The stag party

Seldom do I feel much contentment when political labels are applied to me; but there are some I will own, and “stag-beetle Catholic traditionalist” is acceptable. We “stags” are now identified as a component of what is bottled together as the “Alt-Right.” Gentle reader might consult the Wicked Paedia to discover what that term aggregates. I deny affiliation with those Trumpistas. Except the Church, I am a non-joiner.

A beneficial insect (like most; or all, were our view sufficiently broad and catholic), the stag beetle is chiefly engaged in the recycling of dead wood. Alas, since some of this dead wood may be barns or fence-posts, farmers are not always pleased with them. But in the forest, their ecological behaviour is beyond reproach.

It is during their larval stage, as I understand, that these beetles chiefly feed on the delicious juices of arboreal decay, discovered by their boring. Living plants they leave entirely alone. By their fourth or adult stage, when the male deploys his glorious mandibles, I gather that (as the butterfly) he doesn’t eat much. When he does become a little peckish, his “antlers” may be used to steady, say, the piece of rotting fruit on which he may be sucking, to refresh himself and restore his internal liquid equilibria — rather as the philosopher must prevent the matter of his own assimilation from rolling away.

Or, he may engage against another stag beetle, in competition for a mate — the two clashing as miniature reindeer, or mediaeval toy soldiers. My impression is that these knights look fiercer than they are; that the contest is somewhat staged, like professional wrestling. In this age of psychopathic terrorism and “total war,” we forget that much of conflict in nature is bluffing and legerdemain, as so much warfare in antiquity was high-stakes, and visually grand, but low-casualty. Often, as I gather from descriptions, one could go and watch a battle like a football game. Still, the weapons are real enough, and I have never presented a finger to feel how hard these little animals can pinch.

Nature abounds in creatures with appendages of so little practical value that we are safe to assume they express the callistic joy, in the poetics of our Creator, who seems so to delight in beetles, that He brings a new species of beetle into being every day or two, with distinct and highly original decorative flourishes. I suspect this is especially so of the stag beetles — and more than a thousand kindred species of the Lucanidae (as elephant beetles, rhinoceros beetles, giraffe beetles, &c).

And I suspect, in consequence, that the stag beetle is vain. His instinct to remain motionless when approached by a large object is interpreted by the Darwinoids as a survival skill. A moment’s thought will confirm that this would be a very poor survival skill in a creature so conspicuous, and that the stag beetle is instead posing for the camera; perhaps hoping to be included in a selfie, or whatnot.

Or if it’s not a camera, simply holding his ground, as if to say, “Dare ya!” — and show some offstage stag-beetle maiden that he is stalwart and brave, very brave.

As we survey the species, we see that they are beautiful to an extreme, in their glistening black lacquers, or deep brown-reds — sometimes with bright accents, or heraldic patterning. And they are shocking in an ability which the naïve observer might not anticipate. For they can fly.

From ancient times, little boys have attached threads to them, as they did in my childhood in Lahore. And, flown them as prehistoric biplanes, with their sonorous, mechanical buzzing and slow, lumbering turns. The stag’s mandibles are no penalty to him when airborne, for given his armoured weight but slight speed, gravity not drag commands all his efforts. He hardly needs to be aerodynamic. He swings his great arms to distribute that weight like an elegant tightrope walker, strolling an invisible line of thrust.

A fine, a magnificent being, is the stag beetle; truly, an amulet in the great Catholic cause.