Insecta Coleoptera Scarabaeidae
Cetoniinae Goliathus Goliatus
Mounted specimen on velvet
Goliathus beetles are considered to be amongst the largest beetle in the world by mass. Virtually all beetles of this size and class are native to Africa; this particular specimen hales from Cameroon and was collected in 2002 from that location. It is interesting to note, that just as other major classes of animals tend to become the favorites of a particular location, so too is this true for insects. You will find that Africa has a great number of impressive Cetoniinae beetles that far outweighs any other location on earth, while Africa’s population of Chalcosoma is quite dainty compared to their Asiatic cousins. These beetles are highly variable in their lifespan which is mostly due to the availability of mating. Once successful copulation occurs, a Goliathus will soon die, however in captivity this species can live for several years so long as it practices abstinence. This makes them good candidates for pets, although hard to come by and regulated by law in the US. The larval stage of the Goliathus requires a high protein diet which makes cat food very suitable for them in captivity. Living in the compost of the forest floor affords the same nutrients. However, this may be a one-way analogue I have not successfully moved my cats over to jungle floor compost as of yet, but then again, my primary goal is to get them to use the toilet first.
The wings of this beetle are the same as in other beetles in that they fold at the midpoint to be easily retracted. It is said that they sound like toy helicopters while in flight. This particular specimen is at the highest end of quality at over 100 mm and is ranked as A1 flawless. These beetles are very difficult to obtain without extensive damage to the back because of the velvet covering that can become easily scratched during the beetle’s life as a gladiator as well as during the mounting process or transportation. Great care must be taken to avoid touching it altogether. It’s like a heartier version of moth wing scales. When grown in captivity, they tend not to be as large, but will usually have a cleaner carapace. To get the perfect specimen you need to find a wild caught beetle that has not had an extensive fighting lifestyle. These factors, along with the highly individualistic markings, make Goliathus specimens some of the more expensive beetles to collect.
So how does one ‘stuff a bug’? I prefer my cappuccino maker. Using steam strategically allows joints to be targeted for rehydration. Insects such as these are usually collected and dried. When in this state they become extremely fragile. In order to make them posable, it is necessary to rehydrate them slowly and carefully. Larger specimens present a particular challenge. They are so large that the time it takes to rehydrate them is about the same amount of time it takes for a bacterial metropolis to grow. Disinfectant must be used to prevent this highly destructive occurrence.
In order to get the bulk of the body to a workable condition, beetles should be kept in an airtight container with a high level of humidity. I prefer to soak gauze in a mixture of water, glycerin, and denatured alcohol. Depending on temperature conditions, a Goliathus will be ready for surgical steam strikes in about a day. Once all joints of the beetle are moving freely it is time for final preservation and posing. Injecting Acetone into the cavities and joints will promote desiccation without chances for rot. It is important to note that this does not chemically change the insect, but rather makes it less likely to be snacked on by other tiny beetles that we lovingly call dermestids; the mortal enemy of the trophy room. For the budding entomologist, it is important to recognize that demisted beetles are highly attracted to insects. Along with acetone, an insecticide can also be lightly injected into areas, so long as it does not compromise color or texture. In the case of a Goliathus beetle, these are very critical concerns.
Next we come to the point in which we are ready to pose the specimen. Using pins and Styrofoam you can begin to make gestaltic adjustments to legs, wings, and even bookleaf pedipalps. Be sure to use reference photographs or videos to ensure you do the specimen justice.
There is no preferred method for getting the pose you desire. With this specimen, I kept the wings open by pressing them between columns of books erected on either side of the body. The important thing to remember is to not put undue stress on any part of the insect. Leave enough room for a bit of contraction, especially when working with particularly delicate specimens. Small adjustments due to desiccation can cause tiny features to snap under pressure. If that does happen, a tiny dot of super glue usually does the trick. The joints of larger beetles fit together like the arms of an action figure. Even when dislodged, they can usually be refitted with little effort and reasonable patience.