Indian Stag Beetles, Monsoon
Beetles, Rhinocerous Beetles that were strong enough
to pry your clenched fingers apart!
From Chapter 4: Landour Life,
beetles of Landour were the product of Nature
at her most imaginative.
the hyperactive bamboo beetles, with long antennae,
ready to do battle with anything within reach.
The grey-green stonecarriers were bigger and
slower than the bamboos, but were equipped with
similar antennae, and mandibles capable of snipping
off a leg or antenna quickly.
The lumbering rhinos
and their females, the "swearers," so
named because of the creaking noise they generated
with their legs, were easier to handle. The male
stag beetles, both the reindeer and Chinese, were
handsome feisty creatures
which would rear up and stand with widespread mandibles
for minutes on end when touched on their backs. Very
dangerous was the shiny black "dumpy" with
its short curved pinchers.
Its reputation was that, once fastened to your finger,
it would never let go! I didn't test it. On every
collector's list, but seen only once in my days at
Woodstock, was the elephant beetle, three inches
long and an iridescent green and black. It's much
smaller and commoner cousins were the greengages.
And at the very bottom of the beetle caste hierarchy,
but deified in ancient Egypt, were the busy dung
rollers, which could be found hard at work along
the cow paths. These little guys were strong enough
to pry your clenched fingers apart with their spiny
legs and little flat heads!
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of the best ways to attract beetles was with ripe mango
skins, and that brings up the subject of the summer fruit.
What a wonderful
array we had! In addition to mangos there were papayas, guavas, litchis, apricots,
custard apples (sharifas), loose-skin oranges (narangis), gooseberries (tiparis),
along with bananas,
peaches and pears.
The king of fruit was clearly the mango. It came
in a variety of types, sizes and flavors, from the
big, delicious, spoonable langaras to the small soft
choosnewalas, "suckers," which we squeezed and sucked
dry through a hole cut in one end. The local
canning industry kept some of the fruit available
the year around in the form of tinned fruit jam.
The best of these definitely were the apricot and
the gooseberry preserves!
of local roots and a life on the move between
the plains and the hills in India was simply a fact of life for missionary
families. Chapter 5