Scarabaeus (Linn.), the representative genus of a large family of pentamerous lamellicorn beetles, having the antennae generally terminated by a club, and either composed of leaflets or of box-like joints. Of the old family several thousand species were enumerated, of about 200 genera, but these are now separated into many distinct families. The proper scaraboeidoe or coprophagi comprise those which live in and feed upon excrements, especially those of herbivorous animals. The form is generally short and thick, and their color shining black or brilliant metallic; they excrete an oily matter, which prevents the substances among which they live from adhering to them; they are able to dig very rapidly into the ground; in the spring they enclose their eggs in small balls of dung, which they roll along with the hind feet to holes in which they are to be deposited. - The type of this family is the genus ateuchus (Weber and Fabr.), equivalent to the genus scaraboeus of McLeay; this is peculiar to the old world, and of more than 40 species nearly 30 belong in Africa. The body is rounded, flattened above, the four posterior limbs hairy and ending in a single spur; the external edge of the wing covers is nearly straight, and the head is lobed and festooned in front.
Two species were worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, and often represented by their hieroglyphics and on their monuments; models of them, in the most precious materials, were worn as charms and buried with mummies; the insects themselves have also been found in their coffins. The A. (S.) sacer (Oliv.) is black and about an inch long, and is found in S. Europe, W. Asia, and N. Africa. The A. (S.) AEgyytiorum (Latr.) is larger and wider, green with golden tints, and is found principally in Egypt. They were considered symbolic of the world on account of the globular form of the egg balls; of the sun, from the ray-like projections of the head; and of a warrior, from the belief that all were males, whence they were also worn as symbols by the Romans. As typical of the sun, the source of fertility, they were worn by women to render them prolific.
Scarabaeus (Ateuchus AEgyptiorum).