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Eastern Hercules Beetle!

A while back, John Howard emailed me with the news that he had discovered an excellent specimen of our largest beetle, and would I like to photograph it? Of course I would, and John was kind enough to keep the animal in captivity until I could make my way to Adams County a week or so later. When I finally arrived, the beetle was none the worse for the wear, and we set out to liberate it and make some photos in the process.
An Eastern Hercules Beetle, Dynastes tityus, a true Coleopteran titan. These insects probably aren't very rare, at least in southern Ohio, but they're hard to find and even people who are in the field a lot don't encounter many of them. I've never lucked into one in the wild, so I was excited to have the chance to make images of this specimen.

A dime inserted into the photo offers scale to the big bug. Those rhino-like horns are the most conspicuous feature of a Hercules Beetle, other than its extreme size. The males use them to joust with one another during mating season, apparently. Even though it looks like this thing could put a serious pinch on one's fingers, I doubt it could do any real harm.

These beetles are quite variable in appearance. Their overall coloration and pattern of spotting is apparently influenced by the environmental conditions in which they are spawned. Whatever their color, a Hercules Beetle can live a long time (for a bug) - six months or so as an adult. The live perhaps three times longer than that as the larval stage - huge wood-boring grubs that live in rotting wood. Finding one of these grubs is the stuff of Pileated Woodpeckers' dreams!

The group of beetles in the subfamily Dynastinae are sometimes referred to as "Rhinoceros Beetles", for obvious reasons. The members of this group are behemoths, and the Hercules Beetle is one of the largest beetles in North America. This spectacular bug was actually featured on a 1999 U.S. Postal Service stamp, a fitting recognition if you ask me.

Here's a brief high-def video of the beetle, courtesy my 5D Mark III. As soon as we set the animal on this branch, it set about grazing the moss from the bark. It didn't do a lot otherwise, except twitch its antennae. Soon after these photos and this video were made, we left the beetle in a safe spot not far from where John initially found it, and here's hoping it goes on to help spawn more of these fabulous beetles.


Anonymous said…
A beautiful insect. I used to find these in my house (early 1800s log set on a rubble foundation) I haven't had any since I did some caulking at the baseboards.

Thanks for your blog posts. I've learned a lot about my outside environment from you!
Char in southern Indiana

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