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:
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.
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?”