Tuesday, July 21, 2009

BAD ATTITUDE BEETLE!


Several days ago, while working on a walkway project around the cottage, I flipped over a slab of cut limestone and found this rather formidable-looking fellow happily ensconced underneath. I expect we were each momentarily nonplused by the sudden sight of the other—though any temporary confusion was quickly supplanted by our respective quick actions…the big beetle began a clambering retreat, whereupon I promptly reached down and plucked him up, temporarily thwarting his escape.


At that point, much to the captured bug’s displeasure, I took a moment to better examine my prize.


The beetle was almost two inches long and nearly as broad as my thumb. When I placed him on the top of the flipped-over stone, he reared up, spreading his sharp-tipped mandibles wide like a steel trap, and looked ready and willing to fight, capable of holding his own. I had to chuckle at his menacing-bug chutzpah!

What I’d caught myself was a fine example of a male stag beetle—a reddish-brown stag beetle, to be more precise, Lucanus capreolu. The second largest species of stag beetle in Ohio; only the aptly-named elephant stag beetle is larger.
Some texts alternately list this as a common stag beetle, or for obvious reasons, a pinching beetle. The texts also state that in spite of the dangerous-looking mandibles, any delivered nip to, say, a fingertip, is mild, not at all painful. Uh-huh. I suspect too many days spent prattling about a lab with all manner of weird bugs for company might turn an otherwise perfectly decent entomologist into something of a practical joker, and have so far avoided personal research in verifying this no-pain claim. You, however, may believe those researchers and test your faith by offering up whatever body part you wish. Let me know how it goes…
Stag beetles are so named because the large, opposing vice-grip-like mandibles are reminiscent of the antlers on deer or stags. Like deer, male stag beetles also employ their “antlers” as weapons when fighting other males for mating privileges. Incidentally, the mandibles on female stag beetles are much smaller.
Stag beetles are slow-moving herbivores. They’re believed to feed on tree sap and perhaps aphid “honey-dew,” as well as leaves, though not much is actually known about the adult’s feeding habits. They are not harmful to plants or people (not counting how that fingertip in the mandibles might feel) and are more common than you might think, though are mostly seen at night after being attracted to some sort of light. Captive stag beetles—they can be kept as “pets” and can live a couple of years—are happy sipping sugar water like you’d use to fill a hummingbird feeder.
After a brief photo session I allowed my beetle to amble his own way and find a new hideout. But you might as well be forewarned…making his portrait has set me off on a phase of bug photography that has me collecting images almost every day. No doubt we’ll have another insect post in the near future…but, I promise, no spiders; I do have some restraint.




42 comments:

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

You picked that thing up????

Insects are so very interesting-
as long as they don't touch me.
I take that back- I can pick up cetain of them, but if they start moving fast (as in running up my arm) they get fluch one way and I run the other.

Thanks for the no spider policy.

Bonnie, Original Heart Studio said...

While I did appreciate your mini-tutorial on the "bad attitude beetle" (I suppose he is cute, or at least interesting to look at on paper), I much preferred yesterday's post about Thunderbirds and Buzzards. That photograph with the two of them in the shot was uber amazing.

Are you doing a "going through the alphabet backwards thing" here? Last week it was chickadees and cardinals - this week it is (Thunder)birds, buzzards and beetles. (I'm just showing off to the teacher/scribe that I'm following . . . closely.) :)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

I'm not overly thrilled myself with insects that do fast scuttles an arm. I don't have a hissy-fit, but I don't waste much time discouraging such antics, either.

These big beetles are really pretty slow and easy to handle, however. More intimidating in appearance than in handling.

The "no-spider" policy is not forever, but the post I did a couple of months ago will suffice, so far as I'm concerned, until something really interesting comes along…and I'm able to photograph it without undue embarrassment to my macho façade.

KGMom said...

