Kwaang: A Bug’s Life

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Rhinoceros beetle, also known as kwaang in Thailand

On a recent trip to Chiang Rai, I finally got a chance to view and touch the rhinoceros beetle up-close at mr;p’s brother’s place, where it was being kept as a house pet. In real life, it looks fiercer than its cartoon counterpart in A Bug’s Life but still possesses a silly air around it. Nonetheless, it still makes a impressive creature with its black, shiny exterior. With its forked horns locked together, they make a perfect loop for my finger to hook through. Don’t be put off by its ‘pincer’ horns – they only pinched slightly when it made its way around on my palm and fingers. When placed on the mat, where it struggled to walk without its six legs constantly getting stuck in the cracks, it produced loud hissing sounds to signal its displeasure and irritation.

In northern Thailand, male rhinoceros beetles are often kept to engage in kwaang chon, or beetle fighting. A beetle tethered to a sugar cane stick is a common sight. As any upcountry kid when he was young, mr;p recounted keeping rhinoceros beetles as playthings before finally grilling them into snacks when he got bored with them. Oh, did I mention these beetles are a favourite amongst the chicken too? Oh well, it’s a bug’s life after all…

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