Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Big Bad Beetle

On a recent morning, I walked the dog in the back yard for a while, then returned to the house, using the rear steps. As soon as I opened the back door, the dog dashed inside. When I started to walk into the house, a small voice said, "Go look by the side steps". Because of past experiences, I didn't hesitate. I quickly closed the door and headed down the side steps, toward the yard light, wondering what was in store for me, now. 

I soon spotted a big beetle, furiously flailing on its back, with a column of Fire Ants marching nearby. I picked up a stick, for the beetle to grab onto, and lifted him out of the sand and away from the ravenous ants. He crawled up the stick and onto my left hand, where he desperately clung to my finger. His sharp little claws dug into my skin, as he fastened himself to me. I excitedly chirped, "Ouch, Ouch, Ouch", as I hastily headed for a shady spot, to examine him more closely. 

He was big and olive-yellow in color, with brown spots on his back and shiny black horns on his head. It was the elusive male Eastern Hercules Beetle, that I had been hoping to photograph, for nearly a year. Last August, I had rescued and released a female Eastern Hercules Beetle. She had knocked herself out by flying into a wooden fence in the back yard. I had been searching for a horned male since I realized how beautiful their species was.

I took him inside the house, thinking that he could better recover from his overnight ordeal, away from the scorching sun. I walked into my bedroom, wondering what I could do to make him more comfortable. As I silently sat on my bed, he calmed down and loosened his gator grip on my finger. Then he slowly crawled off of my hand, and onto my pillow, where he promptly went to sleep.

While he rested, I did some more online research on his species. Every few minutes, I would look over my shoulder, to make sure that he didn't disappear on me. I could imagine the surprise of rolling over on a big bad beetle, lost in the sheets, in the middle of the night.

Over an hour later, when I looked back for the millionth time, he was nowhere to be seen. Horrified, I jumped up and ran over to the bed. I was relieved to see him lazily crawling to the back side of the pillow.

I decided that it was a good time to take him back outside, for some photographs under a shade tree. He wouldn't stay still for long, but I got a few good shots of him, before taking him back inside. This time, to be on the safe side, I placed him in a large plastic container, with plenty of holes in the lid. I poured a little bit of maple syrup in one corner, for him to feast on. In the wild, they feed on tree sap, but I didn't have any of that to offer him. 

After a while, I heard him scratching and moving around in the container. When I checked on him, I saw that he was face down in the corner, lapping up the maple syrup. Like a cheerful child playing in mud, he had it all over his legs and face. I picked him up, to make sure that he wasn't going to drown, but he appeared to be having a syrup sipping good time. To make the container a bit more homey, I added a large piece of bark, for him to rest on. He seemed to like the new crib.

I attempted to release the male Eastern Hercules Beetle late last night, near the yard light. I took him out of the container and, when my finger was finally liberated from his death grip, put him on the ground. After over two hours, he still hadn't gone anywhere, so I returned him to his freshly-cleaned container for another stay in the house. I added a small piece of ripe banana and poured some more maple syrup in a ranch dressing bottle cap for him. He quickly went face-first into the banana slice, and was later seen sleeping on top of it. I guess that he must enjoy bananas as much as I do, although I can't recall ever sleeping on one. He totally ignored the syrup, when offered the banana option. I think that I will nickname him "Nanner Man", since he is so fond of them.

Fortunately, that afforded me another photo opportunity with him, after the sun came up the following day. Many hours later, when I first woke him up, he was lethargic and ornery, like he didn't want to be bothered. I gently rinsed the banana residue off of him with some warm water, to which he vehemently objected. When I took him outside, he flinched at the intensity of the sunlight, but once we got under a shady oak tree, he mellowed out. He crawled onto my left thumb, cinched himself to my skin, and posed for several close-up photographs. He soon became disinterested, though, and detached himself from my thumb. He then proceeded to climb up my arm, painfully poking me the whole way. I decided that it was time to take him back inside, before he tenderized my neck.

Male Eastern Hercules Beetle

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