I was looking for a fish skeleton the other day (not a phrase that one gets to drop into conversation very often) and came across some old beetle specimens, which are making me feel very illustratorly. Could be useful timing, too, as I have been casting around for inspiration. The thing about the lady who goes skinny-dipping in the Devonian needs planning and some form of written framework before it can really progress, so a bit of observational sketchery should satisfy the urge in the meantime.
Haven't made a start as yet, but here's one from before. I feel it's okay to post a few favourite oldies here, because although my old blog is still out there somewhere, all the images went kaput when Geocities changed its name. So if anyone has stuck with me for awhile, I may need to crave your indulgence for a few pics you've seen before.
This is a male Dorcus titanus sika. One of the lovely things about beetles, as opposed to, say, moths, is that you can take care of them and keep them happy throughout their natural span and you are still left with a perfect specimen at the end. It didn't go so well with this specimen, however, as he died a few days after arriving in the mail. I wasn't happy to learn that in fact he wasn't captive-bred as I'd hoped, but had been taken from the wild. He may already have been old. Strange and sad to think of him going through all his larval and pupal life and part of adulthood too, deep in a forest somewhere in the hills of Thailand, but was always fated to die in a room in Peckham.
I kept others of this species that lasted happily for months, chomping happily through bananas and other fruit, and digging around in bark-compost. Breeding success was very limited though. I'd love to know more about stag beetles as a group. I may be completely wrong, but I get the impression that there is a fundamental difference between the Lucanus species, which seem to be typically large and ornate but able to take only liquid food and doomed to no more than a few weeks' active adult life, and the Dorcus species; stocky, hardy, able to eat fruit and even animal protein, and living up to a year as adults. Would love to know if that applies to our own Lesser Stag Beetle (D parallelipipedus) about which I can find virtually no information.
Here's another oldie; a sketch of the underside of a Lucanus cervus.