The history of stag beetle price bubble in Japan
Recently the price of Dorcus hopei binodulosus (the most famous stag beetle species in Japan, the one in the picture) is several thousand yen, but it was incredibly higher around 1999. The price raised over one million yen for a large-sized male Dorcus hopei binodulosus. Probably the most extreme case would be 10 million yen for one male (It is unclear whether somebody actually bought him, ref.1). This post will try to analyze which factor heated up and down this enthusiasm, from my personal experience and available sources (Please also see another post for the prices of stag beetles and rhinoceros beetles in 1980, 1997 and 2016).
Why the price incredibly raised up?
Increasing numbers of adult amateurs and fast development of breeding technique would have provided the necessary conditions for the price rise. We can see amateurs started to increase from the fact that a traditional insect journal “Gekkan Mushi” (a monthly journal of entomology) devoted a special issue to stag beetles annually from 1987. This journal provided both field work reports and breeding reports. The journal would have stimulated some adults who were keen to stag beetles in their childhood (stag beetles have long been popular for kids in Japan). Along with this, shops selling living stag beetles and goods for breeding had followed and supported the emerging trend.
Development of breeding technique, which means how to breed big-sized adult insect from larva, was fast. The journal provided effective breeding methods written by several pioneers from 1986. Ten years later, a book written by one of the pioneers was published (ref.2) and this book has still been regarded as a valuable breeding textbook even now. Amateurs read those articles and devised their own method through trial and error.
The internet also contributed to share their knowledge (Personally I often browsed the breeding method on the internet around 1997). As a result, the biggest size of the stag beetle constantly broke the record (I could not find a summarized data before 2000, but we can see the trend in the journal “Gekkan Mushi”). It is unclear when the price started to rise, but it peaked in 1999. Having bigger adult insect would be worth not only for amateur’s personal interest, but also for having even bigger children (bigger parents tend to bring bigger children).
It would not be a coincidence that the record in 1999 was breaking 80.0 mm, which was attractive and easy-to-understand number for human. The enthusiastic situation was known even to non-amateurs because of TV programs and newspapers. After this year, the price lowered.
Why the price lowered after 1999?
The reason why the price lowered could be following three changes: 1)Breaking 80 mm order shifted the trend from chasing big size to beautiful shape (so-called 美形オオクワガタ, which means beautiful-shaped Dorcus hopei binodulosus), 2)Establishment of highly effective breeding method, called “mycelium bottle”, made breeding large sized adult insects much easier, 3)Importing non-Japanese stag beetles has been allowed from 1999 (ref.3) and it diluted the amateur’s specific interest on Dorcus hopei binodulosus. Each topic may be written in detail in another post.
What is the learning for our future?
What this enthusiastic situation brought to us and Dorcus hopei binodulosus? On one hand, development of breeding method would be good in general. Nowadays, even kids and girls can breed Dorcus hopei binodulosus. It is unlikely that Dorcus hopei binodulosus, as a species, is going to be threatened to extinct in future. On the other hand, a part of amateurs who tried to catch Dorcus hopei binodulosus in the wild destroyed living environment with a bad manner (e.g. destroyed decayed tree or injured living tree). We should learn from this case and apply good aspect (e.g. our breeding knowledge can be a help to preserve endangered insect species) and avoid bad aspect (e.g. share the basic manner of catching insects).
1. “Stag beetle hunter casts doubt on reported 10 million yen deal”, The Japanese times, SEP 16, 1999
2. “クワガタムシ飼育のスーパーテクニック”, Mushi-sha, 1996 (written in Japanese)
3. Information about importing living insects (written in Japanese)