They found a beetle!

Do you remember, when younger, how carefully you picked up a small creature on sheet of paper or card in order to deposit out of the window or in the garden?

Well, yesterday I saw two…err…grey haired ladies walking along the pavement studying something on a newly purchased magazine and in their turn being studied by a mother and her brood of youngsters. It was obvious to my trained eye that these ladies, both known to me as they live down our road, had found something interesting on the pavement.

Being me, I stuck my nose in. Not too close you understand but just over their shoulders. here, on the multi coloured cover of a copy of…..  and being shileded by a ten pound note was a beautiful female Stag Beetle (Lucanu cervus) standing in that typical pose with her mandibles open and stock still.

Female Stag Beetle: Copyright Dan Tunstall Pedoe 2005

Female Stag Beetle: Copyright Dan Tunstall Pedoe 2005

I was immediately transported back to my chidhood and our garden backing onto Blean Woods in Kent, U.K.

A wealth of wild life lived in the area of coppiced Chestnut behind our house. Violets, blue bells, wild strawberries, Willow herbs, slow worms, adders, night jars that churred away on summer nights and hawked for insects at dusk on their long slim wings. I never saw one sucking milk from a goat…but we didn’t have any goats…which mythical habit is where they get their other name of goatsucker.

There were huge piles of leaves and twigs  with thousands of centimetre long woodants scurrying to and fro. Sometimes they carried their prey with them like this wasp

That's him done for.

That's him done for.

A favourite trick was to pick the blue bells and lay them onto the wood ants nest where they would turn pink. My first interaction with a chemical Indicator. The Formic acid ejected by the ants reacted with the blue colouring  in the Blue bells to turn it pink.  I learned this trick when I saw an apparently pink bluebell growing out of an ant’s nest. The first time I took my bunch of pink blue bells home iwas immediately deflated by my know all mother who said, “Oh, you put them in an ant’s nest did you?” (and she used to call me Know All) That didn’t stop me trying the same trick with wild violets. I must say that I had limited success with them.

If you cook red cabbage and you live in a hard water area you may well see a similar thing happen. If you keep the red cabbage water and play with it by adding vinegar and then adding washing soda you should be able to change the colour of the water. I wonder if it works with beetroot water?

Many years later, at College, a friend (okay…. a girlfriend) gave me a copy of Martin Pippin in the Daisy Field by Eleanor Farjeon which she inscribed with a verse by Ogden Nash,

The ant hath made himself illustrious

By constant industry industrious.

So What!

Would you be calm and placid

If you were full of Formic Acid?

from A. Chemist

Let’s get back to our lady stag beetle. She of the Short Sharp Mandibles.

I informed my neighbours as to the identity of the creature and reminded them that it is a protected species and that they should release it in a suitable place. Sooner said than done , but we managed to find some rotting logs for her to lay any eggs beside.

The two ladies wondered how I knew that it was a female of the species. I informed them that it was simple. Pointing out the short mandibles I explained that I had been given a nasty sharp nip by one as a child and have continued to have nasty nips from females ever since. Luckily they both had a sense of humour. The mandibles of the female stag beetle are indeed stronger than those of the male.

Here he is. In all his glory!

Here he is. In all his glory!

The males us their mandibles to tussle for territory and mates I believe. Not much different there then.

The larva of the beetle spends up to seven years feeding of rotten wood before metamorphosing into the magnificent creature that we see from time to time.

Stag beetle Larva. Copyright: Ashely Woods

Stag beetle Larva. Copyright: Ashely Woods

I cannot help but wonder if these large juicy creatures make good eating. I suspect that Badgers might think so.

As I said, Stag Beetles are protected by law and are a lot more rare than in the past.

If you want to help these fantatstic animals the this link will tell you how…..Oh,and whilst looking for a suitable link I found out ...that the Roman’s ate the larvae!


5 Responses to “They found a beetle!”

  1. Grannymar Says:

    I love your nature trails.

    Now tell me… do bees have varicose veins? there was a bee on my window ledge the other day and the back legs were bright red and bulging. By the time I got the camera and went outside it had gone.

    Do we get Green stink bugs in this country? A big green bug landed on my arm the other day and that is what it looked like.

  2. magpie11 Says:

    Thank you! I do trail on a bit tho’.

    The red legs may well have been red pollen in pollen baskets….very close veins? really!

    Well, if you Google “stink bugs” and select “from U.K.” (or Ireland ?) then go to images you’ll find pictures….I had to check that we were on the same wavelength as I call them Shield Bugs because that’s what many of them look like. I get them in my garden!

  3. magpie11 Says:

    In Mexico Stink Bugs are eaten both live and cooked (for instance in a pate or salsa) since their pungent odour gives a dish an aromatic flavour.


  4. Grannymar Says:

    It was shield shape.

  5. Ike Johnson Says:

    so i was on a camping trip this past weekend and some of the people with me stumbled upon one and killed it….they brought it back to the camp fire and put forth a challenge to everyone… someone needs to eat it… me being slightly overly outgoing volunteered and i dropped it into the ashes and cooked it awhile then popped it in my mouth and chewed… it wasn’t bad… just a little smelly haha….

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