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