40% of all insects belong to the order of beetles. Beetles are the largest order of insects with over 400.000 described species, one even more beautiful than the other. Keeping pet beetles is very popular in many countries and there are a lot of different beetles you can keep. When you want beetles it is difficult to choose which species you start or want to add to your collection. The question that may arise and which is often asked to me is if you can keep different beetle species together. You come to the right spot because here we will discuss what is possible.
You can keep different beetle species together and the success depends on different factors like the type of beetle, enclosure size, food preference, feeding strategy, optimal climate condition and if you like high breeding success. There are many beetle species that can be kept together in one enclosure.
The success of keeping different beetles is impacted by the different needs these beetles have. Although most pet beetles are quite easy to care for, keeping them together gives whole other challenges.
Keeping different beetles together; Is that possible?
The simple answer to this is “it depends”. Yes, you can keep certain beetle species together and there are enough pictures showing beautiful enclosures with a couple of different beetles living together. If you like a challenge with a combination of different species it is certainly possible.
It is beautiful to see how different beetles live peacefully side-by-side and interact with each other. For example African flower beetles with sun beetles, or with stag beetles. Especially the Pachnoda beetles are good candidates to keep with other beetles.
However, you need to be prepared for the challenge. Success depends on different factors like the species, its nature, and the sex ratio. In this article, we look at several essential considerations you need to make when you wish to keep different beetles together successfully.
Essential considerations when keeping beetles together
OK, so I talked several times that there are different factors affecting the success of keeping different beetles together. But what are those factors? And more importantly, what to consider before you keep multiple beetle species together? Of course, you can’t combine predatory beetles together. The strongest will win and you are left with half the beetles you started with. Fortunately, most beetles are herbivorous or even detrivores – meaning they feed on decaying plant matter.
When you want to combine different species in one enclosure, you often need a large(r) enclosure. Although this seems obvious because you add more animals to the enclosure, it is not always done or thought of. EVery species need a place to retreat.
A good rule of thumb is to use the largest species’ surface requirements and multiply it by 1½. For example, if your primary or largest animal needs 12″ x 12″ x 12″ (30cm x 30cm x 30cm), you now need an enclosure of at least 18″ x 18″ x 18″(45cm x 45cm x 45cm).
Don’t go for a larger surface only but also include the height of the enclosure. Many beetles like to climb or sit high on branches, so it is important your enclosure is high enough.
You can only combine species that have the same climate requirements like temperature, humidity and light. They don’t need to be exactly the same, but at least the optimal ranges for both (or all species) need to have an overlap. You can’t keep a tropical species together with a desert species. The climate needs are too different so that only one species can thrive.
Choosing species that live already in the same area increases the success of keeping them together.
Although it seems easy when both species eat the same food, it can cause food competition.
For beetles that eat from the same food source, you need to provide food in larger quantities and at multiple locations in the enclosure. That way, animals can avoid each other and don’t have to compete for food. When you provide beetle jelly, provide it on multiple sides in the enclosure so each beetle has the opportunity to eat.
You should also consider that some species won’t eat each other as adults, but one can predate youngs, hatchlings or eggs of the other. To some degree, that is not a problem, but eventually, one species will push away the other species (for example, when one species will have more breeding success and rise in numbers).
Challenges of keeping different beetles together
Keeping beetles together comes with a couple of challenges besides the consideration mentioned earlier. Start combining two or more species together is the easy part. Letting them both/all thrive equally can be much more difficult.
Often you see that in an enclosed space one species will do better than the other, eventually ending up with one species. That has to do with the life cycle of beetles. Adult beetles – also called imagos – is often what you see in the enclosure, but there are three other stages: the egg, larva and pupa stage. Breeding to sustain a healthy population of every species is the tricky part.
Although adults won’t do any harm, they may eat the eggs of other species. Also, larvae have a huge appetite and anything they encounter, which also may be eggs or larvae/pupa of other species. Oftentimes the species with the largest sized larva will conquer terrain and will dominate the enclosure. It can also be that one beetle will reproduce much quicker than the other and eventually dominate.
To get around this, it is good practice to try and separate the larva of the different species to let them grow without competing with others. Large beetles even do it better when larvae are raised individually. It also gives you more control over the breeding result and provides valuable insights into how every species is doing.
I’ve kept several combinations of beetles living together, and when you don’t control it you’ll see that one species will eventually dominate the enclosure and push away the other species. For example, when keeping sun beetles (Pachnoda marginata) together with the flamboyant flower beetles (Eudicella gralli) and the Derby’s flower beetles (Dicronorhina derbyana) I’ve seen the sun beetles winning terrain with their larger reproduction rate.
How many beetles can live together?
Another question that may arise is how many beetles can live together. Although you can go crazy, I suggest you start with two or three on your first try. It also depends on the size of the enclosure and the species of course.
With most flower beetles: If you start with 5 to 20 beetles of each species, depending on their size, is a fair shot for success. Starting with less per species makes it difficult to breed and sustain a good number of beetles. Starting with too many can quickly overcrowd your enclosure and has a negative impact on your beetles.
Also, keep an eye on the sex ratio of each species. With some species, you’ll see that there become too many males who (continuously) compete over females.
Some species do better or can even only be kept in couples. Male stag beetles, for example, will not tolerate each other in the presence of females and will fight. The subdominant male eventually wants to escape the scene, but within an enclosed space there is nowhere to run to. Stag beetles, but also Hercules and rhino beetles need to be managed more heavily. Also, breeding of these species is more difficult.
When you are relatively new to keeping beetles, it would be better to start with flower beetles and carefully keep different flower beetles together. You need to have some experience with beetles, especially with stag and rhino beetles, before you should keep them together with other species.
Can you keep beetles with other (insect) species?
And what about other (insect) species. Many beetles are good roommates with other species. As long as they are not predatory, beetles can be kept with other animals (as long as they are not predatory either).
Beetles can be kept fairly easy together with giant millipedes. African giant millipedes are good candidates to be kept with several species of flower beetles. Giant African snails can also be combined with flower beetles like sun beetles or African giant flower beetles. And almost every isopod can be kept with beetles as well.
As with different beetles, keeping different insect species together have the same considerations and challenges. Think of preferred climate conditions, food preferences and substrate needs. The optimal ranges need at least overlap for what climate matters. Also, keep an eye on food competition and that there is enough available at many locations in the enclosure.
Can beetles live alone — or do they need company?
As far as we know beetles can live solitary and don’t need company for social interaction. However, most flower beetles can be kept very well in (small) groups. With larger beetles like the stag beetles, rhino beetles and Hercules beetles, you can keep them alone just fine, or keep them as a couple if you like to breed with them.
However, it is really cool to see a large colony of flower beetles in an enclosure and increase the activity and attractiveness. I’ve kept a sun beetle colony of over 60 adult beetles. It is awesome to see so much activity and see beetles fly in search of warmth or a mate. If you have the room, I can highly recommend you give it a try.
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