Thursday, November 24, 2011

Platycerus virescens

Here's a Thanksgiving beetle somebody might enjoy. It isn't officially the Thanksgiving beetle (which doesn't exist as far as I know), It's actually called the oak stag beetle (Platycerus virescens) but I found it a couple of weeks ago around Thanksgiving time. It isn't a stag beetle of the same proportions as its Asian relatives that can be ten times bigger (or more). Platycerus virescens is only about a centimeter long, but the male still bears a fine set of mandibles and it clearly a lucanid belonging to the Sacred Order of the Lamellate Antennae (christened SOLA by my scarab-collecting colleagues).

Perhaps more appropriately though, I found this individual within a block or two of where the first Thanksgiving was celebrated near Williamsberg, Virginia. I was visiting my son Spencer, who is working on his doctorate in Colonial History at William and Mary, and as I was driving towards town I stopped to have a look in some old fallen timber. This is where I found the beetle and this historical marker.

It surprised me that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Virginia and not in New England - and in 1619, not later with the Pilgrims. Since I'm not a historian, I'll leave it others to explain my (and probably others') confusion on this. I should also mention, that mid-November is not a good time to be walking around the forests near Williamsburg. I was stopped by a gentleman dressed in hunting gear and notified that it wasn't safe to be about. In fact I was looking for beetles on the opening day of muzzle-loader season. Here's a picture of scenic Lake Matoaka near campus, and the habitat typical of P. virescens.

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