Friday, July 14, 2006

CLOSE UP- Sack Spider--Giant Root Beetle

A large male Sack spider, he's finishing off his meal. I was unable to tell what this was, but here you can see a point I want to make. This spider's body length is large only for a Sack spider. It's only about 10mm long. Or 1cm. You could never count the eyes without a hand-lens or something. Here, with my digital SLR and a home made lens, I am able to capture this spider in the wild on a white wall--without cooling it, catching it--or even alarming it. This guy looks like me just after I broke up with my ex-girlfriend. He's eating just a bit now, but clearly has other things on his mind! : - )
And I got even closer, my lenses max-out here. Near the limits of my abilities to see, this frame is only about 4 square millimeters.

These pictures are all some example shots that show with high-res macro a “Virtual Bug Collection” is not only possible but as a concept a better idea because you can show new things. And you can fit the whole thing in a card in your pocket to show it to anyone with a PDA---I think this stuff is the way of the future and far more humane. If I can do it on a very low budget-anyone can. I did not need Photoshop or any other expensive program, in fact, only two of these pictures was edited at all other then my Copyright notice. This is straight off the camera stuff. It takes time--but when you learn how to adjust your gear--you can get shots that need very little correction with image editing software. I recommend you do TONS of practice shot on a manual-able compact camera and not a digital SLR. Save the mechanical power of your digital SLR for the best stuff and when you are ready to shoot those things. It can be very expensive to have your digital SLR cleaned and or repaired. $200 bucks will get you a manual-capable digital pocket camera able to take moderately good macro shots.

Here is a slight Photoshop enhancement of the male--you can see clearly those "boxing gloves" which are sometimes taken in a widespread urban myth to meen that this is the dreaded brown recluse or the hobo spider. It is nether. A bite from one of these guys on my face left me with slight pain and inching. I did not even need an asprin and it was only about 1 tenth as painfull as a bee sting. But BE ADVIZED--everybody reacts to spider-bites differently. I've been bitten all over the world by 100s of spiders and dozens of species. I may well have some kind of immunitiy to some of them more or less. As a kid I was fearless--and got bit very often. Notice above and below--how the legs look see-through. This is because of several factors. Spiders don't move there legs like we do. They use a sort of--hydrolic pressure. That is for another post.

Those "boxing gloves" are used for mating only. They are the males reproductive organs. But it does not end there. Without making this site too graphic--lets just say that the male builds a special web to transfer his sperm to these organs. It actually comes from an opening near his trachea on his abdomen. In this picture here only the thorax is visible. This is a good illustration of how spiders eat. They actually have a somewhat human-like mouth. Under there fangs. To put it into crude basic terms, the spider releases a mix of stomach acids and enzymes that break down the food very quickly. Like battery acid everything melts into a liquid. The spider then consumes this liquid it has expelled onto the pray, and with it the nourishment and juiciest inside the pray. None is lost, and incredibly spiders hardly ever drip any waste this way. It amazes me how efficient they are--95% of the insect is digested inside and outside the spider. He has a "sucking stomach"--this is a mechanism we do not have anything like it. With great muscle power--he almost in-hales the pray with rapid stomach power. That's why it does not drip away. He can maintain a constant suction on his pray.
straight into his stomach while still being able to shove out digestive fluids. Most people thing they "drink" through there fangs like a soda-straw--that's not true. They do drink, but it's through there mouthparts which are under the chelicera (fangs).

For the better insect shots--check your flash and lighting. I will get around to identifying this beetle later on. I got allot of work to do on my website. If you are following it I'm sorry I've had so many gaps. I can't log on when I got visit my dad because I have cable high-speed internet. To migrate all my software over to my dad's computer would be difficult if not illegal.

New angled shots of beetles and other insects will show. I'd say, visit my site once a month if you want to see my latest pictures. That is about the only amount of time I can insure you will see something new. Like everybody--I got allot more to think about then just my website!
I keep on learning new angles and subjects and so don't forget about my site if you want to see them. I just joined Flickr---I don't really know how it works that much---but I hope it will lead people to my website. Please order some pictures---I really am low on money since I will be on a very low budget for the next couple of months.

Here it is. A side view of the Giant Root Borer. Those are geans--my old denum geans! This one was so large I did not need much of a macro or close-up lens to shoot most of the pictures!

