BEETLE-MANIA HITS BRISTOL AQUARIUM

Bristol Aquarium is experiencing a dose of beetle-mania with the unexpected arrival of a dozen giant insect grubs.

The grubs, which measure around five centimetres in length, are the immature larvae of the aquarium’s resident pair of sun beetles.

Found throughout central and west Africa, the beetles get their name from their brightly-coloured markings.

Bristol Aquarium curator, Dan de Castro, said: “We have a pair of the beetles in a display alongside our poison dart frogs and I came in one morning to discover around a dozen eggs half-hidden in the soil.

“Although they start off tiny the larvae spend pretty much all their time eating and are now significantly larger than their parents.

“We’ve been feeding them on leftover oranges and bananas from our lunchboxes and they can’t get enough!

“Already some have constructed their own cocoons and we’re hoping to see them start emerging as adults in the next week or so,” he added.

Meanwhile Dan and the team are having to put up with some highly anti-social behaviour from the youngsters.

“As well as being hideously ugly, the larvae also have some pretty unpleasant defence mechanisms which are designed to ward off would-be predators.

“Not only do they have a nasty bite but they also have the tendency to poo on anyone who gets too close.

“When you combine that with the fact they have special glands which can emit a foul-smelling odour it’s perhaps not surprising they have earned a reputation for being the skunks of the insect world!” said Dan.

Despite their decidedly unprepossessing start in life, the larvae will emerge from their cocoons as beautiful adults, complete with their strikingly colourful markings.

Like all beetles, they have wings and are capable of flight. In the wild sun beetles become more active during the day as temperatures rise and can often be seen flying on particularly sunny days – another reason for their common name.

Issued by Bristol Aquarium. For more information please contact Tina Patel, Dan de Castro or David Waines on 0117 934 0944.