Bee­tle baubles

Australian Geographic - - Contents - TEXT BY GE­ORGE HANGAY PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL ZBOROWSKI AND ROGER DE KEYZER

Aus­tralia has some of the world’s most beau­ti­ful and colour­ful stag bee­tles.

About 1400 species of stag bee­tle (fam­ily Lu­canidae) have so far been sci­en­tif­i­cally de­scribed and named world­wide. Of th­ese, 95 oc­cur in Aus­tralia, in­clud­ing some of the most spec­tac­u­lar species. Many, how­ever, lead cryp­tic lives. Their grub-like lar­vae chew away qui­etly in or un­der fun­gus-rid­dled dead logs on for­est floors, where they pu­pate and even­tu­ally turn into at­trac­tive adults. Th­ese of­ten stay hid­den un­der the logs, males ven­tur­ing out in the open only when look­ing for mates. The adults of many species can’t fly and don’t eat, sur­viv­ing on re­serves built up dur­ing their lar­val lives, which may be just enough to see them through un­til they mate. But not all stag bee­tles’ lives are the same. Some, in­clud­ing quite a few pic­tured here, can fly after they emerge as adults and feed on ripe, soft fruit, the ooz­ing sap of wounded trees or nec­tar of some flow­ers.

24mm Ac­tual size

Some stag bee­tles are good, al­beit slow, fly­ers, helped by a wingspan that’s slightly longer than their body length.

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