Scarabaeus sacer

Physical characteristics: The body of a sacred scarab is broad and black with a rakelike head and forelegs. They measure 0.98 to 1.2 inches (25 to 30 millimeters) in length.

Geographic range: This species is found in the Mediterranean region and central Europe.

Habitat: They live in steppe, forest-steppe, and semi-desert habitats.

Diet: Adults use their membrane-like jaws to strain fluids, molds, and other suspended particles from animal waste. The larvae eat solid waste.

Behavior and reproduction: Adult sacred scarabs fly during the day in a zig-zag pattern, following the odor of fresh animal waste. The female carves out chunks of waste with her head and legs, shapes it into a ball, and lays a single egg inside. She then stands head down and rolls the ball forward with her middle and back legs. The ball is buried and becomes the only source of food for the larva.

Sacred scarabs and people: This species recycles nutrients and destroys the breeding sites of pest flies by burying significant amounts of animal waste. Ancient Egyptians used images of the sacred scarab as a symbol of the sun god Ra. Today scarab jewelry is worn as a good luck charm.

Conservation status: This species is not listed as endangered or threatened. ■

Ancient Egyptians used images of the sacred scarab as a symbol of the sun god Ra. Today scarab jewelry is worn as a good luck charm. (Illustration by Joseph E. Trumpey. Reproduced by permission.)
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