May 24, 2009

Steraspis Squamosa - Middle Eastern Jewel Beetle
Nuweiba, Egypt

A fossilized jewel beetle found in Messel, Germany, still showing the metallic, iridescent coloration of its elytra.

Search for anything belonging to the jewel beetle family and you'll certainly get some very pretty images. Besides being one of the most beautiful insects to be found, they're also a very successful family, with over 15000 species worldwide.

The iridescence common to these beetles is not due to pigments in the exoskeleton, but instead physical iridescence in which microscopic texture in their cuticle selectively reflects specific frequencies of light in particular directions. This is the same effect that makes a compact disc reflect multiple colors.

I happened across one of these (dead) little fellows on the road today, and wondering just exactly what species of jewel beetle it was turned to the experts at (who allow you to submit images of your unknown animal for identification).

Within less than a day I had my answer. Now that's some impressive research/knowledge.

Daniel Marlos:

Hi Craig,
This is a Metallic Borer Beetle in the family Buprestidae. They are sometimes called Jewel Beetles and that common name is very evident considering the beauty of your specimen.

It has amazing antennae.

Thanks to your critical focus, the detail of your photo is wonderful, down to your fingerprints. We hope to be able to identify this species for you, and it shouldn't be too difficult considering the amazing coloration and the unique antennae.

This is the kind of identification we have come to depend upon Karl to provide for us.

We did a web search of Buprestidae and Egypt and we located the Coleoptera Buprestidae photographed in Nature web page and an image of Steraspis speciosa photographed by J.C.Ringenbach in Libya on Acacia. This photo and this photo both look very similar to your Jewel Beetle.


I can't add much, Daniel, but here is a little more information:

I think you are right with the genus, Steraspis (Buprestidae: Chrysochroinae), but there are several species within that genus that look quite close to the one in the images. Considering some differences in the appearance of the head, pronotum and particularly the orange/bronzy margin along the edge of the elytra I think the species is more likely Steraspis squamosa.

There is a downloadable online paper on the revision of the genus Steraspis by Gianfranco Curletti (2009) that provides an identification key and photos of all the species (mostly in Italian unfortunately, but the identification key is provided in English). You can also compare these photos of S. speciosa and S. squamosa, provided by J.C. Ringenbach on another site. Lastly, I found another photo of S. squamosa from Israel that also looks pretty much identical to the one in the posting.

It is a very handsome beetle.

Thanks guys! Strong work!




September 22nd, 2010

This beetle reminds me of a novel that we read in 12th grade English called Stone Angel (which I didn't particularly care for). The protagonist, an elderly woman in the throes of dementia, wanders off from where she's being cared for and finds herself in an old abandoned house. She imagines herself a young woman, preening and prettifying herself, pinning her hair with jewelled hair clips, only to be found by her caregivers with beetle carcasses tucked into her hair. I would think that if those beetles looked anything like S. squamosa, she could be forgiven for thinking them to be jewels, fit for an evening at the ball!


Craig |

September 22nd, 2010

Too true! In fact, the elytra (shell) has been used by many cultures for jewelry, and can still be found worn today as such.

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