Diary: Saturday 22nd June 2002

Conditions at New Brighton

SUNRISE: – 8:03 am.

TIDE: – 8:01 am (0.3 m)

MOON: – Three days before full moon. Waxing Gibbous.

‘Up at 6:30 am, going to be a fine Sunny day, great. Stuck some more of the insect site onto floppy in case of disaster. Around 8 am had an urge to walk the beach so packed up and walked down to the South New Brighton Surf Life-Saving Club. Good stiff frost with a 5 mm crust of iced sand in the dunes. Can’t see any tracks in there as it rained hard yesterday. Wandered south along the waters edge for a quarter of a mile where the dig-ins occur, then came back.

Was wondering if any Sand Scarab Larva were still able to dig in at this time of the year, when I suddenly came across one at my feet at 8:22. Had not bothered to bring the camera and could have kicked myself as I wanted to take some sequence shots for the site of it lumbering laboriously up to the dunes. It must have come up just as I first walked by there the first time as the distance from the hole from which it emerged was only 6 inches. (150 mm) Amazing finding one after all these frosts. Stood around and watched it and marked where it was, so to see how ‘fast’ it could travel. The surf is 4 feet (1.2 metres) and pretty continuous.

There’s no chance of that one making it to the dunes before a gull finds it; anyway the beach ends in a 6 foot near vertical wall of sand at the dunes, from the sea washing it away recently, so it’s Winter dig-in up there would be at the tip of the high tide. Watched fascinated as it arched its back and heaved the front portion of its body up on the hind pair of legs, the front two pair spread out and forwards to gain ground once it came back down. Boy what a slow process. Sure must be important to lug yourself all that way to the sea in the first place. At this point the Larva’s curved path from the exit hole had for a short distance aimed straight up the beach then angled off a little to the south. Checked to see no gulls about and stepped up to the dunes to see how far it was: forty three strides.

At 8:40 a surge of water nearly reached us and three red billed gulls had arrived on the scene so you can bet they weren’t pleased to see someone standing guard over their breakfast. Picked SSL up and plonked in an empty film canister to bring home. By 8:43 the Larva had covered a total of 30 inches (three quarters of a metre) since I first spotted it at 8:22. Placed SS Larva in a ready prepared yellow plastic paint bucket and left it to burrow down. Was a little confused and I’m not surprised. Eventually succeeded an hour later, into a bucket full of twigs and seaweed, and two plants: one small iceplant and one just as small marram grass plant.

Must make that flat plate to screw the camera to, for those low-down beach sequence shots today.

Sketch beach 22nd of June 2002


Today, 15th December 2002, I decided that as it is now Summer & the last Sand Scarab Larva (in the above mentioned yellow bucket) had not surfaced this Spring for it’s new year of activities, I would replace the sand and plants back at the beach. On doing so however I came across the full size larva still alive near the base of the bucket and placed with this new dilema, hurriedly carted everything back home again and ‘reinstalled’ it.

I am left wondering why it did not rise as the first had done, and it just may be possible that it is a final instar which intended to remain buried until the months  when the beetles emerge.( from March to April according to Dr Patrick Dale)  If so I would be very surprised to say the least, as the overall submersion time in the ‘dune’ at home here seems incredibly lengthy.(Sunday 12th May 2002 until today, 15th Dec =  216 days, or one day short of 31 weeks.)

Whether I have disturbed it enough to permanently upset it’s natural cycle, only time will tell, but if it does remain down in the bucket and surfaces as a beetle, part of the sea water submersion riddle may be solved in-so-far as the final instar is concerned. So perhaps all that bucket carry on was not totally a waste of time & effort after all.