The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

No fair, you jerk beetles.

One of the things I was REALLY looking forward to during my stay here was some new culinary experiences.  I REALLY want a taste of what people here call “country food”:  food hunted off the land and netted out of the ocean.  Caribou, duck, goose, arctic char – the traditional diet of the Kugluktummiut.  

So what does any of this have to do with my current state of snarkiness towards beetles?  This:

CARIBOU OMNOMNOM

Two recently-skinned caribou hides were left behind by a hunting party, and a few Northern Carrion Beetles (Thanatophilus lapponicus) were contentedly feasting away.  Dozens of sleek black larvae hurriedly skittered away when I flipped the skins.

CARIBOU OMNOMNOM

So these jerk-face beetles get caribou, and I don’t???  Totally not fair ~sulk~. (Seriously.  I’ve been here for 3.5 weeks, and not a bite of anything new.  Boo.)

When I pointed these critters out to my bear monitor last week, he (rather nervously) asked, “But are they dangerous to humans?”  I told him no, that they were important natural recyclers and nothing to worry about.   In fact, the only negative thing I can think of regarding these rather handsome beetles is the unpleasantness of finding a pitfall trap full of them.  The ferocious stench of the decaying flesh upon which they’ve fed permeates the entire catch, and their presence signals a mishap; some small rodent has drowned in the trap and now must be fished out.  Entirely unpleasant.  In fact, I have several specimens waiting in alcohol to be pinned, and I’ve been putting it off just because I know they’ll be icky and stinky.  It’s too bad such a nice-looking insect comes with such an inelegant perfume.

And now for something completely different, in part so you can have a feel for one of the “hazards” of field work in the north, but mainly just so you can point and laugh:

It was bound to happen eventually.  It’s been rain, rain, and more rain, and the land is like a sponge, never fully drying.   It took over an hour for my assistant to free us, as I stood in the wings snapping pics and making helpful comments like, “Boy, we’re really stuck, huh?”

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10 responses to “No fair, you jerk beetles.

  1. peteryeeles July 15, 2010 at 11:54 PM

    Was his sweater still white when he had finished?

    A mate of mine was camping in the sticks, and had the unfortunate experience of having a carrion beetle fly to the camp light and land in his dinner! He decided to go hungry that night… any other beetle and he said he would have fished it and and tucked in.

    • TGIQ July 16, 2010 at 10:40 AM

      White? More like chocolate brown. That kid wears that white hoodie almost every day, and the next day it’s clean again…his mom must be doing a ton of laudry.
      And “ew” about getting a carrion beetle in a meal…I’d be putting down my plate too.

  2. jason July 17, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    I’m not sure which makes me giggle more: you being upset about the beetles enjoying caribou before you get to, or your helpful comments while he worked to free the Honda.

  3. mthew July 19, 2010 at 9:28 PM

    I want a bear monitor. Could be handy in the city.

  4. Warren July 20, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    Hey no worries, I will kill lots of stuff and hook you up with bushmeat back east…

  5. Pingback: Buggy fun with Kug kids « Fall To Climb

  6. Pingback: Forgotten Photo Friday: carrion beetle (Nicrophorus tomentosus) « Fall To Climb

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