Battle of the beetles

I was on my usual walk in the field opposite us the other day, photographing whatever came along, which is normally bees, butterflies, and myriad other assorted insects, when I spotted a Thick-Legged Flower Beetle, or Oedemera Nobilis to give it its latin name, on a dandelion. They’re common enough, but still very pretty, being bright irridescent green. But as I knelt down and zoomed in on it, I noticed another one appear at the top of the dandelion, which could only mean one thing – fight! If you want to see the full size photos by the way, just click on them.

It could have meant something else of course, had the other one been a female, but these two were males – only the males of the species have the thick hind legs for which they’re named it seems, and the males really don’t get on. So I stayed put, finger on trigger as it were, and sure enough, the resident beetle started making his way up the flower…

…and battle commenced!

Sharp-eyed readers will have noticed that the intruder’s hind legs are very green, whereas the resident beetle’s are brown, so from here on in they’ll be known as Mr Green and Mr Brown.

It all happened very quickly, with no time to double-check settings, which was a shame, because when I got home and had a look at the photos, some of the fighting shots were out of focus. Getting a bit camera nerdy for a moment, this was because I had it set on AF-S, or AutoFocus Single, whereby you press the shutter, it focusses on one spot and stays there. Ordinarily, when birdwatching particularly, I go for AF-C, or continuous focussing, whereby it will stay focussed on a bird when it’s moving around. But when I’m photographing insects on flowers, I find AF-S is better, because, in my experience anyway, it gives a sharper focus. Until the insect suddenly decides to have a fight, of course. But I kept the photos anyway, because without them there’s only half a story.

So, the fight continued…

The equally sharp-eyed will also have noticed a tiny little micromoth at the top left looking on, almost like he was refereeing. He’s a Cocksfoot Moth, I discovered on getting home and Google Lensing him. How wonderful is that App? If you haven’t already, I highly advise getting it – point your phone at something and it tells you what it is, whether it’s a building, a flower or a tiny insect. Takes a few goes sometimes for the latter, but it gets there in the end. It works on existing photos as well.

Anyway, back to the fight…

The referee moth had had enough by now, and was beating a hasty retreat. Why he didn’t just fly off I don’t know. However, Round One to Mr Brown, it seemed – but they weren’t finished yet.

Mr Brown decided to have another go at Mr Green, even though the latter was already in retreat, which proved to be a tactical error…

…because Mr Green slipped out from Mr Brown’s clutches and headed for the good nectar. The moth was long gone by now, and who can blame him with those two giants heading his way?!

And that seemed to be that – the intruder had won the day. Or had he…?

No, he hadn’t – Mr Brown still had some fight left in him, and launched one last attack to reclaim his dandelion…

…and finally Mr Green decided he’d had enough, and headed off to find another flower to call his own – after all, it’s not like there weren’t thousands more in the field!

So there you go, two lessons learned – Mr Green learned that there’s always another flower, while I learned that if I think I’m about to witness an insect battle, check my camera settings.

How many hundreds of these battles go on every day though I wonder, just in this field alone? The current pandemic is a terrible thing in so many ways, but if I can take one positive from it, it’s having been forced to slow life down, and have the opportunity to witness moments like this.

As Ferris Bueller famously said, “life moves pretty fast – if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”


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