Diabolical Ironclad Beetle


Back in June of 2013 I was herping in Southern California and came across this beetle. It turned out to be an easy-to-keep pet, and I still have it in a terrarium on my basement window sill.


These beetles mainly eat fungus as well as some vegetation. As the common name implies, have one of the hardest of all arthropod exoskeletons. Adults are often found walking around out in the open; they may also be found under bark. They are about an inch long.


As a defense, the adults play dead, pulling in their legs and antennae. Their body has special grooves to hold these appendages.


This extremely durable beetle and its relatives reside in the American desert. Their hard exoskeleton is useful in retaining water. It is also nocturnal, venturing abroad when temperatures are cooler than in the daytime.


For as cool as this little insect is, not much is known about it – including how it got it’s “diabolical” name. This group of beetles have not been studied thoroughly and very little is known about their biology and habits.

Third Eye Herp



As I walk through snow-covered fields this Winter, it’s hard not to notice the seed pods for Milkweed plants. With a little imagination, this one looks like a dragon’s head puffing smoke.


Milkweed is an important plant because so many species of insects depend on it. Monarch Butterflies, Milkweed Bugs and Milkweed Leaf Beetles only eat milkweed, and could not survive without it. Here’s a Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar that I saw last Summer in Brecksville Reservation.

Milkweed Tiger Moth Caterpillar 071

This plant’s fruits are green pods which turn brown before bursting open and letting out fluffy seeds. A Milkweed seed is spread by the wind, which catches the cotton-like part and carries the seed for long distances.


Milkweed is usually 4-5 feet tall and has large, broad leaves. It can be found in fields, gardens and along roads. Milkweed flowers are pinkish-purple clusters which often droop. This is one that I photographed in the summertime.

milkweed 022

This plant gets its name from its milky sap, which seeps when a leaf is broken. This sap has poisons in it which some animals can eat and not be harmed. When the Monarch butterfly’s caterpillar consumes the leaves of Milkweed, the sap goes into its body, making the caterpillar poisonous to predators. Even after the caterpillar has changed into an adult butterfly, it is distasteful to predators. Here is a Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed seen in Cuyahoga Valley National Park last Summer.


In the Autumn, large numbers of Milkweed Bugs can often be seen on the seed pods. At this time of the year, the Milkweed Bugs are focused on piercing the wall of the pod to feed on the seeds inside.


Milkweed is an interesting plant which can be enjoyed during all seasons.


Third Eye Herp

White-tailed Deer


Although these are the largest wild animals where I live, they are smallest members of the North American deer family, and are found from southern Canada to South America.


In the Summer they are often found fields and meadows, using small trees for shade and hiding places. During the Winter they generally reside in forests, preferring coniferous stands that provide shelter from the harsh elements.


Only the males (bucks) grow antlers, which bear a number of tines, or sharp points. During the mating season, bucks fight over territory by using their antlers in sparring matches.


White-tailed Deer are reddish-brown with a white belly and tail in Summer. In Winter, the reddish-brown changes to grayish-brown. White-tailed Deer are mostly nocturnal, but can be seen any time of day. They do most of their feeding early in the morning or when the sun is going down.


A female (doe) has from one to three fawns in a litter. Fawns stay with their mother for almost a year. A doe leaves her fawns hidden while she feeds. Sometimes she leaves them for up to four hours. They do not move while she is gone. They have extra white spots on their coats which help camouflage them. These photos were taken in my backyard this month, here’s a summertime fawn seen in my yard a couple of years ago.


White-tailed Deer run very fast, up to 36 miles per hour. They are great swimmers and can leap far as well. Deer can leap over eight feet high and thirty feet long.


These animals are herbivores, but they eat a wide variety of foods, including green plants in the Summer; acorns, fruits and nuts in the Fall; and twigs in the Winter. White-tailed Deer also eat a lot of garden plants, flowers, vegetables and ornamental trees in people’s yards.


When a deer is nervous it will snort and stamp its feet. When it is alarmed it automatically raises its tail. Sometimes when you startle a deer, all you see is a flash of white disappearing into the woods.

Third Eye Herp

Tinder Conk Mushroom

tinder conk_8332

The species of fungus produces very large fruit bodies which are shaped like a horse’s hoof and vary in color from a silvery grey to almost black, though they are normally brown.

tinder conk 010

It contains a spongy material used primarily as tinder, but also used to make clothing and other items. The 5,000-year-old Ötzi the Iceman (a well-preserved natural mummy) carried four pieces of this fungus, thought to be used for tinder.

tinder conk 018

It’s scientific name is Fomes fomentarius. The Latin word fomes means “tinder” or “touchwood” and the Latin word fomentarius means “material to feed a fire” – both the generic and species names emphasize the use of this fungus for fires.

tinder conk 022

It also has a long history of being used for a variety of medical purposes. Hippocrates in the fifth century BC described it as a “cauterization substance for wounds.” The fungus is credited with helping to stop bleeding. Due to this fact, surgeons at the time found use for it.

tinder conk 020

This species of fungus dwells on bark of trees. If not picked, it does not fall off the bark. It remains attached to the tree until it is dead; then it starts to initiate rotting of the tree bark. This often provides the beginning of a hole that birds which nest in tree cavities eventually use.

Third Eye Herp