Don’t try this at home

In mid June as I busied myself with morning duties at the family farm, my uncle called my attention to something quite large meandering about in verdant grass near a pasture gate.  It didn’t take long to find the critter given its size—over 2.5 inches/50 mm in length, not including antennae or legs.

Despite the lack of light (the sun had not yet risen), I snapped some photos of the beetle while it crawled along.

A hardwood stump borer (Mallodon dasystomus) crawling in dew-covered grass (20120615_00340)

Crawling, that is, right toward my foot.

A hardwood stump borer (Mallodon dasystomus) crawling through grass toward my foot (20120615_00343)

Then onto my shoe.

A hardwood stump borer (Mallodon dasystomus) crawling up my shoe (20120615_00345)

And up my sock.

A hardwood stump borer (Mallodon dasystomus) crawling up my sock (20120615_00346)

Onto my leg.

A hardwood stump borer (Mallodon dasystomus) crawling on my leg (20120615_00347)
A hardwood stump borer (Mallodon dasystomus) crawling on my leg (20120615_00348)
A hardwood stump borer (Mallodon dasystomus) crawling on my leg (20120615_00349)

Eventually coming to rest just above my ankle.

A hardwood stump borer (Mallodon dasystomus) perched on my sock (20120615_00353)

It amazed me the strength I felt where each foot gripped my skin.  Given its size, this critter was understandably strong.

But—as always—the time came to stop dallying and get on with the morning’s work.  So I plucked the beetle from its perch and held it long enough for one final shot.

A hardwood stump borer (Mallodon dasystomus) held in my fingers (20120615_00331)

Which shows precisely why this is an arthropod who can do harm: just check out those jaws!  The mandibles on this insect are massive.  And given the strength of something this size, trust me when I say they can grab a good deal of skin in those chompers.  (I tested that theory with a fingertip, usually the toughest bit of skin on a human body.  The beetle totally caught my attention when it grabbed me.)

So it’s best to leave them be, let them go on their way, and not challenge fate by putting yourself in a position to feel this beetle’s best defense—biting.

— — — — — — — — — —

This is the third entry in my intermittent series of posts focused on arthropods that can be dangerous if mishandled.  The first entry—about wheel bugs—is here, and the second entry—about black widow spiders—is here.

Photos are of a hardwood stump borer (Mallodon dasystomus).  I suspect it’s a male but can’t say that with certainty.

And my apologies for the lack of quality in these photos.  As I mentioned, I took these just before sunrise, so there was little light with which to work.  Since I’m loath to use flash—trust me, I tried a few times in this case only to remember why I hate it—these were the best I could capture.

4 thoughts on “Don’t try this at home”

  1. Is that a tattoo on your ankle, Jason? Better be careful; the beetle might mistake you for a leafy stump and try to bore right on in. Great post, as always, even if the images all weren’t up to your regular standards.

    1. Yes, Scott, that’s a tattoo–covered with dew, dirt, pollen and grass seeds. I hadn’t thought of it making me a target, but now you’ve made me paranoid. Well, OK, almost paranoid. Oh, not even a little paranoid, yet at least mindful.

      Truth is, I hadn’t thought about my tattoos and what they might look like from a wildlife perspective. Now, if not worried, at least I’m aware.

  2. I’m glad you told me these existed. If I saw one here, I would probably think, at first glance, that it was a happy little patent-leather beetle. Now, I’ll look more closely at the front end. Is the wood borer equally shiny on top?

    1. They’re shiny, Joy, but more importantly the patent-leather beetle is grooved along the abdomen. The difference should be obvious in most cases–the stump borer is slick and smooth whereas the patent-leather has obvious lengthwise ribs.

      Of course, that assumes consistency, something nature likes to ignore!

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