So much to comment on...
first, interesting that the male inclination to display larger (fill in the blank) exists in beetledom.
Second, why restraint exhibited in eschewing spiders? I like spiders. And most beetles, though I have a few I am not wild about.
Finally, watch out for vertigo, as you swing your camera up for flying objects and down for crawling ones.

giggles said...

Oh COOL!!! These are "oh cools!" (Anything that you don't see everyday...is an "oh cool!" Ask my kids!!) Anything an arm's length or close-up, but far away? Even cooler!!

Great pictures of an "oh cool!" I, for one, will anxiously await more photos!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bonnie…

One cannot post photos and pieces on chickadees and buzzards every day. (Well, one could, but then what would I do with my wildflower, gray squirrel, and sunset photos?)

Nope…this is a well-rounded riverbank. We hold that all critters are created equal (except spiders) and deserve mention as the opportunity arises—while allowing that selections and decisions will be duly influenced by the quirky prejudices of yours truly.

Thus you might visit here one day and find something on beetles, only to come back the next to be absolutely thrilled with a recipe for, say, blackberry cordial. Or I could amuse you with the tale of a flirty redbird, then test your readership loyalty by subjecting you to my latest poetic effort.

It's this thrill of unknown adventure that's so compelling—the thirst for knowledge, the curiosity to see just what mess that fool has gotten himself into this time.

Which brings us to your perceptive questioning of whether or not my recent posts have been following a backwards path through the alphabet—chickadees, cardinals…then buzzards and beetles. (I suppose you're next expecting ants and anhingas, or possibly apples and aardvarks.) The answer is an emphatic "no!" Such a course would require planning and forethought, traits which I'm genetically incapable of pursuing for more than a brief period.

I rely instead on the beneficence of serendipity…and when that fails, I attempt another poem.

Carolyn H said...

I rather doubt the "no pain" claim with this beetle. It certainly has a mean-looking set of pincers, and I don't blame you for not wanting to test out that claim.

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

Point 1:

Of course…you'd pick up on that! Hey, what can I say, they're males—beetles, bulldogs, boys, doesn't matter: present yourself as big and bad as you can, then fight over females. (And after the fight, do that little head/shoulder shake thingy, scratch yourself, and go have a beer.)

Point 2:

Because, because, because…as confessed in that spider post of mine a while back, it is a phobia, an irrational fear, and neither logic nor magnanimity in the name of diverse subject matter can sway me from this admitted discrimination. (A really great photo, however, might; I'm heavily biased, though not completely closed minded.)

Point 3:

As to the vertigo…you're giving advice to a man who stands on rocks located in midstream, with water moving all around…and who regularly looks up at clouds in the sky and birds in the trees and then back down at his feet and fishing line and the moving water and…

I have to go now, I'm feeling dizzy.

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-\

Ummmmmmmmmm. eeeeeeeewwwwwwwwww

I am NOT a bug fan at all - nor would I pick one up or take it's picture. I don't bother them and I hope they treat me the same - no bother, no contact, no biting and so forth. eeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwww

so, enjoy or explore or root around or whatever buy thing makes sense about bugs. :-)

still love you though
Gail
peace......

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Well…whaddya know? I've photographed an "ah cool!" And in my own yard, too!

Ah, cool!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

Yup, I doubt the claim and don't care who says different. I've turned over too many rocks in creeks and picked up hellgrammites. I figure those mean-lookin' mandibles are there for a reason—and that reason ain't gonna be one of my precious tender body parts.

Nosireebob!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Wait til I show you some of my pretty and colorful beetle pictures…and the bees…and aphids…and weird crawly bugs that you won't believe are out there in your yard just waiting.

You'll become a bug fan!

Well, maybe not. But the ones here won't bite or sting or crawl up you—and hey, I'm a big wuss, too, so I'm not going to post really awful ugly scary stuff. (Okay, I might if it's a good photo.)

Take care—and congrats again on your 100th post!

Gail said...

Grizz-

thanks and you are way cool.

Brenda said...

