Flight notes (beetle)

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Subject: Flight notes (beetle)
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2001 22:35:18 +1000

If no interest in beetles, delete now.

On an early morning walk in Bulimba (Brisbane suburb) I saw a large beetle in flight.  He was approaching a leafy ornamental tree with a view to joining others of his kind intent on making new beetles.  As he hovered, helicopter-like, deciding where to enter the canopy, any leafy twig immediately below him was strongly depressed by the down-draft - which initially surprised me, until I stopped to realise that if he had landed on such a twig it would have bent under his weight.

Sadly, when I checked the tree a couple of days later, all the beetles were dead on the ground.  I guess the householder didn't like them.  However it did mean that I could bring one home and measure it  -  47 mm long, and 30 mm wide.  Black in colour, two horns in front, it may be the Rhinoceros beetle which McKeown gives as "Dynastes gideon usually known as Xylotrupes australasicus" - but McKeown's "Australian Insects" being of 1944 vintage, the taxonomy may have been revised.

This morning I found a female (no horns) of the same species in another suburb.  She had fallen on her back and could not right herself.  She grasped my thumb with such a strong grip and with such sharp claws that it was impossible to pull her loose without injury to me - and almost certainly to her.  (I was able to persuade her that a nearby bush was a better proposition than my thumb and she walked onto it.)

I think it unlikely that any bird would try to eat one of these beetles.  They would be appreciably harder to crack than Christmas Beetles (recent postings).   Our cockatoos would have the 'equipment',  strength and technique, but not the appetite;  insectivorous species relying on bashing prey on a branch would find one a hard 'nut to crack'.  I recently watched a Noisy Friarbird despatching a smallish cicada.  It took quite an effort and the cicada escaped and was chased and recaptured three times before the bird was able to render it fit to swallow.  Bats, with strong jaws and suitable teeth, would do the job very well (Graham Turner's posting, 18/1/01)

Syd Curtis

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