Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Little Ox

I thought this was a stag beetle at first, given the horns. And it belongs to the same superfamily as a stag beetle. But it's in the scarab family, the subfamily of rhinocerous beetles, and the genus of ox beetles. And to make things more interesting, this particular species has "major" and "minor" males....

Strategus aloeus, Family Scarabaeidae (Scarab Beetles). Mary and I found this one moseying down the street around 7 PM on Monday. We coaxed him onto a manila envelope and took him out of squish range onto a neighbor's driveway. After the photo shoot, Mary set him down on a lawn. We spent some time trying to remember what direction he was headed when we'd first scooped him up.

This little one measured about 35mm. He's a bit small for his species, which ranges from 30 to 60mm. When I got a little too close for his comfort, he pulled his head into his shell, much the way a turtle does.

According to Bugguide.Net, the males of this species come in "major" and "minor" varieties. The major male has two large posterior horns, while the minor male's horns are stubby. The female has no horns at all. This species of ox beetle (one of five US species of the genus Strategus) ranges from Arizona into southeastern United States and southward into South America.

The Beetle Experience adds that an adult lives for approximately four months after spending about a year as a grub. This is a fruit-eating beetle and one of the most widespread of the ox beetles in the United States. "Females will lay their eggs in substrates ranging anywhere from middle-decayed wood, to flake soil. Adding crushed leaves to the substrate will often help egg production."

More details can be seen in the large views of the side and front view shots, shown in these links both with and without flash (click the magnifying glass).

I've been continuing with the next-to-last chapter of Book #4, having now done 52 consecutive days (and 66,978 words) of writing. Yesterday's work was quite low on word count (80) but was devoted mainly to review and tweaking, and puzzling out in my journal how I wanted to transition from the beginning part of the chapter to the climax. Before I started figuring that out I spent three days drafting the last part of the chapter, which I could better envision because I'd had it playing in my head for a while.

My journal scribbling and today's writing have given me better insights into a character whom I originally intended to have die early in Book #5. Now I realize that he has to live a little longer because he has more to contribute to the drama. (I'm enjoying getting to know him better, too -- and I suspect I'll be giving him more airtime earlier in #4 as I redraft.)

On the other hand, one of the characters I originally thought would die at the end of Book #3 has fulfilled his role in #4 and has made his exit into the afterlife after a proper, let's say partial, redemption. (I spent three days writing his big scene, which involved my being headphoned into Sergei Rachmaninoff's tone poem "Isle of the Dead" set on auto repeat ad infinitum. Talk about your fugue states....)

Now I get to return to my villain's point of view, after she's done her major damage and before she meets her own end.


Blogger Brenda Clews said...

Great shots. He's lifted to icon status; he seems almost to have personality in your photographs. It's the richness of the black, the plain background, the detail of the focus. I'll not forget him easily!

Love reading about your writing process... you make it sound fun! That your characters have some say in their own destinies! :)

10:42 AM  
Blogger Paul D. said...

What a great find! Love these beetles. I didn't know about the different sized males; I will have to look that one up.

11:49 PM  

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