Confession -- when I saw the bug picture (ah-hem -- beetle picture), I quickly scrolled down to the next post, shoulders shivering. But then I went back and studied the photo. What a beautiful creature -- like varnished mahogany. Okay, I looked, but I still wouldn't touch!

And thanks for the warm welcome you gave me a couple days ago, Grizz. You paint a picture of a different world in Riverdaze, and it's a refreshing place to drop in.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Thank you.

And I hope you still think so after my next insect posting. :-)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Brenda…

It's their colors that get me, too—and I mean beetles and insects in general. Some look frightening, some so weird they're almost other-worldly, others are just amazing when seen up close.

I'm not "into" bugs. But like I said, I've lately been photographing a lot of whatever I can find around the house—on flowers and trees, under rocks, wherever. And it's the incredible rich colors, some metallic or iridescent, and in patterns and pain schemes that simply boggle my mind, that draws me back.

Hey, I'm glad you've found the riverbank. It isn't fancy or anything special—but it's often fun, at least for me. I hope you always enjoy your visits; you're certainly always welcome.

Hundewanderer said...

Nice bug ;o)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Hundewanderer…

A nice bug, indeed…though I don't think the bug was all that impressed with me.

KGMom said...

Ah--a chink in the naturalist's armor.
I confess I missed the arachnid post on June 1--our daughter was visiting along with fiance and hence I was somewhat distracted.
I am not one to blanch at spiders. In fact, I do everything I can to save them if I encounter one in the house. I gather a kleenex, and try gently to relocate them. Occasionally, my effort fails, so I introduce them to the River Styx (aka the toilet).

Rowan said...

That first photo is quite superb Scribe and what a handsome beetle he is, such a beautiful rich brown. We only have one type in the UK, it's only found in south and south east England and is a rare and protected species now. I like beetles, they have a completely different effect on me to spiders - am glad to hear that we shan't be seeing any of those in the near future:)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Fantastic photography Scribe - that is one beetle with attitude and a magnificent specimen - can't say he is on my list of things I can't wait to see though.

Wanda said...

The only positive thing I can say about your menacing looking beetle is that he has a very nice mahogany color and sheen.

It is nice to know his vice like claws are weaker than they appear and that if I were to happen upon one I could safely keep it for a pet!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGM…

A chink for sure. Although, the older I get, the larger the spider it takes to induce horrified levitation; I'll jump for the medium-sized models, especially if I don't see them coming and am startled—but it takes one the size of a pit bull to pull a really notable performance from me nowadays.

And here you thought I was without flaw…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

I'm glad you like my beetle—and he is, indeed, a handsome fellow and nicely colored.

The large and now protected species of beetle you have over there, Lucanus cervus, is the first one recognized and named. Pliny the Elder mentions writings concerning them. Your beetle's mandibles are much larger than those on my reddish-brown stag beetle, more like those on our elephant stag beetle; but looking at the mandibles of your now rare species, it's easy where the "stag" name is derived, as the jaws do look much like the antlers of a stag.

Unfortunately, as your forests have disappeared, with their ancient trees and available rotting wood which the beetle needs, so to have the stag beetles declined.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

You'd have to look pretty hard in the U.K. to find one of your big stage beetles, but a male of your species would be even more impressive than this fellow.

Actually, while both reddish-brown and elephant stag beetles are fairly common hereabouts, you're only likely to see them at night. Like most beetles, they're attracted to bright lights. Encountering one during the daytime is unusual in my experience—you have to search under stones and logs to find them in their hideout.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

I think a big stag beetle is just what you need for a pet; your granddaughter would love it…or not. :-)

Now, let me make this perfectly clear, they say ("they" being unknown and possibly trustworthy sources) that such a beetle's pinch is weak. THEY might be lying. They might have simply tested a beetle suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome; or tried their fingertip out on a purely lazy beetle, or a pacifist beetle.

I don't know. But I do know I'm not going to take THEIR word for it.

