Even when we aren't catching lots of bats, as seems to be the case the last few days, there are still interesting things to untangle from the bat nets. Leigh shared the photo above of some Hercules beetles that she and Jamie caught recently. Possibly the male, with his rhino horn on the right, and a female on the left. These things look like something that should be found on the plains of Africa rather than the forests of north Georgia. I read that they grow for two years before they are old enough to reproduce. I'm not used to thinking of insects as having such long life spans.
Since most small insects just pass right through the net without getting tangled, we get to enjoy the biggest, creepiest bugs, like these long bodied beetles. I'm not sure what this one is named, but I catch them frequently and they squeak and squeal in protest at being captured. I find this unnerving, and unfortunately they are nearly impossible to get out of the net without damaging because they refuse to hold still. Usually I let Brandon do it since I can't stand hearing it cry. I tell him it's the technicians job to untangle beetles because, you know, my bat handling hands are too important to risk straining with tangled beetles. If it seems like we can't get them out without tearing them up, then we pop their heads off quickly to give them as humane an end as possible. I know, it's just a creepy bug, but killing bugs with my fingers makes it a little more personal than the quick squish with a boot. Besides, when the bug looks you in the eye and tries to communicate with sound, it's sort of hard not to feel bad for it.
I don't know if you can really appreciate the size of this beetle from these photos, but it's one of the biggest we've ever captured. If you have never spent much time with your face a few inches from a massive beetle while you try to untangle it from a net made from threads, then you may not know that some beetles have distinct smells. Not usually smells that are considered classically good, but definitely unique, and very organic. I think some of them smell like molasses, and some smell like feet dipped in yogurt. Sometimes they have mites on them. And they are surprisingly strong too.
Not all the big bugs we catch are beetles; the other common unintentional captures are moths, or "millers" if you're from the Kentucky mountains. Like this Polyphemus moth, with neat eye spots on the wings. It always surprises me that their bodies are warm. I don't know why it's surprising, but most little millers have always felt cool when they land on me. Moth feet feel so fuzzy and sticky, like Velcro. It gives me the willies to let them walk on my skin, so I do it all the time as sort of a creepy endurance test.
Most common are these imperial moths, female on the left and male on the right. The problem with catching moths, is that frequently they get so tangled that it takes a while to get them out, and because they won't stop flapping their wings, by the time I have them untangled all the fuzz from their wings has been worn off. It floats in the air and forms a cloud around my head. We call it moth pollen, and always wonder if it's bad for our lungs to breath moth pollen so often. Sometimes a quick beheading followed by dismemberment is the best we can do. Every little girl wants to grow up to be a butterfly killer, right?