Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bonneville Park and All it's Glory

          One of my favorite places to go in Orem, Utah, is Bonneville Park only two blocks east of my Mother's house. Growing up in Orem, I had many nights where I would jog over there with one of my dogs (Starlight and Grizzly), and do pull ups on the playground, shoot hoops at the court, play keep away with my beloved pooches (or rather they play keep away with me!) and often times just relax on a cool, dark night in this small city in the Wasatch Mountains.

Bird View of Bonneville Park

At the north end you can see the field where I played with my dogs, in the bottom third quadrant to the right, you can see the basketball court and just below that is the playground, my favorite part of the park.

Playground Area
Photographer: Kristin, The Balloon Gal's Blog

As if twisty slides and monkey bars don't get me excited enough, the Stag Beetle, Lucanus mazama certainly does. Especially in the dozens.That's exactly what this playground had to offer, too. I only collected eight or so from the park, because I also found this species pretty consistently throughout the summer months at street lights. More uncommonly, in the actual wild.

On one particular evening, there were so many, the parents, along with there kids, started leaving the park. I recall seeing a dad taking long strides across the wood chips to pick up his kid and carry him to safety. The initial thought of this was crudely funny, but from the standpoint of a father who didn't want to risk his kid's safety, I quickly came to recognize it as noble. After all, they're vicious looking things!

They seem to be common at playgrounds. The person who owns the playground photo, also posted a photo of this species from a different park on her blog. Somebody from Arizona also posted a photo of this species on Bugguide, claiming she found a lot of them at a playground, she was wondering if they could harm children. My answer to this is yes and no. While there are some reports of these fellas breaking sticks, pinching some one's hand and not letting go, etc, I have never heard of them breaking skin or bones. Bites also seem to be uncommon. I've done my best to taunt these buggers into giving me a good pinch (without harming them), but without success. Oddly enough, the shorter mandibles will inflict the most pain if bitten. So watch out for the girls, Bonneville Park goer's!

Lucanus mazama (LeConte)
Left: Average Male
Right: "Sneaker Male"

Dr. Shawn Clark always referred to the smaller males as "sneaker males." As the story goes, while two larger males are battling over a female, the smaller guy will "sneak" in and copulate while the big boys are preoccupied. Clever. We also use this term jokingly at the museum.

Lucanus mazama (LeConte)

Hopefully I'll be able to get some good photograph's of alive specimens when I go back next summer. Until then, this should give you a good idea of their magnificence.

Lucanus mazama was recently classified in the genus Pseudolucanus, and even in Dorcus before that. In fact, L. elaphus was the only one of the four, Now Lucanus species north of Mexico that held the name "Lucanus" before they merged the two genera.

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