Monday, July 22, 2013

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. Finally, I dropped by Kathy Wallace's home, as she had tipped me to the discovery and capture of the protagonist of this story. I asked her if she'd please put the Pinching Beetle into captivity, as I'd like to do a shoot with it, and she was kind enough to do so.

Pinching Beetles are fairly large as bugs go, and coupled with the large mandibles, they're enough to cause an entomophobe to faint. But as nearly all of these things are, they're totally harmless - all bark and no bite. Still, as can be seen by its scale as compared to your narrator's hand, a Pinching Beetle is a whole lotta bug.

This insect also goes by the name of Reddish-brown Stag Beetle, but I prefer the Pinching Beetle moniker. There is an even larger species, the Giant Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus, which also has bigger mandibles. I've not seen that one, and have only seen about three of this species. I suspect that they're not that uncommon, but stay largely out of sight and out of mind. The larvae spend their existence burrowing through decaying wood, and the adults are mostly nocturnal. Adults feed on tree sap and probably the sap of rotting fruit, and if all goes well, one of these giant beetles can live for a year or more.

As nasty as those "antlers" look, the beetle can't exert enough force to do anything but give a slight squeeze. I'm not sure what their purpose is; perhaps sparring with other males like deer in rut? Or perhaps intimidating would-be enemies. It may be that the males with the largest rack are the most desirable to females? The girl beetles, by the way, have greatly reduced mandibles that are scarcely noticeable, at least in comparison to those of the male.

Pinching Beetles occasionally come to lights, so perhaps if you are lucky you will have this face staring at you when you step out onto your porch.

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12 comments:

Sally Moore said...

This actually has nothing to do with this particular blog, although this is a fantastic insect! I saw you at Beyers Woods and we had a talk about your Panasonic camera that you were very happy with. I would love you to tell me exactly which one it was. You told me but I had nothing to write on and so have forgotten. I only remember you were very happy with it, and it was fairly light weight, and had a great zoom on it. I'm into getting a new camera and would like to check out one like yours. Can you help?

Jim McCormac said...

Hi Sally, it's the Panasonic FZ200, and my experience with it and other Panasonic cameras has been very good!

Bruce Lindman said...

You can tell me how harmless this is until you're blue in the face...I'm still not sticking my finger between those things.

mangoverde said...

Jim, I recently had one of these come to my black light in my urban Cincinnati yard.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mangoverde/9350193661/

maxwell huber said...

Just had one wiz by my head and into a a closed sliding door thankfully. Scared the deal out of me when I saw what it was lol. Hope there was only one lol. Urban Northeast Columbus

Phaedra and Zoe said...

So glad you posted this. I just had one zoom by me and land at my feet. Got a good photo and needed to know what it is.

Gore Raper said...

I've had a few of these show up on my porch in Cincinnati in an incapacitated state. They're still alive but they just lie on their back moving their limbs around slightly. I tried to set the back on their feet to no avail.

amy riffle said...

We were lucky to see one. Scared the bajesus out of us. Thank God we saw your blog!!!!

Chris said...

We just found one of these in our basement last night--nasty surprise! Glad they're not as lethal as they look!

Balanced Touch Massotherapy & Wellness said...

Just had one near an outside wall lantern. Good to know it isn't as mean as it looks! NE Ohio between Cleveland and Sandusky

Caitlin Callahan said...

They aren't necessarily harmless as my boxer got ahold of one last night and we had to pry it from his cheek

Anonymous said...

Just saw one in broad daylight in my yard in Michigan!! Freaked me out!!!!