(Prionus californicus) (1 and 1/2+ inches)
Meet the Giant Root Borer. One of the largest insects in North America, they range throughout nearly all of Oregon, Washington, and California but they are often very hard to find. You must learn how to handle them by tricking them and knowing them. A note here--most all large beetles BITE HARD and some of the largest like I found in Java are capable of breaking bones or causing serious injuries. Grabbing large beetles even with gloves can prove very painful. You have no idea how strong these guys are--it feels like picking up the insect version of Superman!

WARNING! (THE X-BUG--Massive longhorn!)
Large beetles are DANGEROUS and can BITE. Although they are not poisons, all beetles larger then about 1/4 an inch can inflict a small bite. When you get into an inch long sized beetle you should know the bites can be very painful and draw a large amount of blood. When cornered, these beetles will attack on the offensive--something that insects usually do not do--they will bite and bite and not let go. Very large beetles (2inches and more) can also have a great number of spines on there legs and body that are powerful. Some can shred your hands up into dozens of cuts. Giant Stag beetles will lock on and poke through hands very deep, rhinoceros beetles have been rumored to be able to break fingers. After having considerable on-site experience with all these kinds of powerful beetles I must tell you that although they are usually not that dangerous--the legs of a beetle twice this size are probably 10x more powerful then you would ever think. I learned these painful lessons in the capitol of large beetles on a trip to Java in 1996. This beetle has been no exception--biting me once and vigorously attacking me when cornered. I was able to tame it--but it has taken me years to learn how to do that with large insects. DO NOT ATTMPT TO CAPTURE WITH BARE HANDS!

There is one trick I give myself about 10-15min to get beetles to do. WITHOUT HURTING THEM. With a little stress by simply scaring them with my other hand--they will get upset and take to flight as quickly as possible. If you hold them right, they will get ready to fly. I set my camera on auto-tracking focus and watch it go! When doing anything like this you must be careful not to terrify the beetle too much or exhaust it's energy. When you let it go it will need all the energy it has left. I am letting this beetle go today--I had to for four days--a bit too long. I have been afraid because this was a rare situation here---and this beetle may have been doomed anyway. I will let that up to nature however--and let him go. The best thing to do would be to go to a public park--but I don't have a car right now and can't do that. He needs to be released today. THIS AND ALL SHOTS ARE AVALIBLE ON CD (full sized TIFF) for $20--e-mail me with your phone number or e-mail address for ordering information.

Like many insects and spiders, they often live in isolated patches--the species is common in one side of a forest and not in the other. This was a 1 in I don't know how many chance encounter. I have literally been looking for this bug for 20 years. One of a top 5 beetles and several moths that I have wanted to find because of there size and how hard they are to do so. Notice this guy's spikes on the thorax, and his large antenna. This is a male according to my research.

He is nearly 2 inches long. This one was about 1 and 1/3rd or so large. A massive beetle for the forests around here. Unlike there massive cousins in tropical countries, such as Java where a generator and a light could keep me busy for 20 years! --this kind of a find anywhere at anytime is nearly a miracle. Not only do they blend in, but are seasonal and thus many things have to be right to catch them without extra-ordinary means of collection. They do fly towards lights--but mine! In the sea of lights here--that's incredible. Since I saw these beetles in those rotting bug collections as a kid at the zoo I have been hooked on the prospect of finding these. After years of trying to find them passively--I nearly put them in the background as a myth. For me--finding beetles this big in the US was like hoping to win the lotto.

In Java if you go into the forest with lights and a generator you will soon be walking on beetles like this--huge species crunching before you have a time to relax. It was truly right out of Indiana Jones. Before I went there in 1996 I could never have believed that such a diverse collection of insects would come to a couple of simple lights hooked up to a generator. Some of these beetles were three and even four times the size of this one. Sadly, I lost my girl fiend and the bugs when I had to leave Java quickly in 1996. Most of my photos taken with a barrowed camera ended up getting thrown away in one of the countless times I have moved. But my memory is still crystal clear about this.

