By Arthur V. Evans

The eastern Hercules beetle, Dynastes tityus (Linnaeus) (40.0 to 60.0 mm) is a large, spectacular olive-green animal mottled with irregular black spots. Well-hydrated individuals, especially those feeding or have just fed, are sometimes almost completely dark.

Males have a single horn on the head that is held in apposition to the largest of three on the pronotum. Together, these horns are used like forceps to dislodge rival males from sapping spots on the branches of ash trees. These sapping spots provide food for both sexes and are created by males specifically to attract hornless females.

Eastern Hercules beetles are found throughout much of eastern United States, from New York south to Florida, west to southern Illinois, western Arkansas, and eastern Texas. Both sexes are often encountered at lights, but seldom in numbers. However, large numbers of individuals are reported aggregating on ash (Fraxinus) or in tree holes used as breeding sites.

Larvae of eastern Hercules beetles.

The larvae develop and feed on rotting wood of various hardwoods, especially oaks, and occasionally pine. Large tree holes are sometimes used continuously as breeding sites year after year where the larvae feed on damaged rotten and crumbling heartwood; no harm is done to living trees. Their dark, rectangular fecal pellets are quite distinctive.

Pupa of a male eastern Hercules beetle.

The entire life cycle of eastern Hercules beetles may take two or three years, depending on conditions. Adults live several months in captivity on a diet of soft fruits cotton balls saturated with a 1:1 solution of water and maple syrup.

© 2015, A.V. Evans


  1. so I just found one of these beetles on my porch at my home in Stanley, NC. Just outside of Charlotte.. Is this a common beetle for this area. I scooped it up and released it on our tree, should I be concernd that I may have more and are they safe if my dogs or my child get a hold of one???

    • Eastern Hercules beetles can be common in woods throughout eastern North America. They are not aggressive and are harmless to children and animals, although a male can sometimes give a good pinch with those horns if carelessly handled. Both males and females have powerful legs with sharp claws, too, but these come into play only if handled.

  2. So then what i have is 2 hornless females i found them dead in a Field one of them is almost all the way dark and the other one is a light green but still dark color with the black spots on the shell.

    I never once seen these until last year when i found the 2 dead ones i knew there was small beetles but i was really surprised to find these 2 i have now and i even found a live one it was blackish blue and was a different shape to it, it had one horn really it found me the beetle flew into my forehead.

  3. I seen one yesterday while going inside the bank in Wadesboro,NC. It was crawling up the brick wall. I got a picture of it. Are these harmful to plants? What are they good for?

    • Eastern Hercules beetles are not harmful to plants or pets. Aside from being just darn interesting, the larvae help breakdown dead wood and make its nutrients available to other organisms. Further, the larvae themselves occasionally fall prey to other animals.

  4. Victoria Says:

    I found a male and a female at a gas station in Summerfield, North Carolina!

  5. Cynthia Says:

    My mother found one outside our basement door.

  6. Nikki Gualandi Says:

    I found one on my sidewalk this evening in southern Illinois. I almost stepped on it. Scared the crap out of me too. These beetles are HUGE! should I let it go in the woods on my property or just set it loose in the yard somewhere I wont step on it?

  7. My daughter is asking for Hercules Beetles to live with her madagascar hissing cockroaches – can they share the same habitat, or will the males compete? thanks!

  8. I just found a unicorn beetle in Fairfax, Virginia. This is a very cool looking bug & Huge. I moved it out of the street and took a picture. I have never seen a beetle this big in our neck of the woods.

  9. These things just look crazy..we saw three of them this evening, they were crashing into the barn due to our light..we saw two males and a female..I didn’t know they could fly!!! So glad to know they are harmless and in fact good for u, thank you for the much needed piece of mind!!

  10. Found one this morning in Annapolis Junction, MD. Absolutely beautiful. My first thought was someone dropped a sea shell from a collection. Shiny outer shell!

  11. Just found a female in my driveway near Yellville, Arkansas. Incredible animal–glad to have seen it and learned about this critter that I didn’t even know existed before tonight!

  12. Jennifer Says:

    Are the eastern Hercules beetles threatened or endangered?

  13. Casey mawyer Says:

    Can a male and female live in the same habitat?

  14. My sister found one dead in DaleTexas. That is central Texas. Cool!

  15. Heather Harrison Says:

    Just found one in Elkton, Virginia. Actually my 8 year old son did. It is HUGE!! Super neat

  16. katie rehkopf Says:

    we found one, a male already deceased in mint condition, in Chapel Hill, NC and we are in awe of its beauty. Thank you for this website.

