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Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice

April 20, 2011

When I booked my flight to Thailand for April of this year I had already started to mentally prepare myself for potential disappointment.  Since childhood I had dreamt of traveling to tropical climates with the sole purpose of turning over every rock in the search of exotic insects.  Yet after consulting various sources I was under the impression that Chiang Mai in April was going to be hot, dry, hazy and brown.  Not exactly the tropical paradise that I had dreamt of.

I am happy now to say how wrong I was.  This dry season has been (who knew?) exceptionally wet this year, resulting in an eruption of blooms, lush greenery and insects insects insects!

My first mission was to hopefully observe the Golden Birdwing Butterfly (Troides aeacus).  It is a beautiful yellow and black swallowtail found across Southeast Asia.  I have been more than satisfied as after being in the garden for only less than one week I have lost count.  Mission two (a work in progress), has me stalking through the butterfly garden trying to get the perfect shot of one feeding.

My first unexpected bonus was this smiling fellow here.

In university I became fascinated with the beetle family Cerambycidae or Long-horned Wood Borers.  Over 21,000 species have populated the world with their white legless larvae feasting upon the (typically) living wood of their host tree or plant.  They come in a wide array of colours and patterns and are one of the most substantial forest pests.  Their one major identifying characteristic being their exaggerated antennae.

So imagine my surprise, nearly stepping on this Dorysthenes buqueti, “Malaeng mae daed” or sun loving beetle (playing well against stereotypes) as I retreated to bed.  This species can be identified by the three defined spines on each side of the thorax (the second body segment) as well as the highly serrated  fourth to tenth segments of their antennae.  It is said that they grow between 20 and 55 mm but multiple individuals observed here at the garden have proved that someone has been eating their spinach!

They are a fairly common pests of the roots and rhizomes of both bamboo and sugarcane here in Thailand, India, Malaysia, Laos, Java and Myanmar.  As there was nothing common about him, I decided to keep him in a jar for the night so as to digitally capture him today.

Upon my arrival here to Dokmai Garden there has been much talk of edible insects that have at one time or another become a component of the Thai diet.  Initially the family here seemed divided on the subject of this little morsel’s flavour, but in the end he received a universal thumbs up and well the rest was destined to become a crispy, charred rumbling in our bellies.

After removing the very real dangers presented by the biting mandibles, the beetle was placed directly into the coals and then periodically taken out to remove an appendage, elytra (wing covers) or antenna.  The collective agreement was that he could have used more salt but I was happy to discover that when it comes to the taste of a beetle’s abdomen there was really nothing other worldly about it.  Though, it definitely didn’t taste like chicken!

Shane McCarroll, Tropical Gardening School Student


One Comment leave one →
  1. April 27, 2015 6:56 PM

    My Mrs just found one of these beetles in our fish pond in Isaan, Nearest city Surin. I will be posting macro photos of it on my facebook page and blog later today/early tomorrow. Fascinating eyes!!

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