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.
Crawling, that is, right toward my foot.
Then onto my shoe.
And up my sock.
Onto my leg.
Eventually coming to rest just above my ankle.
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.
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.
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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.