Illegal Giant Beetles Come to the Smithsonian

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Postal workers, like emergency room nurses, have one of those jobs where they see everything.

Americans are adamant about their right to send weird things through the mail: Wrapped bricks, coconuts, bags of sand and dead fish cross state lines every day.

But even employees at the Mohnton post office in Pennsylvania were surprised in May 2008 when they heard scratching coming from a box marked "toys, gifts, and jellies."

Upon opening the package, the postal workers found 26 live, giant beetles, each big enough to sit in the palm of your hand. The species, native to Asia, included Hercules, elephant and giant stag beetles.

The recipient, 36-year-old Marc T. Diullo, pleaded guilty to purchasing and importing the beetles without a permit. According to news reports, he told the judge that he has collected insects since sixth grade. ''I'm just a very inquisitive type of person—very curious,'' he is reported to have said.

Diullo's curiosity will now be shared with the entire nation. Last week, the rare and exotic beetles, long dead, were donated to the Smithsonian for its educational programming. According to David Furth, a Smithsonian entomologist at the National Museum of Natural History, the specimens will demonstrate animal diversity to the public.

Furth also emphasizes that importing foreign beetles, even as a hobby, carries environmental risks. "Illegal import of live organisms poses potential threats to agriculture through opportunities for them, their parasites or diseases to invade crops and to spread to other potential hosts in the United States," he says.

The beetles will be kept in the Natural History Museum's entomology collection.

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