|Central European scarab beetles|
with some anatomical details. Edmund Reitter's Fauna Germanica, 1908
The family Scarabaeidae, as currently defined, consists of over 30,000 species of beetles worldwide; they are often called scarabs or scarab beetles. The classification of this family has undergone significant change in recent years. Several subfamilies have been elevated to family rank (e.g., Pleocomidae, Glaresidae, Glaphyridae, Ochodaeidae, and Geotrupidae), and some reduced to lower ranks. The subfamilies listed in this article are in accordance with those in Bouchard (2011).
Scarabs are stout-bodied beetles, many with bright metallic colours, measuring between 1.5 and 160 mm. They have distinctive, clubbed antennae composed of plates called lamellae that can be compressed into a ball or fanned out like leaves to sense odours. The front legs of many species are broad and adapted for digging. In some groups males (and sometimes females) have prominent horns on the head and/or pronotum to fight over mates or resources.
The C-shaped larvae, called grubs, are pale yellow or white. Most adult beetles are nocturnal, although the flower chafers (Cetoniinae) and many leaf chafers (Rutelinae) are active during the day. The grubs mostly live underground or under debris, so are not exposed to sunlight. Many scarabs are scavengers that recycle dung, carrion, or decaying plant material. Others, such as the Japanese beetle, are plant-eaters.
Some of the well-known beetles from the Scarabaeidae are Japanese beetles, dung beetles, June beetles, rose chafers (Australian, European, and North American), rhinoceros beetles, Hercules beetles and Goliath beetles.
In Ancient Egypt, the dung beetle now known as Scarabaeus sacer (formerly Ateuchus sacer) was revered as sacred. Egyptian amulets representing the sacred scarab beetles were traded throughout the Mediterranean world.