Chapter 30: How to Fly Rhinoceros Beetles

Welcome to “The Dead Chicken Dance and Other Peace Corps Tales.” I am presently on a two month tour of the Mediterranean and other areas so I thought I would fill my blog space with one of the greatest adventures I have ever undertaken: a two-year tour as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa. Every two days I will post a new story.

When I have finished, I will publish the stories in digital and print book formats.

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An African Rhinoceros Beetle. (Google image.)

Most of our bug encounters were less traumatic. Indeed, some, such as our interaction with rhinoceros beetles, we classified as entertainment.

These large bugs were a throwback to ancient times. In addition to being a good three inches long, they were coated with armor. The males had a huge horn projecting up from their noses; thus the name. They are reputedly the world’s strongest animal and can carry up to 850 times their own weight. Liberian children would tie a thread around the horns and fly the beetles in circles.

When we went outside after dark with a flashlight, they would sometimes dive bomb the light and crash into us Kamikaze like. It hurt. The buzzing noise made by their wings meant that we could hear them coming in time to flinch.

One of my more unique discoveries was if you put several of the big males down next to a female, they would become quite excited. Before long one would sidle up to the female in what was obviously an attempt at beetle foreplay. Permission granted, the male would them mount the female. It had all of the grace of two Sherman tanks going at it.

I know, get a life Curt.

Another insect of note was the sausage bug mentioned earlier as doggy treats. These guys were large flying abdomens. They would buzz in lazy circles through our house at night flying so slowly that Jo and I used them for badminton practice, knocking them out of the air with our rackets. Afterwards, Do Your Part would be invited in to clean up the carnage.

The best action by far was on the big screen, our screen door that is. Here we witnessed the law of the jungle in action.

The bright lights of our house guaranteed a hoard of small juicy insects would be attracted and clamor for admission. The opportunity for a free lunch quickly attracted a crowd of gourmet bug eaters. It was the bug-a-bug feast all over except the players were different and less greedy. There was a lot more stalking and a lot less gobbling.

Knobby-toed iridescent tree frogs would suction cup their way across the screen at a glacial pace and then unleash a lighting fast tongue on some unsuspecting morsel.

An eight-inch long praying mantis was a regular visitor until Jo Ann did it in, wrapped it up and shipped it off to her old zoology instructor back at Sierra College. He reported to Jo that the monster never made it. I suspect someone in the Monrovia Post Office opened the box looking for treasure. Surprise!

My favorite predators were the bats. They would fly circles around the house and pick a bug off the screen with each circuit. I could have my face inches from the screen and not disturb the hunt. Whoosh, a bat grabbed a bug for dinner. Zap, the pinkish white frog tongue unfurled and reeled in dessert. A night at the movies was never better.

3 comments on “Chapter 30: How to Fly Rhinoceros Beetles

  1. LOL… “Get a life, Curt” is right! But ever see two Galapagos tortoises go at it??

    Interesting you mentioned the string and the beetle. The boys in Japan would tie a string around a cicada for their own similar amusement.

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