Thursday, June 21, 2012

Joys of Country Living- Part I of 4

Male- dorsal view- click to enlarge
I was standing in my stocking feet on a throw rug in the Bull Mill's kitchen fixing breakfast when the first morning adventure began.  I lifted my foot and felt a pull on the sock and heard a velcro-like sound.  On closer inspection, there was a creature clinging to the toe of my sock and the rug at the same time.

My new friend was a male Reddish-brown Stag Beetle (Lucanus capreolus).  The prominent sickle shaped mandibles are used by males to fight for the females' favors.  Females have small mandibles which are hard to see.  The males also have antler-like antennae that are the source of the name capreolus, a Latin word translated "roe deer".

Male- ventral view
When I picked it up or moved it around, it raised its head and thorax in an aggressive pose.  They are also known as "pinching beetle" and their pincers are said to produce only a "little nip", a hypothesis I didn't test. 

The adult beetle is nocturnal and feeds on tree sap.   The larva feeds on the inner wood of old trees and stumps, living for 2 years before pupating in the soil.

As I was writing this, he appeared to be sleeping or dead in his box, but once I put him on a cutting board he woke up, possibly sensing what a "cutting board" is used for.  You can see his response to the touch of a pencil.   What he lacks in size, he makes up in attitude as you can see in the video below.

No beetles were harmed in making this blog- he is back in nature, minus my sock.

More pictures at and a fighting pose is at this link.


  1. Hi - my dog found one of these in our yard tonight. When I finally got the dog away from the beetle, it exhibited the exact behavior that you described. I think it may have tried to pinch my dog and lost part of it's pincher in the process. I researched a little more and found that they are not poisonous. Thanks for your blog!

  2. Great observation. This is one of many examples of fearsome appearing insects that are essentially harmless. Some such as solitary bees are innocent, others such as some social wasps are only a risk to us when they defend their nests around our house.

    The ultimate example extends to finding a venomous snake in the wild. They aren't a risk to us immediately, but there is a natural reflex to kill anything that is a potential risk. Sometimes we just need to think about where they are, what they do, then take a deep breath and enjoy the experience.