The first Rhinosceros Beetles or Copris hispanus I encountered a good few years ago now, were happily working away in a big pile of cow dung deposited on a path we were walking in the Sierra de las Nieves mountains, near Ronda. My friends were not as fascinated by them as I was and hurried me along, thus depriving me of more photographs!
I had more sightings of the big, black horned beetles whilst out and about in the region and around, and in, my home and garden in Sotogrande. There were no large animals in the immediate vicinity, so no immediately-local dung – unless they can improvise with dog pooh, of which there is probably plenty. The nearest large animals in that locality are horses, of which there are many; Sotogrande is an internationally-known centre for Polo, so plenty of lovely ponies, then there are various stables and riding centres, but all perhaps 1-2 kilometres away. There are old oak stands remaining though, so I assume the conditions required for breeding are in still place and of course the reason we see them around villas are the lights that attract them at night.
Copris hispanus– The Rhinoceros Dung Beetle
These large black bulky beetles have large wings folded under the elytra (wing covers) and can fly strongly. They stay hidden during the day, but are on the wing at dusk in the spring and summer and are attracted to lights; they are generally noticed when they come to house lights.
Scientific name: Copris hispanus (Linnaeus 1758) Family: Scarabaeidae; Body length : 25-40mm Distribution: Found throughout almost all of Europe, North Africa, Asia Minor & the Middle East. In Spain the stronghold of these fascinating beetles is in the south of the country where cows and sometimes horses, wander freely in the woodlands and where there are still a good number of small farms with livestock reared in more traditional ways. They are less abundant in the north of the country where farming methods are more intensive.
There is marked dimorphism of the sexes of this species. The male has a recurved ‘horn’ on his head and on the scutum, a hollow topped by a high comb whilst the female has only a triangular plate.
Habitat: These large and impressive beetles were originally inhabitants of old oak stands, but they are gradually finding their way into the neighbourhood of man’s habitations and the larvae may now be discovered in compost heaps and the like.
In the natural habitat of the forest, larval development takes place in old tree stumps and takes from two to three years. Fully grown larvae measure up to 120mm and pupate in a large oval chamber.