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That Pleasant Stink: beetle odors


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I'm sure many forum members who have hunted beetles in the field have noticed the very distinctive odors that are produced by certain beetles. But I am --specifically and intentionally-- not talking about defensive substances with strong odors such as cerambycids or tenebrionids produce when handled, but the odors that may be aggregatory pheromones produced when beetles are involved with reproduction. As an example, when Dynastes granti is active, a very pungent scent is associated with them that is detectable from some distance. To me it smells strongly of a combination of artificially-flavored grape drink and very ripe cantaloupe. It is so powerful that I use my nose to locate beetles during the season. Just this past September, driving on a roadway in the dark at 45 mph, I detected that penetrating, pungent odor in a place where I did not really expect Dynastes to be. I made a mental note of it and returned the next day to find two ash (Fraxinus) trees on which 47 granti individuals were busy feeding and pairing. With living granti in a captive situation, near to sunset, the odor will fill my house and I can actually smell it while in a vehicle passing by my home.

Surely granti is not the only large scarab to produce odors during lekking. I smell similar odors on all freshly killed specimens of Dynastes.  I also detect strong odors on some Megasoma. And no, it is not the smell of rot or decay. Various Megasoma species feed and mate in numbers on certain tree species. Behavior very much like that of Dynastes granti. 

Does Dynastes tityus produce odors during its season? There must be collectors with some experience with the big tropical dynastinae?

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Yes, Dynastes tityus also has a unique smell like D. grantii does. There are many old references, discussing D. tityus, has mentioned that they could smell that particular odor from miles and miles away (I doubt that is true since there is no way to figure which exact specimen the odor is coming from. There can be some distance, but not "several miles"). D. tityus is also recorded to be found on ash trees (Fraxinus, species undetermined) in great numbers in those references.

A friend of mine told me there are different odors for different species, and you can usually smell it when you get closer to the habitat area. One of origination of the smell also includes of the tree saps. Since some are host specific (or having major preference over others), they could smell different.

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