It is September again, and the neighbourhood kids are buzzing with excitement: they like to roam around in the fields and near the river collecting rhino beetles. These magnificent insects are claimed to be one of the strongest species in the world. Surprisingly, they use their power to fight each other for access to the females; they are not predators. They use their powerful horns to munch on wood and fruits, the children usually like to tie them to bits of sugarcane to feed them.
Of course, all the excitement is about finding the shiniest, biggest, strongest beetles. They are usually out foraging at night, so that is the ideal collection time as well. The catch ends up at the school playground, where the most outstanding specimens earn their captors a staggering 50 baht. Duty teachers cannot as yet agree on what is preferable: young kids having a go at each other in person, or making their beetles have a go at each other, with friends and enthusiasts cheering, and the losers forfeiting their sugar cane supplies or their precious beetles.
Youngster with his pet
Besides the cheerful playground atmosphere, rhino beetles are also lucrative business for grownups who have never really grown up: aggressive champion beetles can bring in hundreds of baht, and one would expect a lot more money changing hands at illegal beetle fights as well.
But those are the kinds of details I usually do not like to get into, I would rather just float around as a superficial observer sharing the excitement of the kids in my soi.