-horned, Leaf and Snout Beetles)
Superfamily Scarabaeoidea (Scarab, Stag and Bess Beetles)
Family Scarabaeidae (Scarab Beetles)
Other Common Names
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
1802. Taxonomic notes:
Several groups formerly treated within Scarabaeidae have been upgraded to family rank [taxonomy discussed in(1)
Explanation of Names
There are various accounts of the origin of "scarab":
Westwood (1839:191-198): "The origin of the name Scarabaeus appears doubtful; the word, indeed, never occurs but in the writings of Latin authors; yet Fabricius and Olivier give its derivation from the Greek σκαπτω; which Mr. MacLeay doubts, considering it to be of Etruscan origin, adding, that it may have been obtained from the Greek σκαριφαοµαι, the verb διασκαριφησαι being properly applied to the actions of animals which scratch or dig up the earth with their claws. Pliny accordingly gave a particular description of the sacred beetle of the Egyptians under the name Scarabaeus; and, in later times, Linnaeus applied it in a general manner to the whole of the Lamellicorn beetles.."
The Century Dictionary (2)
states that English scarab
is derived via French from Latin scarabeus
, meaning ‘beetle’ –- compare Greek καραβοσ, καραβιοσ ‘a horned beetle, stag-beetle, also a type of crab’; compare also Sanskrit karabha
‘locust’ (the often-cited reconstructed Greek forms *σκαραβειοσ and *σκαραβοσ are not authentic). (BugGuide editorial note: The connection with related Greek and Sanskrit words would indicate an Indo-European
origin for the word. Etruscan
, mentioned by Westwood, was not a Indo-European language. Note that this etymology shows that the words scarab
Eric Partridge, in Origins: a Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English
(1958), gives some information for the related word carbine
suggesting a possible connection of the Latin and Greek words with Egyptian kheprer
‘dung beetle’ (a scarab in the narrow sense; compare Khepri
, the Egyptian god associated with the dung beetle.) Egyptian amulets representing the sacred scarab beetles were traded throughout the Mediterranean world; perhaps the word spread as well, but the resemblance between the Indo-European and Egyptian words may be also coincidental.
ca. 28,000 spp. worldwide(1)
, ca. 1700 spp. in ~125 genera in the Nearctic region(3)(4)
, of which ca. 1400 occur north of Mexico(5)
, ~240 in Canada and Alaska(6)
NOTE: The taxonomy of the huge group traditionally called ‘Aphodius
’ is a work in progress. In the Guide Aphodius
is still treated as a single genus with many subgenera (now considered by most workers to be separate genera). We included thumbnails showing members of all the subgenera represented in the Guide. (More info here
. Geopsammodius, Leiopsammodius, Neopsammodius, Odontopsammodius, Parapsammodius, Platytomus, Pleurophorus, Psammodius, Rhyssemus, Tesarius, Trichiorhyssemus
Incertae Sedis Genera
. Amblonoxia, Amphimallon, Dinacoma, Fossocarus, Gronocarus, Hypothyce, Hypotrichia, Phyllophaga, Plectrodes, Polyphylla, Thyce
North American species, 2-62 mm, mostly 2-20 mm. Exotic members may reach 160 mm and weights of 100 g. This family includes the heaviest of our beetles, Dynastes
variable in shape, oval to elongated, usually convex; often brown or black, but a few groups brightly colored and/or patterned. In some groups males (and sometimes females) have prominent horns on head and/or pronotum to fight over mates or resources.
front tibia widened with outer edges toothed
antennae 10- or 9-segmented
last 3-7 antennomeres flattened (lamellate) to form a club that can be expanded or folded
tarsal formula usually 5-5-5, but front tarsi sometimes absent (0-5-5)
worldwide and across NA
Adults take a variety of foods, many feeding on fungus, dung, carrion, or other decomposing matter, some on sap, pollen/nectar, fruit, foliage; a few are agricultural pests, others, important pollinators. Larvae typically feed on decomposing matter: dung, carrion, etc., or live in soil and feed on roots -- some of these are agricultural pests.
Mating takes place during summer; eggs are laid in the soil in late July and early August; larvae hatch immediately and begin to feed. When weather gets cold they bury below frost line to hibernate. Many variations in life cycle of scarabs. The Phyllophaga species life cycle ranges from two to four years, depending mostly on latitude.
also have lamellate antennae, but the lobes cannot be folded up
, and Glaphyridae
used to be treated as subfamilies of Scarabaeidae
Tenebrionids may look like dung beetles:
|3.||American Beetles, Volume II: Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea|
Arnett, R.H., Jr., M. C. Thomas, P. E. Skelley and J. H. Frank. (eds.). 2002. CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, FL.
|5.||The Beetles of Northeastern North America, Vol. 1 and 2.|
Downie, N.M., and R.H. Arnett. 1996. The Sandhill Crane Press, Gainesville, FL.
|6.||Checklist of beetles (Coleoptera) of Canada and Alaska. Second edition|
Bousquet Y., Bouchard P., Davies A.E., Sikes D.S. 2013. ZooKeys 360: 1–402.
|7.||White Grubs and Their Allies, a Study of North American Scarabaeoid Larvae|
Paul O. Ritcher. 1966. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis. 219 pp.
|8.||The Scarab Beetles of Florida|
Robert Woodruff. 1973. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
|9.||The Scarabaeoid Beetles of Nebraska|
Brett C. Ratcliffe & M.J. Paulsen. 2008. University of Nebraska State Museum, Vol 22, 570 pp.
|10.||Scarab beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) of South Carolina|
Phillip J. Harpootlian. 2001. Clemson University Public Service.
|11.||An annotated checklist of the Scarabaeoidea of Texas.|
Edward G. Riley & Charles S. Wolfe. 2003. Southwestern Entomologist, Supplement. 37 pp.