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The outcome of research conducted by an 11-year-old Japanese boy, defying the common wisdom that rhinoceros beetles are active only at night, has been published in the U.S. journal Ecology.

Ryo Shibata observed beetles that gather during the daytime at an evergreen ash tree planted in the yard of his house, and collected related data over two years. | REUTERS
Ryo Shibata observed beetles that gather during the daytime at an evergreen ash tree planted in the yard of his house, and collected related data over two years. | REUTERS

Ryo Shibata from Saitama Prefecture observed beetles that gather during the daytime at an evergreen ash tree, or Fraxinus griffithii, planted in the yard of his house, and collected related data over two years.

The elementary school sixth grader started his research in summer 2019, as he wondered why rhinoceros beetles came to the tree during the day.

He checked the tree every day, putting marks on the beetles gathered there so that they could be identified individually. In 2020, he observed a total of 162 rhinoceros beetles and compiled data mainly on their activity patterns.

Wataru Kojima, a lecturer at Yamaguchi University’s Faculty of Science in Yamaguchi Prefecture, helped with Shibata’s research. He began to offer support after the boy asked him to check his school assignment in summer 2019.

“I only gave advice and translated” Shibata’s research into English, Kojima recalled.

Kojima said that the research was “nearly perfect” and that he will continue the study together with the boy.

Shibata is planning to add to the survey the weight and size of rhinoceros beetles this summer to look into further details about the lives of the insect.

“I want to unravel (mysteries about rhinoceros beetles) as there are so many unknown factors, such as the reason why they are active also during daytime,” Shibata said. “Someday, I want to analyze tree sap components and conduct radio-tracking surveys on individual beetles.”

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