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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33 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!!!!

Anonymous said...

Was digging up some old tree roots earlier and then discovered what seemed to be one of these crawling on my pants when I got back in the house.(Thought it was black but didn't really pay too much attention.) Plonked it back in the garden by those roots. Dayton, OH.

Andy Gross said...

I remember vividly as a kid, carrying one of these guys around in my front shirt pocket, grossing out the neighborhood girls. I also remember it pinching my finger hard enough, that I had trouble getting it to let go despite shaking my arms wildly.

Janet Hopper said...

Just had one of these pincher beetles on my patio a couple days ago! I was not fond of it's size.....eouuuuuw! Was interesting though.

Brian Milone said...

I found one where I planted some flowers yesterday by my door. The beetle wasn't doing to well because I sprayed that area with bug spray but luckily I scooped it up and put it in a container to save it and it worked it is doing much better now. I want to show my friends and family and once it gets stronger I will let it go.

Tracie McClanahan said...

We have had one on our front porch for the last few nights. He is pretty big. There is another one on our screen door but it is much smaller. I'm glad I found your site because I wasn't for sure what type of beetle it was or if those pincher looking things are dangerous lol. We live in Xenia, Ohio.

Alyssa raess said...

Found one this morning in southwest Wisconsin

Benjamin said...

Just had one in house in Northwest Ohio it was pinched on to my cats foot hat to cut it off with scissors it seemed pretty mean, and put the cat in a lot of pain.

Unknown said...

Just had one crawl across my living room floor. Owensboro KY

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great information! I've never seen them before in Parma Ohio until just a few days ago. I've found ten in my driveway, all turned upside down in the middle of the hot summer day. So weird! I flipped them over and put them in the neighbor's mulch away from my curious dog :)

Anonymous said...

HARMLESS!?you say that beetle is harmless it bit my brother.

Unknown said...

Found one on my porch tonight just South of dayton oh. It greeted me as I walked out of my door.

Anonymous said...

Just captured one that tried to take a chunk out of my son's thumb.. nasty looking things.. Jackson ohio

Andi said...

I opened the door to my back porch early this morning to let my cats out and there was a huge one on his back, on the steps. Maybe last nights rainstorm had washed him up there. He was on his back. Despite his size, I knew that midwestern beetle are fairly harmless. I turned him over and let him be. Mansfield, Ohio.

Unknown said...

I have one who has taken up residency on my screen door tonight. Columbus Ohio

Dzheremi said...

I found one not but two hours ago on my outside screen door. It would not let go of the screen easily for me to catch. I know someone from my church who is a bug enthusiast, and loves all kinds of creepy-crawlers (even the mature black widow female I found). This is the first time I've seen one of these (I live at the border of Pike/Scioto county), and I hope it is my last. My daughter and nephews, who live with me, are not afraid of anything and pick up every bug (and snake) they find, which terrifies me as parent/guardian.

Rhoda Lambert said...

I was sitting on the porch (July 12th) and one landed on my shirt. Pulled my shirt off and he was just hanging out. My 5yr old thought he was pretty cool. She has no fear of insects so she was touching him.

Anonymous said...

Had one in southeast ohio, vincent area. July 2017.

Unknown said...

Two tonight in Carmel, IN. First was on its back attached to the deck I am rebuilding (around dusk and I used a piece of cardboard to relocate into the yard) and second just landed on my screened in porch (around 10pm) when I turned on the outside light for a minute. Have kids and a large dog and have to admit they are freaking me out a bit... have seen these and the assassin bug for the first time this year. Any idea why all these new arrivals?

Kyle Hardesty said...

Up here in Coshocton county Ohio, I have seen alot of these this year. Well more than previous yrs and mostly at night fall. Playing around with one jus now outside, those Pinchers have quite a squeeze considering how small they are... Interesting enough for sure, thanks for the read.

Nikole Coppler said...

I have a lot of these at my house. I see one almost everyday for the last month or so. I try not to smash them if it can b helped. But they seem to b like a deer in headlights when someone gets close to them. I stepped on one just a little bit ago. It was on my porch in front of the door.

Anonymous said...

Just found one camping in Amherstburg,Ontario (not that far from Detroit,Mi)There is an almost dead tree across from us that I suspect is its home. Freaked me out as it bounced by.