Journal of a Goliathus Breeder – Part 1 of 3 – Introduction to the Goliathus Beetle

Goliathus breeding is considered by many the Holy Grail of beetle breeding. Its massive size and colorful pattern makes it a highly sought item in many collectors’ minds. Specimens of over 10 cm are calculated to the last millimeters and in the hundreds of dollars. It is however its biology that has fascinated me the most. A veil of mystery surrounded its breeding habits. People were already attempting its breeding cycle in the 80’s with little success even though the price for each larva was over $100. Breeders theorized that perhaps, Goliathus larvae required a special tree essence that was not found outside of Africa. In the meantime, the hobby of beetle breeding continued to gain popularity in Japan and elsewhere. Newer techniques to rear them was discovered such as using mushroom mycelium in a wood mixture called kinshi to reproduce Lucanidae specimens larger than the ones found in the wild. One day a well known American breeder, Orin McMonigle, discovered that by feeding his rhinoceros beetle larvae with dog food, he could accelerate the growth and succeed at a greater rate than larvae fed on substrate alone. Using protein additive was perhaps similar to the invention of the wheel in the world of beetle breeding. Suddenly, breeders tried pet food with different species (Lucanidae, Dynastidae and Cetoniidae) that were found in breeding and discovered that most species accepted the dried pellet with success. One Japanese breeder admitted that without the discovery of this technique, the breeding of Goliathus would not have been possible.

My experience with the Goliathus species started in 2004. I had ordered a dozen larvae of Goliathus goliatus and Goliathus orientalis from a Czech dealer. I knew that I was facing an uphill challenge. All I had was a few reports from European breeders who had failed or had mediocre results in their breeding attempts. Against all odds, I was able to rear both species to imago forms. I had a mortality rate of 25% in larva form and perhaps another 25% in pupa state. In total, I was only able to rear 3 females in total: two Goliathus goliatus and one Goliathus orientalis with the rest being males. I failed to breed the latter specie even though the breeding conditions were both identical. After a complete second generation, my determination to succeed and with the pooled experience and knowledge of other fellow Goliathus breeders have made my experience a success.Although I do not consider this care sheet to be the final bible in Goliathus breeding, it is one which I have had success with. Goliathus beetles are found in Equatorial Africa (Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, and Ghana) where the tropical rain forest is at its thickest. The only exception concerns the smallest specie, Goliathus albosignatus, which can be found in the more temperate Southeastern part of Africa (South Africa, Tanzania). The largest males can measure up to 11 cm and have a distinct Y-shaped horn. The male larva is able to weight over 100 g. whereas the female can weight 40-60g.

It is difficult to say whether the Goliathus is a “white” beetle with “dark” patterns or vice versa as some species can be found in different varieties with very different elytra patterns. For example, Goliathus goliatus can be found in these different forms: goliatus (yes that would be Goliathus goliatus goliatus), apicalis, conspersus, undulus, albatus and quadrimaculatus. The two extreme forms are: Goliathus goliatus goliatus with can be described as having a set of completely dark elytra with a short band of white near the pronotum and Goliathus goliatus quadrimaculatus as being a completely white beetle with four distinct dark spots at the four corners of its elytra. The other forms would fall in the spectrum between these two color patterns. Although Goliathus is part of the Flower Beetles – Cetoniidae – family (I have a very hard time visualizing these gigantic beetles flying from flowers to flowers) that is where the similarity ends in terms of their breeding requirements. The specific larval diet and its sensitive pupation phase are the reasons why the Goliathus is considered difficult specie to breed and not recommended to beginners. The imagos (adults) are extremely active and the male can often be seen chasing the females in the breeding tank. A 12-hour light source is recommended since they are diurnal. One note worth mentioning is that the Goliathus male is extremely territorial. Two males sharing a tank will be constantly shoving each other for dominance. This behavior will take time away from it normal breeding activities with the females. The adults can be kept (temperature, feeding, misting and lighting condition) in the same way as other Cetoniidae beetles.