Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pinching Beetles Ride Again!

Appearing somewhat ferocious and otherworldly, a large "Pinching Beetle", Lucanus capreolus, looks askance at the photographer. For reasons unknown, he was fooling around in the flowers of an ornamental bottlebrush buckeye when our crew came along and ferreted him out.

Wil Hershberger, Lisa Rainsong, Wendy Partridge and I were leading a nocturnal prowl last Friday night as part of the Midwest Native Plant Conference when we found the beetle.

ASIDE: The 8th annual Midwest Native Plant Conference was held last weekend, at Bergamo Center on the 160 acres of ground of Mount St. John near Dayton. This event is always packed with great speakers, vendors, and field trips and fills up fast. This year, registration opened in early February and all 175 slots were claimed by February 27. Get your seats early next year, and find out all of the details RIGHT HERE.

Anyway, back to the beetle. Pinching Beetles (there are other names, such as stag beetle, but I like this one) seem to be having a boom year. I've heard of many reports. For reasons unknown, at least to me, they apparently have boom and bust years. Most of the life cycle is spent deep in the rotting pulp of dead trees and downed logs, where the giant grubs happily nosh on decaying cellulose. I can only imagine the jackpot lottery hitting rush of elation a Pileated Woodpecker must feel when it drills down and strikes one of the tubular T-bones.

As for the pinching part, yes, they do, but no one will die. It's just a little bit of a nip, although the burly beetles sometimes are reluctant to relinquish their hold. I was the one who spotted the critter in the photos, and scooped him right up with no problems. Later, a less experienced coleopteran-handler in the group did indeed receive a pinch, after some careless finger placement. The "antlers" are normally used to spar with rival males during rutting (mating) season. I'm not making that up.

So, if you see one of these spectacular insects, do not entertain thoughts of pancaking it. Instead, take note that you are seeing one of our most sensational beetles, which is not a bug one encounters very often. It plays a vital role in the decomposition of dead timber - one of the myriad life forms that is dependent upon dead or "over-aged" trees.

I've written on Pinching Beetles before, and if this short piece hasn't sated your curiosity, GO HERE.

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