The Phantom Beetle

Any nature photographer will tell you that patience coupled with some luck often yields great pictures.  Sometimes it just takes acting a bit crazy. 

During our travels last summer we stayed for a few weeks at Lake Griffin State Park in Florida.  On one of my outings a large beetle flew over my shoulder landing for a moment in front of me, then it was gone.  What struck me were its colors.  Though I only saw it for a microsecond, it was one of the most striking beetles I have ever seen – iridescent gold, and green, red and yellow.  I grabbed my untitled-201606174967camera and snapped a quick shot, and got a blurred photo . . . of a limb.  The beetle was gone.  I kicked myself for the missed opportunity. 

For the next few days I searched this area, hoping to see another one of these insects.  I stood for hours looking and listening.  On several occasions I thought I saw one high in the treetops but too far away to get a shot.  Then it happened after several days.  One flew past me.  I went crashing through the bushes after it, hoping it would land somewhere.  It did, but it was gone before I could lift my camera.  I stood for what seemed like an hour, hoping it would return.  No such luck.  Days went by with only an occasional sighting, but nothing I could photograph.  

Iuntitled-201606174902-2 decided to change my tactics so I dug out a small butterfly net my wife gave me as a joke.  I spent several more days hunting but this time with my new weapon – a net.  One day while flying through the brush, repeatedly diving on the ground with fruitless swipes at this phantom beetle, I popped into a clearing.  And I found myself standing face to face with a park ranger.   She asked what I was doing, but the look on her face said, “Who is this crazy man with the little butterfly net and spiders and leaves in his hair and do I need to call the police to ensure my personal safety?”  I explained what I was after and she let me go on my way.

The next day it happened.  I saw a beetle flying low to the ground and I dove.  Missed.  But there it was.  Again.  Missed again.  On the third try I got him.  It was more beautiful than I imagined.  It was an Eastern Bumelia Borer (Plinthocoelium suaveolens suaveolens).  And it was mine to photograph at my leisure.  Patience and a little crazed butterfly net work paid off.untitled-201606174922-edit