To find these kind of insects here is a really awesome thing. I can kick myself only a few times for what I could not do in Java--without the money for a good camera I was powerless. I was a teenager--my mind was just on other things! Now some of there relatives make up my "X-bug" list (about 5 beetles and 3 moths) -- massive insects in the continental USA I want to find and have been looking for for all my life. This is the first one I have ever found on this 20 year old

RAW POWER is shown by large beetles. I learned painfully and quickly in Java how powerful these insects can be. One kind of giant stag beetle can poke a hole through your hand. If they get angry they use there sometimes huge and very sharp jaws or horns to impale you. And they do not let go quickly. It's such a dangerous problem that for any beetles of this size--it is be very wise to ware gloves. Giant stag beetles and Rhinoceros beetles are even worse.
Heavier gloves then these are needed in for them. It was a wise precaution as you can see!
But know I am not harming this beetle or crushing him in any way--he's just flipped upside down in a bite-hold he thinks is hurting me. If it were not for the gloves it would be! Like giant land crabs--it is best not to handle these insects as you can hurt them if you are not careful and in gloves they can also hurt themselves. In this shot he was VERY ANGRY. While hissing violently he was very hard to control---I tried some of this bare-handed and played the price! The glove worked--but I had to be careful to get my shots fast and not ware him out. You can't just grab beetles like this. They can hurt themselves and or you in an attempt to get away.

To capture them--use a large jar or box and prod them inside. Let them go within four days
and DO NOT FEED THEM ANY HUMAN FOODS. As far as I know nearly all foods we eat are laced with insectaries. There may be an on-line resource about how to take care of beetles and bugs like this but I am un-aware of any.

It took me less then 20min to get him in the mood I wanted him to be in just by simple handleing without the kind of charm I put on before. I was nearly going to stop because I feared stressing him out too much--but I really wanted to get a shot of him flying. With a time limit on my mind--I finally got him to fly and managed to hold my heavy digital SLR right in line to photograph him as he did. Timeing was critical here.

DO NOT CAPTURE OR KEEP IN ANY COFFIEE CANS as many of these food containers are tainted with chemical insect sprays or residue.

If you ever do get bitten please don't kill this insect, if anything, it is not that common and should be protected. Deforestation has taken many species like this to the edge of extinction. These beetles naturally live in old-frosted areas and are slow or unable to adapt to human environments like parks and other places. That's probably why I never found one in all those years looking in the Portland area, even in the largest parks there.
Here is one of the jaws, you can see how it shines. If you are confused they are on the right hand side of this picture. Made of a similar substance to our finger nails, they can crush and cut an incrdible ammount of things with these choppers. They are sharp--and resemble in form and in function the "jaws of life" used by parementics and firefighters to save lives.

THE JAWS IN ACTION as it bites my gloved hand. This guy is angry! I would be too if some huge animal started playing with me and posing me for strange pictures! Spiders, Insects and of course beetles can be "worked to death". SO BE CAREFULL. Some people cool them down in the fridge NOT THE FREEZER for a short time. I do not use this technique because I have not needed it. But be careful if you want to get shots of flying and stuff---NEVER WORK THE INSECT more then a few minutes at a time. You want to give them a half hour's rest after 15min of attempts at posing. If you do not let them rest and keep them so upset they want to fly off constantly as the fight you---they could die of heatstroke and several other problems due to serious stress. Give them a break and know when to quit. There grubs and new adults can be found inside woodpiles but I have yet to find out what the adults eat. (A friend of mine told me where they can often be found along with there huge grubs in her yard--Hood River Oregon.)

