Giant beetle flying at dusk - Prionus californicus
Tuttle Creek, near Lone Pine, Owens Valley, Inyo County, California, USA
June 3, 2012
Size: BL: 38mm, Antennae 33mm
After a long, very hot day, I was relaxing in the peaceful quiet of dusk. It was a pleasant evening at a simple, inviting camp...several yards from a small but lively creek, wending its way down an alluvial fan on the eastside of the Sierran crest...in open, sandy, desert scrub.
All of a sudden I heard a loud buzzing, followed by a "thwap", then more buzzing, and more thwaps. Looking over, I realized the commotion was being caused by this very large beetle, repeated flying into my parked van. After a while it stopped attempting to fly, and instead started crawling very intently along the (large, off-road) rear tire of the van...seen in the photo above. I couldn't figure out why it was so smitten with that tire (hope I didn't inadvertently run over a female that was full of pheromone!). As it grew dark, this seemingly stunned and confused male kept crawling all along the tire...and eventually along the ground next to and underneath the van. After many minutes of frantic, somewhat clumsy movement around the vehicle, it seemed to all-of-a-sudden become exhausted, and just sat there...becoming a very cooperative photographic subject. Luckily I had a flash...because by then it was dark.
This was fairly easy to ID using Evans & Hogue, first as a cerambycid...then narrowing it down to the celebrated Prionus californicus. I'd read of this species before, but somehow had no idea it would be so huge. It's perhaps of the largest beetle that I've seen in the wild. It sat in one place for a long time. Eventually I went on to do other things, and when I checked later it was gone.
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