Monday, August 25, 2014

Hercules Beetle

Hercules at Insectorama- REK

A nose for beetles - REK
The Insectorama last Friday at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center was a success as usual.  One of our crew, Adam Lakey, was particularly "bugged" at the end.  After showing the kids and parents a shiny eastern Hercules beetle, he put it on his nose and wore it for close to an hour.  There is no better way to get the attention of kids.

Chris and friend - REK
The eastern Hercules beetle, Dynastes tityus, is said to be North America’s largest, most written about, and most photographed beetle.*  Most pictures are of males because of the dramatic horns which the females lack.  This beetle was certainly eye-catching, even to a seasoned biologist who has seen lots of them close up.  The picture is payback for the hundreds of similar pictures he has taken of kids with insects.

Female Hercules beetle finally gets some respect - REK
D. tityus is a creature of the forest, closely connected to the life and death of trees.  They are generally found from June to August when they are actively reproducing.  Eggs are laid in the summer and the grubs (larvae) live in the rotting heartwood of logs, depending on other insects and fungi to prepare their nursery over several years.  Pupation occurs in late summer with adults hibernating in pupal cells in decaying logs.  The finding of exceptionally large larvae suggests that some live two years before pupation.

Larva - M.J. Raupp
Buck's latest MN pin
One of the most interesting features of their life cycle is the males which battle for mating rights.  They will lock horns to contest mating sites, occasionally so preoccupied that a third guy sneaks in to set up house and watch the fight.  Science Friday explains this phenomena, using an Asian relative with a similar habit.

Adult Hercules beetles feed by scraping away tender bark to create flowing sap.  They are easy to keep as pets and available commercially, although I am not a fan of this practice which frequently results in a monoclonal population rather than natural breeding that produces a healthier, genetically diverse population.  If you are fortunate enough to catch one in the wild, you can keep it in captivity for a while, but then consider releasing it to multiply and continue its role in the food chain.**
Photo by Dr. Tom Riley
*    See the article from Beetles in the Bush.
**  See Bug of the Week for instructions.

No comments:

Post a Comment