Meet the Beetles: big squirmy beetle larvae sold as novelty pets in Japanese shops

Matt Alt shot this fun video and wrote this blog post about how you can buy Rhinoceros Beetle larvae for only 98 yen each in Japanese shops. The roughly thumb-sized larva grow into big beetles that are popular pets in Japan.

Matt explains that they are known as kabuto-mushi, or "helmet bugs," for their exokeleton's resemblence of samurai armor.

And by the way, you can buy Matt's books on Japan here.


  1. One person’s food ==> another person’s pet ==> another person’s “ew.”

  2. “A writhing mass of heaped appendage
    Slipping grasp the squirming slick
    Extend the reach to touch the face
    Burn the mind, reveal the quick”

  3. I bought a mounted kabuto-mushi at Tokyu Hands once, and showed it at US Ag inspection.  They said, “That’s not real.  It’s plastic.” and waved me through.

  4. Just to clarify it: keeping kabuto-mushi is not a novelty or new hobby. It’s been around for at least several generations, and is a fairly popular pastime among school-age kids. There’s beetle fighting (males will try to fight for territory) and breeding for size, colour and so on.

  5. Bear in mind that most insects with a larval form spend the vast majority of their life in that form.

    When I was doing a lot of volunteer tree planting I would regularly find dozens of fat beetle larvae in the roots of the saplings being planted.  I couldn’t obviously suss out whether they were predatory (which would be good for the tree) or herbivorous/parasitic just based on their appearance, so I put a few in a jar to see them develop and id them.  Shortly after I figured out that they were stag beetle larvae, and that they’d be in that form for three years or more.

    Also, they eat rotting plant material, so they’re probably beneficial to have around a tree.

    But this is the larvae I want to see.

  6. I once went on a date with Matt Alt’s sister.  She’s batshit crazy.  She spent the majority of our date talking about how she hit her last boyfriend with her car (on purpose).  She’s pretty well known around local gaming circles for being crazy.

    1. Sea monkeys – my first real (and biggest) disappointment. If only I had known then about the far superior (and larger) triops. They don’t resemble monkeys of any kind either – more like a horseshoe crab – but far more entertaining than brine shrimp. Now marketing those could have been interesting!

  7. I have 4 Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches for pets. 3 females and a large male- in separate tanks. This big beetle makes my 4 look tiny!

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