Nov 10, 2014 - Arthropods, Insects    No Comments

Peg Beetle




Odontotaenius disjunctus

Range:  North America, especially the United States.

Habitat:  Decaying wood.

Diet:  Decaying wood.

Size:   Between 1 and 2 inches.

This rather unassuming beetle goes by many names, such as peg beetle, Bess beetle, patent leather beetle, and wood beetle.  My sister (who is holding the beetle in this picture) and I have always called them wood beetles before now, but it was only recently that we were aware that they were more commonly called peg beetles.  There are around 500 species of similar beetles worldwide.  According to one site which I used for research, this beetle has a “monopoly in the North American geography.”  This species is more common in the southern parts of its range, that is, the southern United States.  It is true that in my area, almost any rotting log conceals many of these beetles, and they can be found by a quick dig with a stick.  Adults and larvae inhabit the same galleries, until the larvae pupate and mature, after which they will sometimes leave the log and find another.

Sep 20, 2013 - Gastropods, Mollusks    3 Comments

Spotted Leopard Slug


Limax maximus

Range:  Invasive throughout much of the world.

Habitat:  Moist places in general.  For instance, under rotting logs, in old stumps, underneath rocks and leaves, between the layers of siding on a house, etc.  This one was in a pile of old lumber that was lying around.

Diet:  Mostly rotting matter and living plants.

Size:  The maximum is about 4 inches.

Well, I know that you’re probably thinking, “Eww!  It’s a big, slimy, gross, ugly slug!  And it has spots!”  However, slugs are some pretty interesting animals.  For instance, the slime on a slugs body, which is actually mucus, combined with an extremely soft body allows slugs to crawl over objects as sharp as kitchen knives without a scratch on them.  In fact, one of the only effective (and least disgusting) way to kill slugs is to put salt on them.  As slugs rely on moisture to live, the desiccation of their bodies will kill them instantly.  These animals are very versatile, able to eat many different things and at home where ever there is dampness and decay.

At least he knows that his meal isn’t going anywhere.

Jul 29, 2013 - Arthropods, Insects    No Comments

Stag Beetle


Lucanus elephus

Perhaps its habits are not so strange as to be astonishing, but what the Elephant Stag Beetle (also known as a Pinch Bug) loses in technique it makes up in style. Truly fitting both the name of elephant and stag, the males of this species have both size and they “may bear paired jaws fully as long as the rest of the beetle.” (The Audobon Society Encyclopedia of Animal Life p. 429) Yes, I said jaws. They may look like antlers, horns, or some other strange cranial apparatus, but they are in fact enormous mandibles. I, unfortunately, was not able to photograph a male beetle, so I instead have only a humble female. They, however, still have fairly large jaws. Imagine this beetle, but with jaws about three times as long. The enormous jaws possessed by the male are used in fierce duels with other males over a female. The males wrestle violently with each other, each trying desperately to overturn his opponent. Once one of them has been turned topsy-turvy, the other has won the hand – or mandibles, perhaps – of the female, and the loser is left on his back to struggle his way back onto his feet.

Found in eastern North America, and mostly in the eastern United States, these beetles live in rotting wood and vegetation, which their larvae eat. I am not sure what the adults eat… and I still cannot figure out how the males eat when they have jaws as big as themselves.