Are flesh eating scarabs a real thing? If you’ve seen Stephen Sommers 1999 film The Mummy, you may be lead to believe so. The film depicts hundreds if not thousands of high speed flesh eating scarab beetles that can cover a body in seconds and devour its flesh leaving only bones. Hopefully when watching a Hollywood film most of you recognize that not everything is completely accurate. Although they’ll try and fool us with their state of the art graphics and by throwing in a couple of real facts it can be hard to tell what’s real from what’s not.
As terrifying as it would be to imagine these beetles to be real, they are in fact not real at all. Currently there is no recorded species of scarab beetle known to feed on humans. With over 30,000 know beetle species in the Scarabaeidae family such as the June beetles, Rhinoceros beetles, Goliath beetles, Chafer beetles, and Dung beetles, Scarab beetles are incredibly diverse. Their diet ranges from plants, to fruit, dung, fungi, carrion, nectar, and even slime left behind from snails. Some species of scarab are actually very important ecological contributors who do things like pollinate certain plants, break down plant material, and fertilize our soil by eating and breaking down dung. These dung beetles were especially important to the Ancient Egyptians. When you think of the scarab beetle depicted in Ancient Egyptian culture, it was more specifically a type of dung beetle whose behavior fascinated the Egyptian people. They would observe them rolling their ball of dung across the land until they reached a burrow, and then laid their eggs in the ball of dung (of which the offspring would emerge some time later). This made them believe the scarab beetle was sacred. Their god Khepri, bringer of the sun, who was portrayed with the head of a scarab beetle, followed a similar behavior emerging from the earth and rolling the sun along the ground, bringing about the light each day from east to west. These beetles remained sacred to them and were even made into jewelry and amulets. They would bury their dead with different types of amulets which would help and protect the spirit of the dead. The Heart Scarab would specifically be useful to the spirit when it came time for final judgment, this they believed occurred after death and determined whether they would go on to paradise or else cease to exist. The Egyptians would write a passage from the book of the dead on the amulet and leave it buried with the deceased. These sacred scarab amulets would prevent the soul from testifying against itself, therefore not having to disclose any of their past sins to the God Osiris.
As you can see the scarab beetle is far from what was depicted in the film. To the Egyptians, they were sacred insects that influenced not only their idea of the suns path, but also of their souls and their protection in the afterlife. If you find Scarab beetles interesting and want to learn more you may be surprised that if you can spend some time outside here in Arizona, you could come across several different species of Scarab beetles native to our desert including the Green figeater or “Junebug,” Masked Chafer, Western Hercules Beetle or “Grants Beetle” and Dung Beetles