Metallic Bugs: Unraveling the Science Behind Their Shiny Appearances

Metallic bugs are a fascinating group of insects that display a unique, shiny appearance. Their distinct coloration and iridescence set them apart from other insects and can often leave people in awe. There are a variety of reasons why some insects have these metallic features, ranging from camouflage to communication.

One reason some insects evolved to have a metallic look is for the purpose of defense and survival. The reflective and shimmering surfaces can make it difficult for predators to single out these insects amongst their surroundings. The metallic woodboring beetle, for example, has a brilliant metallic coloration which helps it blend into its environment when resting on tree bark.

Additionally, the iridescence in metallic bugs can also serve as a form of communication and mate attraction. With their stunning and unique appearances, they can signal to potential partners and convey important information. These metallic features have helped shape the success and adaptation of these insects into their respective environments for millions of years.

Why Do Some Insects Look Metallic

Science Behind Insect Coloration

Insects display an array of colors due to the interaction of light with their exoskeletons. Structural pigments play a significant role in creating metallic appearances, including:

  • Iridescence
  • Brilliant greens and blues
  • Eye-catching reflections

Metallic effects are caused by microscopic structures rather than actual pigments, creating vibrant and shimmering colors.

Role of Chitin and Exoskeleton

The exoskeleton of insects contains chitin, which forms complex structures that refract light. Factors contributing to metallic appearances include:

  • Chitin layers
  • Reflective properties
  • Light interference

Examples of metallic insects are metallic wood-boring beetles exhibiting vibrant green and blue colors due to their chitin-rich exoskeletons.

Comparison Table

Insect Feature Metallic Appearance Non-metallic Appearance
Chitin Layer Complex, causes light interference Simple, less reflective
Exoskeleton Highly reflective, shimmering Dull, less reflective
Colors Iridescent, vibrant Muted, less prominent

In summary, insects exhibit metallic colors due to the interaction of light with their chitin-rich exoskeletons and the formation of iridescent pigments through microscopic structural elements. This phenomenon adds a captivating dimension to the diverse world of insects.

Iridescence

Examples of Metallic Insects

Jewel Beetles

Jewel beetles are a family of beetles known for their metallic coloration. They earn their name from the iridescent, gem-like appearance of their exoskeletons. One example is the Chalcophora virginiensis, common in pine trees.

Features of Jewel Beetles:

  • Iridescent, metallic coloration
  • Attractive gem-like appearance

Metallic Bees

Metallic bees include species that exhibit a shiny, metallic appearance. These bees are often found with a green or blue sheen, making them visually striking and easily recognizable.

Characteristics of Metallic Bees:

  • Shiny metallic appearance
  • Green or blue sheen

Moths

Some moths are also known to have a metallic appearance, such as the spotted lanternfly. These insects are not typically as colorful as jewel beetles or metallic bees, but they can still be easily identified by their unique patterns and coating.

Examples of Metallic Moths:

  • Spotted lanternfly
Jewel Beetles Metallic Bees Moths
Color Iridescent, gem-like Shiny, metallic Unique patterns
Unique Metallic coloration body Green or blue sheen Spotted lanternfly

Adaptive Advantages of Metallic Colors

Camouflage and Predators

Some insects, like the green metallic sweat bee, have evolved metallic colors as a form of camouflage. This helps them blend in with their surroundings and avoid predators. The metallic sheen also creates a confusing visual effect for predators, making it difficult for them to pinpoint the insect’s exact location.

Mating Signals

Metallic colors can also aid in mating, as they serve as a unique visual signal. Insects may display shiny colors to attract potential mates, similar to how other animals like birds use their bright plumage. For example, some beetles use their metallic appearance to draw attention to themselves among other individuals during courtship.

Energy Conservation

Insects with metallic colors may also benefit from energy conservation. These colors can help insects manage their body temperature by reflecting sunlight and reducing heat absorption. As a result, they may spend less energy on regulating their temperature and have more energy for other activities, such as foraging or reproduction.

Key features of metallic colors in insects:

  • Camouflage
  • Predator evasion
  • Mating signal
  • Energy conservation

Comparison table:

Attribute Camouflage & Predators Mating Signals Energy Conservation
Main Benefit Hide from predators Attract mates Regulate temperature
Primary Function Blend into surroundings Display unique color Reflect sunlight
Examples Green metallic sweat bee Metallic beetles Metallic butterflies

By understanding the adaptive advantages of metallic colors in insects, we can appreciate the role these features play in their biology and evolution.

Applications in Technology

Lessons from Nature

Metallic-looking insects have unique carapaces that reflect light differently. These carapaces manipulate wavelengths of light, causing the stunning metallic appearance. Key features include:

  • Reflection of light
  • Interference with light wavelengths

Scientists are studying these characteristics for inspiration in technology development.

Innovations Inspired by Insects

Lenses

Carapaces found in metallic bugs have inspired the creation of more efficient lenses. These lenses exhibit:

  • Improved light reflection
  • Enhanced light transmission

Innovative lenses can be utilized in optical devices, enhancing their performance.