Times have since changed--A 3.2mp digital camera with a macro extension (lens add on) is enough detail to create high-definition pictures of many of the parts insects have and allows for a new revolution in science. I'm no expert and sometimes you DO need specimens (when a new species is discovered)--but I have now replaced the many times I have made real bug-collections mounted on pins or cotton with a "digital bug collection". Each insect is photographed from each side with high resolution and key points are observed. With a bit of practice and anatomy knowledge--I feel the days of making bug collections by killing them will be over soon. Many species are now protected by law--and the illegal trade of specimens sadly continues. I urge real-scientists and others to use non-lethal technology for surveys and personal collections. Now days, to discover a new species is quite rare unless you are in a very remote place. In such a case collection is necessary. But if you are a student or you are just interested--consider good high resolution pictures. If you have just a simple digital camera with a long zoom--consider using an old 50mm lens in reverse--this is a classic cheap way to get macro power for a digital or 35mm camera.
I use a basic method of description. Using both words and a picture of each side of an insect or spider I
want to describe in a high-quality glass vile. That way I can get a shot from each angle--high-res of palps or antenna and eyes--high res of reproduction organs--wings and other distinguishing features. A standard series of shots can be taken--I usually now shoot in RAW so that I can match colors if need be with my in-camera edit controls. A plus to have if you are looking at getting one. But sometimes you must trade durability for features. Be careful about the non-splash proof digital SLRs. They are some of the best but they are definitely not for taking shots in rain or other such conditions. Costs are sometimes a trade off. You can really save you camera with a simple zip-lock bag. I have been busy--but there is new stuff to post here. I am going down to see my dad so when I get back I plan to go on a posting spree and post 100 shots from this whole spring and summer. I have a backlog a year long and force myself to shoot less pictures but with more quality. I recently have begun to think the old mounting board for insects is obsolete. The same goes for
those jars of nasty spiders loosing there color piled in vials that you have in your stuff. Only to take to a class and have them spill out all inside your bag! On one trip I went on in the Martial islands back in the 90s I carried on my entire collection of mounted bugs and many more jars of spiders in vials. The main jar opened in flight and out spilled the contents of the entire collection into my backpack destroying most of my field guides and books as well as making a hideous mess of my collection! This mess left a stain
on the floor of the DC-10 and I had a hard time getting through customs--to say the least. I was forced to throw most of them away in the bathroom on the plane because the collection was so badly damaged.

Times have since changed--A 3.2mp digital camera with a macro extension (lens add on) is enough detail to create high-definition pictures of many of the parts insects have and allows for a new revolution in science. I'm no expert and sometimes you DO need specimens (when a new species is discovered)--but I have now replaced the many times I have made real bug-collections mounted on pins or cotton with a "digital bug collection". Each insect is photographed from each side with high resolution and key points are observed. With a bit of practice and anatomy knowledge--I feel the days of making bug collections by killing them will be over soon. Many species are now protected by law--and the illegal trade of specimens sadly continues. I urge real-scientists and others to use non-lethal technology for surveys and personal collections. Now days, to discover a new species is quite rare unless you are in a very remote place. In such a case, full-collection is necessary.

But I think in my very humble amateur opinion, if you are a student, or you are just interested--consider good high resolution pictures. I did it with a $100 pocket digital camera and a few spare lenses from an old video camera. I got macro shots good enough to mark the eye position of spiders and other identifying means. If you have just a simple digital camera with a long zoom--consider using an old 50mm lens. If it is put on backwards--you can zoom “into the lens” and the contraption becomes a high-res macro camera. You only get an inch or two of working room but you will get excellent pictures. I mounted mine on a Minolta Z10--and with the use of a mini-tripod I was able to secure the rig with rubber bands since the lens is totally internal. Thus the Z10 did not have to be modified or put in danger of being damaged. I often still use this rig for very high-powered macro shots. It’s as close as you can get and very cheap. A decent 3.2mp camera is very close to basic 35mm film. Most of what you can do with 35mm film you can do with a 3.2mp camera. My large prints of macro shots have shown that you should never underestimate the power of even a 3.2mp camera. Often the quality of the image has much more to do with the quality of the camera and it’s sensor then the number of mega-pixels it says it has. A big note here--it’s NOT about the mega-pixels. It’s more about how well the camera and it’s optics uses them.

Go to "all pictures" at the top of my website and click on each month starting with last month. Go up month by month and scroll down to the bottom until the very first month and you will have seen my entire website. I can't put 100s and 100s of pictures on one page or it would take days for even a fast computer to load my website. So I had to break it up into months. There are tons of pictures NOT ABOUT BUGS as well as articles. PLEASE DONT MISS IT--you will be glad you did not!


Rv said...

perhaps you would like to see the beetle we found in france it was about 3 inches long

its on



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Anonymous said...

we bred our beetle with a ligar but the beetle killed the ligar and ran away with the unicorn. Very sad I think the unicorn cast its magical powers on the beetle. We are requesting information on how to break a unicorn's spell.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you're keeping up with this blog or not, but I am finding these beetles all around my house. Dead. I am TOTALLY freaked out, what is the deal!!! I'll send you pictures if you want.