BTW, several sources do admit that female stag beetles—an odd terminology—deliver a much harder pinch than their male counterparts. I suspected as much myself, just considering the smaller jaws might likely develop greater leverage. Of course, it could be that girl beetles are just badder than guys.

Kelly said...

I loved this post! I would have, no doubt, run the other way if I saw one slip out from under a rock, but I'm glad you picked him up and photographed him--and filled us in on his ways. I don't think I'm going to give those antlers a chance to pinch me either! The photos were great too!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kelly…

A slow walk would have done the trick. These aren't what you'd call fast beetles.

Glad you liked the piece and photos. And I say not wishing to field test the pinching power of those mandibles qualifies you as a smart woman with a healthy self-protection streak. You do have to question the folks who'd look at this critter, think…uh, wonder if them thangs pinch?…and stick a fingertip in to find out.…

Jain said...

Bring on the bugs! If your other photos are as good as these, I’ll very much look forward to them.

And it wouldn’t really kill you to photograph some eight-leggeds while you’re at it. The very act might well result in unexpected appreciation. Go for it, Scribe.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

No need to worry about the possibility of more bug pix…I have some nice ones already. I'm fussy enough about my photos that they'll be as good as I can come up with at a given time.

Eight-leggeds? Well, I do think those big yellow-and-black garden spiders you see in the late-summer are colorful—not pretty, mind you, as they're spiders and therefore incapable of "pretty"—and I will photograph the biggest, baddest, ugliest one around if I'm able to do so from a safe distance—and I get to say how far away "safe" is. But as to familiarity changing my attitude or lessening my phobia—fat chance. You're talking to a contrary old Irishman approaching the cusp of geezerhood and my ways are firmly entrenched—unlikely to waver, let alone change.

Anna said...

These are actually amazing close ups of the beetle, I be scared to get too too close.... Anna :)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Anna…

Well, in spite of the way this big ol' beetle posed, like a reared-back junkyard dog looking to savage your leg…he was pretty slow and harmless, more bluff than bite.

I appreciate your nice words regarding the photos. And whether this is your first visit or first comment to Riverdaze…welcome; I hope you make the riverbank a habit.

Aly Beth said...

How did you manage to get so close to it? That is insane!

~Aly

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Aly…

Well, I'm bigger, uglier, and I gave him my meanest look. Plus the working distance of my macro lens was about 12 inches. :-)

Anna said...

Habit it is! Added you to my reading list. Nice blog again, Anna :)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Anna…

Hey, glad to have you as a regular reader! But I'm even more pleased that you enjoy the posts.

Welcome to the riverbank!

Des said...

Thanks for having this on here, I took a picture of a dead one from my front porch and posted it on facebook to find out if someone I know knew what it was while I researched the bug online. =]

Grizz………… said...

Des…

Hey, you're welcome. Glad to have helped you solve the mystery, or at least added my own encounter with a live example. Fearsome looking critters, huh?

P.S. Drop by Riverdaze any time. You're always welcome.

landslug said...

Hi!
I found your site while looking up this beetle for a friend who found one in front of her house. Thanks for sharing these stories, and your photography is beautiful!

Grizz………… said...

Landslug…

Hey, thank you for dropping by—I'm glad you found the pix and enjoyed your visit. Please feel free to stop by often and don't hesitate to comment. You're always welcome.

P.S. I recently re-designed this blog, so most of the older photos—those of this beetle included—are not as big as I usually run my images; I still haven't gotten around to resizing the older stuff. But I've tried to improve these, in case you wanted a better look.

Clyde Vickers said...

I can truly attest to the fact that it felt like my hand was on fire when one of these guys sunk his mandibles into my hand.

Grizz………… said...

Clyde…

Lord, I'll bet that hurt! I'm glad to say I somehow managed to avoid having that ugly-looking critter clamp onto any of my precious and tender body parts while messing around taking the photos…and believe me, it wasn't for any lack of hostility on the part of that big bad beetle! But dumb as I can be, that was one bug I DID NOT want to experience personally.