Heart of Louisiana: Beetle Man

(WVUE) - Most people try to stay away from bugs, but one man spends his nights and weekends trying to attract them. And you may be surprised at some of the beetles and bugs that call our state home.

"There's more species of beetles than there are species of any other insect of plant or animal," said the 'Beetle Man' Steven Barney.

Beetles have become Barney's obsession. By day, he's a computer programmer for a public school system. But after hours, you'll find him poking under old logs and leaf debris – looking for bugs.

"Here's one here. They like to come out right before dark. This is a Cajun Tiger Beetle," said Barney.

Barney has found all types of beetles and insects in the woods of Louisiana.

"It's a Giant Red-Headed Centipede and he'll pretty much eat anything smaller than himself."

From the Texas Brown Tarantula to the Striped Bark Scorpion, Barney has dealt with nearly every crawling creature in Louisiana.

"That's the Striped Bark Scorpion," said Barney. "They do sting and I actually have a friend that's been stung."

His favorites are the beetles.

"This is one of only two Hercules Beetles that we have in the states. The other one's from Arizona. Most of their time is spent as a larva, in the larval stage, sometimes up to two or three years as a little white grub," said Barney.

It takes a little planning to catch beetles. You have to know when and where to look. And it really helps if you know how to set a trap.

"Actually, we have some fruit trees here that will hopefully help attract the flower beetle. Oh, yeah actually there's something there. This is a flower beetle," said Barney with a new catch in hand.

The big beetles come out after dark.

"A lot of times, it's the thrill of the hunt. Something will fly in that you've been waiting for and you're excited to catch," he said.

Barney uses a combination of ultraviolet and a mercury vapor light to lure beetles onto a white sheet.

"This is one of the Predaceous Diving Beetles. And these will actually eat other bugs."

In a plastic tub, you can hear the beetle vibrating like small motor. And every so often, the beetle man gets excited.

"This just flew in! This is actually one of those caterpillar hunters. This is one of the good finds. Everyone likes these guys," he yelled.

Aside from his interest in bugs, Barney is turning this into a business, supplying beetles to the insectarium in New Orleans and other zoos and insect exhibits.  With a few hundred thousand varieties of beetles out there, there is always the chance of a surprise catch.

You can spend the day with beetles and insects at the "Bug Out" at the Louisiana State Arboretum in Chicot State Park near Ville Platte on Saturday, July 12.

The Beetle Man Steven Barney and other insect enthusiasts will be there. For more information, click here:

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