Friday, July 03, 2015

Beetle sign language

About that ten-lined June beetle: I went out in the night to turn off the hose, which had been soaking the ground under a tree that has been losing leaves in all this heat, and found a big beetle drowning in the drip bucket.

Does he bite? Well, no, he's a June beetle, and they're inoffensive. But then, angry and half drowned; could I trust him? I collected a stiff rhododendron leaf, and slipped it under him. He clutched at it so desperately that I carried him home on the leaf, left it on my desk while I finished with the hose and got out the camera, and found him still holding on for dear life. And he wouldn't let go, even when I pulled at him.

Grappling hook feet. With 6 of these, he's staying put wherever he chooses. They don't work on plastic buckets.

He finally consented to move over to a handful of hydrangea leaves. where I could dry him off more easily.

Sopping wet, and unhappy. He's got bubbles all over his face.

How do you know if a June beetle is happy? He fans out those high-heeled shoe sole antennae.

Happy June beetle. Photo from BugGuide, by Lynette. Creative Commons license.

While he was on my desk, all wet and miserable, he kept the antennae tightly folded; beetle-style fists. Quite expressive fists, even so.

"I can clobber you with these!"

Or panicky; "Get me out of here!"

(Don't you want to just tickle his furry tummy, as if he were a kitten?)

Or just giving up, totally depressed.

I dried him off with a soft, thick paint brush, and carried his leaves outside, with him holding on tight again.

In the morning, he was gone. He probably fanned out those antennae as he flew away.


  1. poor, poor june bug. I love Lynnette's photo, I'd seen it before but forgotten, one of the cutest bug pics around, in my opinion.

  2. What camera do you use? I live in South Florida, so the nights are full of bugs - I'd love to be able to photograph them as you do. What type of light do you put them under? My favorite is the one where the beetle looks like he is dancing - how did you get him to do that?? I also love the one where he is upside down and, yes, I'd love to tickle his little fuzzy belly. You have a gift of capturing all of your critters and anthropomorphizing them - I love it. I've been reading your blog and admiring your photos for a couple of years now......and they just get better and better.

  3. Sara, agreed; that's a gorgeous photo!

    Susan, I am using a Nikon D7000 camera with a 40mm lens.
    As for lighting, it depends where the critters are, and how co-operative they are. I have a couple of very bright desk lamps for general lighting, the flash on the camera, and a slave flash with a diffuser off to the side, usually. If I can, and the day is bright enough, I take things outside for more natural light.

    In the tank, I sometimes add a small flashlight to illuminate shadows, or to help the camera focus.

    The photo where the June beetle is "dancing" was not mine; I credited it to Lynette, at BugGuide.

    The way I see it, I don't "get" the critters to do anything; I just catch them being themselves.

    Thanks for your good words!


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