Unofficially this attractive beetle has been called the little bear beetle. Officially it is Paracotalpa ursina - which literally means the little bear Paracotalpa. And the bear is easy enough to imagine with the long setae (hair) and the plump body. The beetle belongs to the family Scarabaeidae - notice the fan-like antennae. It is a bit over half an inch long but seems bigger, especially as it climbs up grass stems and topples them over with its weight.
Jon and Michael found a population of the beetles last week in a city park here in Fresno and I went out yesterday to see them myself. There is something about a scarab in flight - with its elevated wing covers, low buzzing and erratic flight - that gets my beetle juices flowing. Museum specimens of this insect tend to be dull reddish brown. Live specimens have a much deeper red color. They're a sight to behold. Sadly, there were several along the park trail that had been smashed.
The place where the beetles were flying is not all that remarkable. It's maybe a quarter of a mile from the San Joaquin River and is just a fenced-off area with tall grass and a few other plant species. But that's often how you find interesting insects. They don't always live in the places we would consider ideal. And a grassy path in a park seems to be just fine for these brightly colored bruins.