sopux bettle

Sopux beetleslisten are a species of scarab beetle which produce Kamakari silk. Large and colorful, these beetles are difficult to keep in captivity, fairly fragile even in the wild, and have resisted all efforts to establish them outside of the Kamakari Mandate.  

Description

Sopux beetles are rather large, growing between 10 to 15 cm in total length. It is one of the largest species of common beetle in the Sora. They possess a metallic blue to purple carapace, with a black head and abdomen. They have small mandibles which are difficult to see with the naked eye. Larvae are significantly smaller, reaching a maximum size of about 3 cm. They have a pale, yellow body with a brown head.  

Lifecycle

Female sopux beetles spin silk sacs onto the trunks of rikusutu trees, laying up to 100 eggs inside. They do this two or three times, typically during mild, dry periods. The eggs hatch after approximately 30 days, at which point they hatch into grain-sized larvae which consume the silk of the sac before burrowing into the bark of the tree. The larval stage lasts up to three years, during which time the larvae goes through six instar stages, or metamorphoses, roughly doubling in size each time. They spend the entirety of their larval stage inside the tree's heartwood. During the final instar, they form a hard case around themselves and pupate for just over 20 days, at which point the adult sopux beetle emerges. They are sexually mature at this point and exit the tree bark. As adults, they spend most of their time reproducing, living for between 3 and 6 months.  

Diet

Larvae subsist almost entirely on the heartwood of rikusutu trees and appears to be the only type of food they can or will consume. After metamorphosing into adults, they do not consume very much, subsisting primarily off the reserves stored up as a larva. However, they can consume decaying leaf matter and fruit during this time, though they eat only during periods of stress. Doing so appears to shorten their lifespans.  

Threats and Predators

Sopux beetles are known for being surprisingly fragile for an insect of their size. They are slow and clumsy fliers as adults with few natural defenses against predation. Many bird, reptile, amphibian, mammal species consume them, as they are naturally high in sugar due to their diet of rikusutu heartwood. Additionally, they react poorly to any stresses, such as being handled by people, temperature changes, or excess humidity. Stresses tend to induce adults to eat, which seems to reduce their lives, perhaps because they are ill-adapted to digesting any food beyond rikusutu heartwood. As females only lay a few egg sacs during their lives, their populations can quickly shrink in poor conditions.  

Silk production

The Kamakari Mandate farms sopux beetles to produce kamakari silk, a fabric that is highly prized for its softness and warmth. The Mandate maintains plantations on which they grow large orchards of rikusutu trees and tend to the beetles, protecting them from predation. They collect the egg sacs and boil them in water, which destroys the eggs inside and allows the silk fibers to be unraveled. Only a small number of egg sacs are left uncollected, allowing the species to propagate.   Attempts have been made to establish sopux beetle farms outside of the Kamakari Mandate, but thus far all have failed. Because the larvae rely on rikusutu trees to feed, any cultivation attempts first require establishing a population of the trees first. However, while the trees will germinate and grow, they are frequently stunted and sickly on worlds without large kamakari populations. Some scholars have posited that the trees require the psychic field of the kamakari for some reason, though why this may be is not known. Importing rikusutu wood to feed the larvae has been tried and works, but the high costs have rendered it mostly unfeasible.


Cover image: by Denis Khusainov

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