Gabe W. Beasley said...

Thanks for writing to my site. Yes I am keeping up with it as much as I can with a number of computer problems! Anyway.. it is my guess that your house is near an area with a large population of Root Borer beetles and that at this time they are probably at the end of there life cycle. Sometimes also bright/hot (sodium, etc) lights can kill them when they fly into them over and over again, do you have really bright lights around your house? Without being there I can't know exactly why they are dieing there but they are most likely just nearing the end of there life cycle this time of year and come close to any source of light (even if not very bright) near there time of death. Many insects do this. Unless you have other animals/species showing up dead often as well I would not be alarmed about this. I know it might be bothersome. You should see the Beetles in Java! They are literally TWICE the size of these and pile up near bright lights dead at certain times of the year.
Thanks again for coming to my site and leaving a comment, hope that helps--come back anytime. --G.Beasley Nov. 2010

SL Westermann said...

Hi there. We found one of these giant wood borers drowned (so I thought) in our little pond. I put it on an envelope on my desk with intent of the kids and I drawing it in our nature journals later. Apparently it dried up and is loose somewhere in my house now. What to do now?

Anonymous said...

I found one crawling along the curb across from my home here in Oregon. This is a MASSIVE beetle with very strong mandibles. Not a critter to pick up without gloves or forceps. I placed it on a zip lock bag, and put it in the frig for about an hour. That renders it disabled temporarily so I can get a closer look under a magnifier without it running off. Wow! What a beast!! After a couple of days I let him go. This guy was about two inches long. This is NOT a critter you want in your bed at night!

skippy said...

Hi Gabe,

Came across a large root borer plodding along the wet flat stones of our creek that runs through a conifer spruce and deciduous alder forest in Humboldt County, CA. My goodness, I've never seen an insect this large in the Pacific Northwest before. It was about 2 inches long and about 1 inch wide.

Your pictures were helpful identifying it, Gabe. When I would pick it up with a stick, it would hang back onto the ground with it's powerful back legs and had a surprisingly great deal of pressure tension that you could feel on the other end of the stick.

It does look like something that could inflict a large bite with it's humongous mandibles. It hung onto the stick in the air like a champ and could walk across it in true tightrope fashion without any difficulty.

I placed it in a shallow bit of water and it seemed to be able to stay put, crawl, or swim without much of a problem.

This was an entirely new experience for me. Never seen anything like it. I was glad to find out it was a root borer beetle because it resembled something more like a cockroach found in the tropics or Mexico than anything native to Northern California (or Oregon, for that matter).

Oh-- I also came across this today, February 2. We've been having some rain and the temp was about 54 degrees out.

Thanks for your great pictures and observations, Gabe. Carry on with all stuff macro, insects, electronics, radios and photography,

...and Cheers to you!


Gabe W. Beasley said...

Hi there,

Thank you for the inspirational comment. I am glad I could help
you ID this insect. It was a surprise to me since pine beetles like this, although not being rare, don't show up near homes enough for people to know about them. And they can bite! I handled mine with gloves. I've handled beetles twice that size and more but it was still bit enough to hurt!

I would not put it in water. These beetles are towards the end of there lifespan, most of which is spent in a tree as grub. It's main goal now is to mate and so keeping it for long will probably kill it. Also, ANY human food given to insects will be deadly to it due to pesticides and other factors. Water in a cage is not a good idea as they are not a water type of insect. This is not really a good "pet" type of insect! Just so you know.

I am currently working on high speed and time-laps photography of electrical systems as I have been writing about. Keeping a blog going is not easy! I have 100s of videos and pics I want to upload but they come from pretty big cameras so editing is needed and takes a time to do. I also take detailed notes. I hope to prove some of my theories about lightning and plasma as I continue to use photographic ideas with physics. I also may bring back more bugs and spiders in the future--it all depends on what I find. Thanks again for your comment, since I don't spend much time on social media (almost none!) I don't have many followers but I do not try much to get them. Mainly, I just post my stuff and see what people have to say about it.

Any other insect or spider questions, let me know. My photography links very well with my electronics background and has let me capture some great pics recently. It just need to get my main internet computer up and running a lot more often!

Feel free to write in about any of the subjects on my site. I post what I find, see or build.

Gabe Beasley
Mostly Macros photography