  17. I just had Duke Energy cut down one of my trees. Next to it is another tree that they left alone. The tree left alone lost some bark and I found what looks like Wood Roaches. I’ve seen a number of them. However, the tree they cut down had a lot of these – over 10 so far in just looking about. The tree was hollowed out from the ground floor up to about 8 feet. I haven’t found any wood roaches, but these white bodies were all about. I haven’t found anything but the white bodied ‘larvae’ is what they look like. The trees are growing and have full leaves – but you say these bugs eat dead wood. Is the trees, in part, dying – bringing about these bugs and is that going to be good for the tree in the long run…?

  18. Does anyone know how to catch them. I really want to know how to.

  19. Rachel Preston Says:

    We found one in Roanoke Virginia. We are going to release it back into the wild so it doesn’t meet a fateful death on the city streets.

  20. Rachel Preston Says:

    my name is actually stephen curry

  21. I hate to see people kill these insects, there is no reason for it! I have spent my entire life learning and collecting these beetles and they are simply amazing and very hard to find, I spend my summer night’s looking for these beetles, funner than fishing lol, best places to find them are gas stations away from the city or car dealerships, sports fields or really anywhere with big bright lights from late June to late August preferably on hot humid Knights between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am when a thunderstorm is about to hit. Follow these steps and you will find lots of them, I keep the males and breed them with the females I find and then release the females back into the wild when the males die put them in my display collection, within the years I’ve done this I’ve found twice as many as I found in the earlier years, I believe these beetles have trouble finding females and it’s good to help these amazing creatures out

  22. Found one this weekend in Southern Indiana. I almost step on it accidentally. I caught it and let it go after taking some pictures of it. It was a male.

  23. Amber Smith Says:

    Believe we just found one by the dumpster at our place of business in Parkersburg, WV! We took pictures and set it loose out back in the grass. This area is full of trees so I know he will find his way home. Thanks for the article!!

  24. I found one in West Virginia. Their very cool looking and big. What do they eat and how do they live?

  25. I found a live female at my storage garage in Wilmington, NC. Like Trevor stated, it was at night, under a bright light, after a long rain. I have had her for two months. What an amazing creature! While I feed her bananas, I not sure how to create the right habitat for it. I have her in a coffee can with lots of grass. I add a little water each day. What do you suggest? I read using some “substrate”. Not sure exactly what that meant. Dirt? Wood shavings?

    • I suggest placing a two-inch layer of a mixture of soil, partly decomposed leaf liter, and small bits of rotten wood in larger container, like a plastic shoe box. They will eat bananas, peaches, and other soft fruit. You can also offer them a sponge or cotton ball soaked with a 50-50 solution of real maple syrup and water, too. In the wild they feed on the sap of ash trees. If all goes well, your female may live through the winter, although they will start losing their feet as they age.

  26. I love these beetles i have 2 as pets, a male and female. I build a huge habitat for them so can repopulate because they are endangered species. And once they populate im going to give some to a zoo where i live! I find all living things interesting even spiders!! I have had every beetle you could possible name. It took me 8 years to find a eastern Hercules beetle but the time and patients payed off some of my friends call me weird but they just dont understand the things you learn about things that breath the same air we do! I even drilled a whole in a ash tree in my yard to collect sap to feed them i also build a heating source just right to keep a male and female alive during winter!!! I just love how huge and interesting they are and also the fuzzy on the sides of them near the bottom. I also love the spikes on their legs they use to climb trees and use for protection. Also you can tell if they are a male or female not just by the horns on their heads you can also look at the bottom of them a female has brown on the bottom the male has black on the bottom. I really really hope yall like my comment.

  27. peggy d Says:

    I am NOT loving these things! 2 of them in the last 24 hours!! How do I chase them away and if they do not leave kill them? I don’t want to kill them but I don’t want to be afraid to go outside either. Please help!

    • Thank you for your comments. I can assure you that they pose no harm to you or others, so there is no reason to be concerned whatsoever! Do you have an ash tree in your yard? Or a strong light that is left on all night? Both of these will attract these beetles. What town and state are you finding them in?

  28. I found a male this morning in Jessup, Maryland. When I initially found him he was a dark yellow with black spots. I then set him free to find later that he had turned all brown. Before reading into it, I thought I had lucked upon a second one. After I took him out of the rain he turned back to the dark yellow mottled pattern. I gave him some banana already but he doesnt seem to want it. He is just standing around. Perhaps observing surroundings?

  29. Alaina Lowery Says:

    Found one in Kings Mountain North Carolina alive and well while cutting grass. It’s a female I believe and we saw no others.

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