Stag Beetles

While walking at dusk yesterday with an over-excited pug I was slightly startled to encounter three stag beetles flying haphazardly with a metallic flittery noise, like tinnitus.

They were cumbersome and heavy-looking things; and without the efficiency usually displayed in most insects - and they moved as if they were testing the mechanics of flight and just managing to lift off. I felt sorry for them, butting and dinging into scrubby bushes and chain-mail fences with their split carapace and grand mandibles and sense of purpose. They had a sort of blind reproductive fervour about them.

I'm wary of anthropomorphising but I hope they made it, wherever and whatever 'it' is. Such a lot of time went into making them what they are. It takes seven years for a stag beetle to incubate, and the males fly between late May and August with most of them dead by Autumn.

The web tells me they were also called billywitches, oak-ox, thunder-beetle and horse pincher - what wonderful names - and are most likely to fly on humid, thundery evenings. I hope to see them again - I remember my father showing me a magnificent one in France when I was seven.

I went for another crepuscular walk tonight (sorry, I love that word) but the atmosphere was completely different - clear and fine - and there were no sightings of billywitches this time.


Popular Posts