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Rainbow scarab beetle (Phanaeus vindex)


Rainbow scarab beetle

Phanaeus vindex

(Order Coleoptera; Family Scarabaeidae)

Phanaeus vindex​ male (photo by Cristian Beza - Beza) 

(kansas: WSU Ninnescah Biol. Station, 3.5 mi N, 2 mi W Viola, 37°32’08’’N, 97°40’49’’W)

Adult diagnose: Among the North American dung beetles, the rainbow scarab beetle is easily recognized for its coloration; it is considered the shiniest scarab in the region. Phanaeus vindex is a metallic green beetle with red or gold reflections on its head and a coppery red patch in the pronotum. The size of these round shaped beetles varies between 0.29 to a 0.50 inch. The antennae have a yellow club at the tip, and they can be retracted under the head. Males are distinguished from females by the presence of a horn on the head. The general shape of the beetle is very similar to Phanaeus triangularis.

Phanaeus vindex female (photo by Cristian Beza - Beza) 

Phanaeus vindex male (From:


Natural history: Being part of the dung beetles, Phanaeus vindex specializes in eating resources from the feces of other animals.  Rainbow scarab beetles fly in a zigzag pattern looking for food during daylight hours.  When it finds a food source it lands and digs a burrow next to the dung. Two types of burrows can be dug: one for adult food storage, and another for the reproduction cycle.

When a burrow for reproduction is dug, the female will deposit an egg in a brood ball of dung. The eggs are elongated and vary in size. After the larva hatches from an egg, it burrows into the dung ball and feeds from there. The larvae have been observed staying in the ball for as long as four months. The longevity of this species is unknown, but some researchers have kept adults alive for over one year.



Distribution: The distribution of the Rainbow scarab beetle in the Eastern United States ranges from Massachusetts in the east to South Dakota in the west, and to the southern extent of the continental United States.

Distribution of P. vindex (from:

Habitat: Dung beetles usually inhabit grasslands because of plentiful dung from large populations of large animals. However, Phanaeus vindex can also be found in grasslands, forests, forest clearings, and next to sandy roads.


Diet: The rainbow scarab beetle is coprophagous (eats feaces) in both larval and adult stages. Phanaeus vindex tends to eat feces from large animals. 

Male P. vindex in deer droppings (From:



Agrilife extension: Dung beetle:

Bug Gide: Species Phanaeus vindex - Rainbow Scarab:

Fairfaux county Public School: Dung beetle:

Global species: Phaneus Vindex (Dung beetle):

The featured creature: I love rainbow scarabs ... and they love poop:





Fisher, G. T. 1973. Nidification and Reproduction of Phanaeus Spp. in Three Textural Classes of Soil (Coleoptera:Scarabaeidae). The coleopterist bulletin 1: 33 – 37

Ratcliffe, B. C. & Paulsen M. J. 2008. The Scarabaeoid Beetles of Nebraska. Lincoln, University of Nebraska State Museum.

Robinson, Mark. 1948. A Review of the Genus Phanaeus Inhabiting the United States (Scarabaeidae: Coleoptera). Trans. Am. Entomol. Soc. (Phila) 73(4): 299-305.

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