05 September 2009

Waco beetle invasion

We interrupt your regularly scheduled "SW adventures, day 8" post to bring you an invasion of beetles! We're back in Waco, and there are beetles everywhere.

It's like the end of the world - but it's not! This afternoon, Matt summoned me to the backyard to investigate what looked like a swarm of low-flying cicadas. They seemed a bit small for the regular beasts, but certainly bonked into trees, fences and walls often enough. I grabbed the camera and Matt grabbed the field guide and with our forces combined, we bring to you the Fig Beetle (Cotinis mutabilis):

There must have been about two dozen of the creatures loitering about the yard. Most hovered 1-3 feet off the ground, some snuck over the fence into the neighbor's yard and others levitated into the trees. Oddly enough, they are far more skilled at their flight navigation than cicadas, bonking into pretty much everything except Matt, Anakin and myself. Puppy paid no attention unless one zoomed past his nose, which garnered only the turn of his head in response.

Of course, having seen a few of these before (singly or dead), I somehow deemed them unthreatening enough to pick up. Indeed, I survived. Even the pair that was mating was unphased by close photography. Apparently Fig Beetles are considered a crop pest (they seem to favor skinned fruit), but they're quite endearing...

From our simple observations with the pair above, our guess is that the female tends to be a bit wider than the male. You can also see a little bit of color difference, but that could just be individual variation. A bit more reference digging will be fun. They seem to have surfaced just after our first decent rain in months. When the critters did land, they either made a beeline to the top of the nearest vegetation to climb to the top and fly away... or they headed directly under the nearest bit of leaf debris.

Itchy little feet, they have. But very photogenic, regardless. Matt was kind enough to take the portrait of me, below - and I snuck a portrait of him with his little crawly buddy.

...and now we return you to your regularly scheduled blog perusal. Day 8 will be up shortly!

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