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  Field Notes From
Jewel Scarabs

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From Author

Ronald D. Cave

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From Photographer

David Hawks

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by David Hawks (top) and G. R. Ballmer

image: spider
In Pursuit of Beetles

Field Notes From Author
Ronald D. Cave
Alone one June night in Cusuco National Park, I was tending to three of the lights my colleagues and I put out to attract jewel scarabs. It was a terrific night for beetles; I witnessed 200 to 300 of them come pouring down from the sky within an hour. I was frantically running between the lights picking up handfuls of beetles, who chewed away at my skin with their sharp claws and spurs. I barely had time to record the sex of each one before I threw it in my bucket. Being the only one there to see so many beetles fall from the sky was very exciting. I was truly amazed. In the search for more beetles in Cusuco, David Hawks and I went to a clearing at about 5,900 feet (1,800 meters), where it was bitterly cold and windy. Our feet and pants were wet from the rain-soaked ground and vegetation. Even with several layers of clothing, I’m extremely intolerant of cold weather. It felt like the Arctic. To keep our hands warm and to dry our feet, we sat in front of the warm exhaust from our light’s generator. It was such a long, cold, and frustrating night. And to top it off, we saw very few beetles. I had to ask myself, What am I doing here? In Guisayote Biological Reserve a lot of moths were attracted to our lights. They were everywhere. Some managed to get underneath my eyeglasses. Some even flew up my nose and into my mouth. I didn’t really mind until one night one got in my ear and wiggled its way almost to my eardrum. I tried and tried to dig it out, but I just couldn’t get to it. Surprisingly there was no pain, just a constant fluttering of wings. After a sleepless night, I went down to the town of Ocotepeque and saw a doctor, who was able to flush it out. I was very relieved and thankful.

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