12 December 2009

"I say it is the sun."

"Pardon, old father, my mistaking eyes,
That have been so bedazzled with the sun

That everything I look on seemeth green"

No wonder beetles have inspired religious awe.

This member of the scarab family is not a dung beetle scarab like Khephri who had so much to do with the sun, but a chafer—a leaf eater and one of the 35 species of mainly Eucalyptus-munching Anoplognathus in Australia commonly called Christmas beetles.

In this household we call them bongers because this is the time of year they zzzzoom at night, banging into everything bongable. They always seem knocked cold, but get up groggily, to zoom again, out into the fragrant night. During the day, if you come across one on the ground, it's probably torpid, and it could be said to be the blessed sun.

This is the first time I've found one frozen in activity. The elytra (those hard, chitinous forewings that protect the membranous hindwings) are raised as though in flight. Usually, beetles die so neatly that one could think they were hyper-considerate to bereaved family members who have to pay by the micron for a coffin.

What is not shown in these pictures are the delicate transparent hindwings. They lie folded on the beetle's back. And excavating the treasures inside: a blur of ants.

No comments: