Several people have brought one of these attractive insects to me over the last few weeks.
This is the Eyed Click Beetle (Alaus oculatus).
Many of us played with smaller species of click beetle as children. All beetles are attracted to lights. If you touch one of these acrobatic creatures, it will flip itself in the air to escape making a loud clicking noise when it does so.
The Eyed Beetle, which is almost two inches long, can launch itself four inches into the air when it clicks.
The prominent false eyespots on the back are to fool predators into thinking the beetle is very large as many simple animals judge the size of potential prey by the size of the eyes. This is the reason for eyespots found on the wings of many moths and butterflies.
Eyed Beetles eat very little as adults but the larvae called wireworms are ferocious predators of other insect and an asset to any garden. Found under logs and other dark, damp places, the two-inch Alaus oculatus larva looks like a stocky, yellowish-brown, segmented worm. It has a flat, dark brown rectangular head that ends in two powerful jaws. The jaws, which resemble small crab legs, are used to disable and dismember prey.
This makes the Eyed Beetle unusual as most wireworms eat plants and can be serious garden pests.
My friend Lana Heady was the first to bring me this beetle. Curiously, she said it was blown out of a refrigeration line.
How that happened is hard to understand but, by coincidence, Harry, another friend showed me some pictures of a leaf covered cocoon he found in the fuel line of a disused engine. He said the foot-long object, which contained multiple grubs and was difficult to dislodge. He also said that he or somebody he knew has encountered a similar blockage, on several other occasions.
That made me wonder if bugs in machinery is a common occurrence and with the help of Jan Peters, I located an article on the subject in PCT Magazine, a journal for pest control operators.
According to the article, insects infesting equipment is commoner and more dangerous than might be supposed.
In 1996, Flight 301 departing the Dominican Republic crashed into the ocean minutes after take-off killing 189 people. A navy salvage team located the black box and investigators listened to a horrifying recording of the last minutes before the crash.
An air speed gauge located on the exterior of the plane indicated that the Boeing 757 was traveling dangerously fast. The copilot concurred with the judgment. The pilot took measure to slow the aircraft, ignoring other factors indicating that the plane was actually traveling too slowly.
The aircraft stalled and fell from the sky.
What caused the incorrect readings?
The speed gage or pitot (pee-toe) consists of a tube with a narrow hole. Pilots the world over know it is prone to being blocked by ice, debris or living creatures, “bugged and plugged” as the aeronautical saying goes.
The ill-fated airplane had been sitting unused for three weeks before take-off.
While no pitot was ever recovered from the wreck, investigators theorized that the instrument had been blocked by an insect, probably a mud dauber or other solitary wasp nesting inside the tube.