12/3/2021: Propagating the elusive handsome flower scarab
One of those moments that really stuck with me from the March 2021 Florida trip was stumbling upon Alan and Will eviscerating a small fallen tree branch, frantically collecting beetle larvae and termites respectively. Alan’s avarice was well-warranted, as he had found the coveted handsome flower scarab, Rutela formosa.
These medium-sized beetles are scarcely recorded from the Keys and require intact hardwood forests to persist, presumably due to the larvae needing pockets of rotting wood to develop. Adults reportedly take pollen from the flowers of multiple Caribbean shrubs, but may take fruit in captivity. Their coloration is very tiger-y, and their body has a whimsical green shine that must be seen in person. The color combination is quite odd and reminds me of the palette used on old 90s toys for that “cool and awesome” aesthetic.
While Alan didn’t have success with the first group, he and Kai found many more on their November trip and generously gave me a group of larvae to work with. Rutelines and I… don’t really mix (and Kai mocks me endlessly for this), but I’m willing to give these a shot. Pupation is the most stressful part of beetle rearing for me (which is why I gravitate towards the stupidly easy Cetoniines), but from seeing them in the wild and other keepers’ tips with Rutelines… they should just pupate in a hollowed chamber within their wood food. From there I’ll be working on cutting corners to get the adults feeding on something easier/cheaper than pollen… hopefully they will take bananas and apples.
Within the last year there’s been a sizable swelling of beetle keepers in the United States. I hope as more cool and obscure native species become propagated and their husbandry condensed for the beginning hobbyist, this trend will continue.