North America’s largest scarab beetle
March 4, 2011 18 Comments
As one of North America’s largest, most written about, and most photographed beetles, Dynastes tityus (eastern Hercules beetle) hardly needs an introduction. I photographed this male specimen from my collection back in December while testing my DIY diffuser for the MT-24EX twin flash and 100mm macro lens. It’s a good test subject for such – its glossy exoskeleton may be beauty to the eye but is the bane of flash photographers, and its nearly 60mm of length demand a huge subject-to-lens distance that gives even the largest lens-mounted flash a small apparent size. Nevertheless, the diffuser did a pretty good job of creating even illumination and preventing harsh specular highlights, giving almost the effect of an indirect strobe in a white box.
I hadn’t really noticed until I took the photos the dense adornment of setae (hairs) on the underside of the thoracic horn. While setae in insects most often perform a tactile function, the density and placement on the horns of the males of these beetles makes me wonder if they might serve more of a display function.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of this beetle amongst hobbyist breeders and its widespread occurrence across the eastern United States (and the internet), it is not one that I have encountered with much frequency myself. I suspect this is due to the position of Missouri near its western limit of distribution – likely a function of the species’ preference for moist treehole cavities with rotting wood in which the larvae can develop. This particular specimen was given to me many years ago by a nursery grower in Jefferson Co. during my first job out of graduate school - before I’d ever found one myself, but since then I’ve encountered perhaps half a dozen or so at blacklights in mesic forests across the eastern Ozark Highlands. Most recently (last summer) I found a female sitting on my driveway, apparently attracted to the mercury vapor lamp above the garage that I leave on occasionally during the months of June and July just for such purpose.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011