Cryptopod: The Red and the Black

Let’s have nice times with a wee beetle. I like beetles. They’re frequently interesting. And most are quite companionable. They also keep the cat amused when they venture indoors – she’s content to dart around watching them for hours, although thankfully she doesn’t offer to eat them. I’d feel a bit bad. “Thanks for entertaining my felid. Shame about the digestive juices.”

I see very little not to like in a beetle, which may be why “The Creator, if He exists, has ‘an inordinate fondness for beetles*.'” You know who else had an inordinate fondness for beetles? Charles Darwin. Can you blame him? They’re fascinating. And they did a bang-up job helping him figure out that whole evolution thingy.

Tis the season, and we found a few out and about round Twin Falls (the Washington waterfall, not the city). There was this lovely bloke, who makes a virtue of simplicity.

Cryptopod I
Cryptopod I

Quite lovely, isn’t that? I love that touch of scarlet on a black beetle. Very nice.

It was kind enough to allow me to shove a camera in its face.

Cryptopod II
Cryptopod II

Then it decided “Sod this for a game of larks” and took off for parts elsewhere.

Cryptopod III
Cryptopod III

We saw quite a few of these ambling along, and they seemed rather content with life, the universe, and everything. They seem to me to be the kind of beetle one could whip up legends about in the off hours, whiling away the time in the dappled shade beneath our thick forest canopies. What do you think? If you were tasked to come up with a just-so story, how would you account for the wide red bits on either side of its head? The more outrageous the better.

Or you could just, y’know, tell us what it is, if you know.


*Rumored to have been said by J.B.S. Haldane. Bugger if I know who actually said it, but I love that quote.

Cryptopod: The Red and the Black

11 thoughts on “Cryptopod: The Red and the Black

  1. rq

    What you have there is a fine example of a Carrion Beetle, probably of the subfamily Silphinae (judging by the shield-like thorax, its colour). I recognize this bug from my afore-mentioned Bachelor’s thesis, though I had different species hanging about my dead pigs in Ottawa.
    More information here on carrion beetles in general, and if I had to speciate, I’d be guessing American carrion beetle (although its description does say east of the Rockies – also the colour is different, which may or may not be significant, since I didn’t need to know them that well, and I don’t know if there’s colour variation within species or among species) or margined carrion beetle, colour and range match a bit better.

  2. 3

    Just so you know, I’m posting specifically without having looked at the previous to replies. Based on the little triangle at the intersection of the thorax with the wing covers, I think this is NOT a beetle (or a Beatle, for the matter) order coleoptera, but rather a “true bug”, order hemiptera.

    If correct, I credit my 9th grade insect collection, on which I got an A+.

  3. 4

    Dang, I see rq disagrees. And is probably correct, since the Wiki links show the little triangle. And I’ve typed another homophone, “to” vs “two”. Oh well.

  4. rq

    Yes. The colours confused me and I got excited. Then I saw this, so I think you’re right, aspidoscelis.
    Oh, carrion beetles tend to be larger… I need scale markers in photos, Dana! :)

  5. 7

    “The Creator, if He exists, has ‘an inordinate fondness for beetles*.’..(snip) ..
    *Rumored to have been said by J.B.S. Haldane. Bugger if I know who actually said it, but I love that quote.”

    That was Haldane? I thought that was the Charles Darwin himself who said that?

    (Tries some google-fu :

    Okay, seems you are correct – twas indeed Haldane :

    An inordinate fondness for beetles.
    A possibly apocryphal reply to theologians who inquired if there was anything that could be concluded about the Creator from the study of creation; as described in “Homage to Santa Rosalia, or why are there so many kinds of animals” by G. Evelyn Hutchinson in American Naturalist (May-June 1959); This alludes to the fact that there are more types of beetles than any other form of insect, and more insects than any other kind of animal.

    Unsourced variants : The Creator, if He exists, has “an inordinate fondness for beetles”.

    If one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of creation, it would appear that God has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles.

    The Creator, if He exists, has a special preference for beetles, and so we might be more likely to meet them than any other type of animal on a planet that would support life.

    As discussed here, a slightly different wording can be found in Haldane’s 1949 book What is Life? The
    Layman’s View of Nature
    , p. 248:

    “The Creator would appear as endowed with a passion for stars, on the one hand, and for beetles on the other, for the simple reason that there are nearly 300,000 species of beetle known, and perhaps more, as compared with somewhat less than 9,000 species of birds and a little over 10,000 species of mammals. Beetles are actually more numerous than the species of any other insect order. That kind of thing is characteristic of nature.”

    Beetles and stars – this armchair astronomer hastens to add and cheer!

  6. 10

    It does seem to be Lampyridae, as the esteemed aspidoscelis suggests. The bright red is attributed to massive cranial hemorrhaging as the poor creature exerts itself to consternation trying to fart lightning. Seriously! More info here:

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