The Figeater: Nature’s drunk

The figeater beetle, often heard before it is seen.  A deep hum followed by the occasional smack as it bumps into various objects.  Buildings, trucks, windows, people, pretty much anything standing.  I’ve never seen one fly straight, by all visual accounts, the beetles seem to fly intoxicated.  I often find them, in the summer, stunned and on their backs on the sidewalk.  Whenever I encounter one, I pick it up and carry it until it recovers and flies off to inevitably smack into something else.

Even as a larva it moves through its world with comical behavior.  It has legs but doesn’t use them, using the hairs on its back to propel itself instead.  Oh, nature.

Los Angeles has quite a few peculiar bugs, from wind scorpions to potato bugs but the figeater beetle has to be my favorite.  With its beautiful, metallic green carapace and endearing flight patterns, whenever I see (or hear) one, I smile.

My mom came to visit and while sitting out by the pool she thought she had been buzzed by a cockroach and was considerably disturbed.  I told her that that seemed highly unlikely.  While cockroaches do fly sometimes, they mainly seem to do so at night.  When the culprit returned, it revealed itself to be a figeater.  It landed on my mom and she released her characteristic whine of consternation.  I contributed to her chagrin with, “Hey pretty lady, can I buy you a drink?”

A week later, my senior Doberman basked in the gentle rays of the morning sun.  He snoozed on his bed next to the open patio door.  I heard the characteristic buzz of the figeater, followed by a loud smack.  The figeater had flown in, smacked into the wall and landed on my dog.  The poor old boy jolted awake and scrambled away from his bed, frightened by the bug.  Deeply perturbed, he stared at me from the hallway, waiting for me to remove the bug from his bed.  With a great deal of laughter, I did, I sent the figeater on its way and closed the screen door.  Peace restored, my dog eventually returned to his mid-morning slumber.

While people duck and dive out of the way of the figeater’s unpredictable course, I hold my hands up to greet them.  Sometimes it lands on my palm, sometimes it veers away.  Regardless, I thoroughly enjoy the comedy that invariably follows their unpredictable presence.


A figeater on my kitchen window screen last week.  


A search for beauty between the grit.

I grew up in the lush forests of the pacific northwest (Oregon and Western Montana), so my move to Los Angeles came as quite the culture shock.  I’ve learned, over the years, to appreciate nature wherever I can find it… though I do miss the trees so much.  Lanky palm trees are ugly, under most circumstances, and the way they shed is appalling.  These weedy trees will never fill the void left by the magnificent, near magical, trees that adorn the memories of my childhood.

But I’ve digressed, I live in L.A. now.

The upheaval of sidewalks by persistent tree roots, the way little birds use street signs to house their nests, the snail-trails dotting the route of midnight voyages, and the blaze of the setting sun caught in a songdog’s eye are all reminders of the power and endurance of nature.  Of which, I greatly appreciate.

Anything that moves against the mundane pace will catch my eye.  The flicker of a bird’s shadow, the passage of gossamer caught in the breeze.  And though I must admit that I will never grow accustomed to the cockroach’s scurry, I have grown quite fond of one native resident to Southern California.  The black widow spider.

With a nefarious reputation, being the source of nightmares, how can one appreciate such a creature?

The articulated front legs and iconic hourglass marking are enough to induce chills throughout the constitution of most.  And while I have a few tales about my relationship with these spiders, and from there have even written a short story, that’s not for here.  Maybe later.

It was the way the black widow recoiled, knowing when she was being watched.  Almost giving the impression that she knew her reputation.  It was the overall shyness of such a monster that left an impression on me.

Now I’m not on some “save the black widow spider” platform.  Their venom is potent.  If they’re in an area that could endanger a person or pet then I have no qualms with the end results of such association.  But when they are out of the way, just being spiders, let them be.  When I walk by their messy, tinsel like webs, I always stop and take a look with hopes of seeing one.  I will admit that I am disappointed to notice that they seem to be vanishing.  They are being replaced by the brown widow spider.  This may induce ovation in the vox populi, for arachnophobes especially, as the brown widow’s bite is less harmful.  But for me, I suppose I have sympathy for the villain.  Sympathy for my own little Byronic heroine of Los Angeles.

black widow black and white

(black widow-black and white by Firefly6)  firefly6.deviantart