Typhaeus typhoeus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Minotaur Beetle

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POLYPHAGA Emery, 1886

SCARABAEOIDEA Latreille, 1802

GEOTRUPIDAE Latreille, 1802

GEOTRUPINAE Latreille, 1802

TYPHAEUS Leach, 1815

This is a western Palaearctic species with a somewhat restricted distribution, occurring from Morocco to Southern Scandinavia and through Western Europe to Poland and Hungary. In the U.K. it is of local occurrence throughout England and Wales, becoming progressively rarer further north, and it is very local and rare in Scotland. Adults are active from February to May or June, and again from late August to November although they overwinter in their burrows and emerge to feed during mild winter spells and have been recorded throughout the winter. The typical habitat is lightly wooded heath or moorland with short, grazed grass on well-drained sandy or chalky soil with a water table permanently below the depth of their burrows, typically down to more than a metre, and they also occur in well-grazed woodland habitats. Pairing occurs mostly in the spring when the males use their pronotal horns to compete with other males, sometimes within burrows under construction, in order to mate with the females. After pairing and mating both sexes cooperate in excavating a burrow about 15mm wide which may reach a depth of 1.5 metres and have up to 15 short lateral branches, at the ends of which the female will lay a single egg into the soil, fecundity is low with each female laying up to 20 eggs. The burrows are occasionally constructed under cattle or horse dung but generally they will be excavated through short turf where there is a good supply of rabbit, sheep or deer droppings. Both sexes work to provision the brood chambers with dung; the male works mostly at the surface collecting pellets, or groups of pellets when they are stuck together, dragging them backwards and inserting them into the burrow for the female who will form them into long tubes which will usually fill the brood chambers, clustered and damp pellets are easiest to work with and so the male gathering activity is most intense during wet weather. Provisioned brood chambers are then blocked with sand by the adults and the emerging larvae will make their way into the dung tubes. The adults die soon after the completion of the burrows, generally during June or July, and they show no parental care. The larvae develop rapidly and pupation takes place in the burrow in late summer with new generation adults appearing from September, generally emerging from the burrow after a period of rain. They quickly commence maturation feeding and, in mild years, will pair 

up and begin nesting in November or December. Winter is passed in the burrows with occasional feeding forays during mild spells. Adults are mostly active in the evening and, especially in the autumn, may swarm in large numbers; they will usually be obvious and easily recorded but their presence, if suspected, might be confirmed by pitfall trapping; simply collect pellets from a few metres of turf, place them into a sunken trap, and monitor frequently to avoid damage to the beetles, obviously the majority of specimens so recorded will be males. The distinctive burrow entrances, among short grass and surrounded with excavated soil, will soon become obvious.

The much smaller scarabaeid Aphodius coenosus (Panzer, 1798) is known to be a kleptoparasite in Typhaeus burrows, developing in the larval dung provision and tunnelling to the surface as an adult. Careful inspection of the burrows may reveal back-filled Aphodius burrows, about 3mm wide, near the surface.

The minotaur beetle is a very distinctive species which, at least among the U.K. fauna, cannot be mistaken for any other; among the geotrupids the presence of forwardly projecting horns in the male is unique, the female lack the horns but has a sharp tubercle near each pronotal anterior angle. The size varies greatly in both sexes, 12-20mm, and large males tend to have disproportionally larger horns.

TYPHAEUS Leach, 1815

This small genus of dung beetles is restricted to Europe, north-western Africa and the Middle East. The genus Chelotrupes Jekel, 1866 was formerly classified as a subgenus but is now a separate genus and 2 species are often quoted as members of Typhaeus; C. hiostius (Gene, 1836), a Sardinian endemic, and C. momus (Olivier, 1789), a very local species of southern Portugal and south western Spain. Four species remain in Typhaeus: T. fossor Waltl, 1838 is a widespread European and south west Asian species, T. typhoeus (Linnaeus, 1758) is more western European, T. typhaeoides (Fairmaire, 1852) is a Moroccan endemic, and T. latridens Guerin-Meneville, 1838 occurs in south east Europe and the Middle East. They are all similar to the type species, T. typhoeus in general morphology and biology. Both Chelotrupes and Typhaeus differ from other members of the Chromogeotrupini by the modified pronotum, and Chelotrupes is distinguished from Typheaus by the presence of a basal margin on the pronotum, the form of the scutellum, reduced wings and obsolete elytral striae.

♂   Typhaeus fossor Waltl, 1838 (Greece)     

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