DVD Technology

Metallic bugs have also had an impact on DVD technology. Their carapaces’ interference with light wavelengths led to the development of:

  • Multi-layered DVDs
  • Increased storage capacity

Comparing standard and improved DVDs:

Aspect Standard DVD Improved DVD
Storage capacity 4.7 GB Up to 17 GB
Layers Single Multi-layered

These advancements illustrate how nature’s beauty can lead to practical technological improvements.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – What's That Beetle?: Unknown Metallic Green and Orange Beetle from Pacific Northwest is Pseudogaurotina cressoni

 

Beautiful metallic green and orange beetle
Location:  Southern Central Washington State, 2000 ft. elevation.
August 3, 2010 8:17 pm
Dear bugman,
My boys and I found this lovely beetle crawling across our deck this June. It’s a beautiful metallic, almost iridesent dark green with bright orange on it’s legs and abdomen. I placed a ruler next to it for an idea of it’s size.
I did some research and found that it might be a ”Ground Beetle” known as a Caterpillar Hunter, but none of the examples I found displays the bright orange this one does.
Just wondering if you know.
Thanks so much!
Curious Mom

Is it a Longhorned Borer Beetle? Yes, it is Pseudogaurotina cressoni

Dear Curious Mom,
This is one of the greatest challenges we have faced in a long long time.  First, this beetle is positively gorgeous and we are not certain where to begin to try to identify it, but we do not believe it is a Caterpillar Hunter.  Challenges like this make us lament that we do not have a strong science background.  We have to approach this from the eyes of artists who are generally not as structured as scientists.  Our gut instinct is that is must be a Longhorned Borer Beetle in the family Cerambycidae based on the antennae, including their position on the head, but we question that taxonomy.  We are going to post your letter as unidentified and it will be prominently featured on our homepage until we get an identification.  We will also elicit the assistance of Eric Eaton who we suspect will be able to nail a proper identification lickety split.

What is this Beetle?: Pseudogaurotina cressoni

We want to compliment you on the excellent photographs that should assist in the identification process.  The ruler for scale indicates that this is a large beetle, which makes it all the more confusing that we cannot recall ever seeing anything remotely similar in appearance.

Mystery Beetle from Washington is Pseudogaurotina cressoni

Eric Eaton responds
Daniel:
Your family ID is totally correct:  Cerambycidae.  Looks to me like a species of Gaurotes, but I don’t know which ones occur there in the Pacific Northwest.  I sold my reference to the beetles of that region, and my books on U.S. beetles in general are on loan to a friend.
Eric
Oooh, have the person send the images over to Bugguide.  That way one of our longhorned beetle experts can address it.  Might well be a new species for the guide.  Thanks.
Eric

Update
One of our readers who frequently assists with difficult beetle identifications, mardikavana, has confirmed our original suspicion that this beauty is a Longhorned Borer Beetle in the family Cerambycidae, more specifically
Pseudogaurotina cressoni.  BugGuide does have a page on this species, but there is not much information on it.  The Insects of Alberta website indicates that it is found in June and it feeds on pollen.

Thank you so much! My boys were thrilled to find out that it is a pollen eater, they weren’t too fond of the idea of it out there eating caterpillars. They loved seeing the pics posted on the site too and I am happy to know what it is. We have a variety of the longhorn beetles around here, but I have never seen one as beautiful as this one.
Thanks again for the wonderful educational service you provide! Your information on house centipedes kept me from having a small heart attack when I found several of them on my deck 🙂
Curious Mom

Hi Again Curious Mom,
We heard back from Eric Eaton who has requested that you also submit your photo to BugGuide.

I would be glad to.

Another Update from Eric Eaton
August 5, 2010
Daniel:
I’m really not sure, but the main way I usually tell the two apart is that Gaurotes has smooth, shiny elytra (wing covers), whereas Pseudogaurotina has textured elytra that are consequently slightly duller in color.  Bugguide experts on Cerambycidae should know more.
Eric

Letter 2 – Metallic Green Scarab Beetle from Australia

 

Metallic green beetle from Australia
January 30, 2010
Dear Bugman,
I was photographing birds in a flowering tree this week and I noticed 2 of these pretty beetles. When I got too close to one, it flew off and hovered near by and settled on another flower bunch. I live in a rainforest area of tropical far north Queensland and it is our summer / rainy season. I would appreciate any help in identifying it. I didn’t realize there were so many pretty bugs out there! Thanks in advance.
Cheers, Jenny
Lake Eacham, Far North Queensland, Australia

Green Scarab Beetle

Hi Jenny,
We did a really quick web search and we were unable to identify the species of Green Metallic Scarab you have found.  We believe it is in the subfamily Cetoniinae, the Fruit and Flower Chafers.  It is possible that it is not native to Australia, because it is so distinctive, we thought species identification would be easy.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide us with additional information.

Karl supplies some possible identifications
Hi Daniel and Jenny:
I am also a little perplexed that such a distinctive beetle should be so hard to identify. I was able to find several images of very similar Australian beetles on the web but most of them were either unidentified or labeled as Christmas beetles. I assume the latter were either misnamed, or that common name applies to other beetles besides the true Christmas beetles in the genus Anoplognathus. I think this beetle may be a flower chafer in the Tribe Schizorhinini (Cetoniinae), probably in one of three genera (although there could be others): Ischiopsopha, Lomaptera or Mycterophallus. The closest matches I could find were Mycterophallus duboulayi and Lomaptera duboulayi (these are likely the same species as there is considerable confusion and synonymy among all three of these genera). It could also be a migrant from nearby Papua New Guinea, where the Schizorhinini are diverse and abundant. The Papua Insects Foundation has posted many spectacular photos of Schizorhinini from the Indonesian side of the island. Eons ago I had the good fortune of spending several years in PNG and I recall seeing thousands of very similar looking beetles, albeit dismembered and stitched into beautiful pieces of body ornamentation, particularly headbands. Regards.
Karl

Letter 3 – Blue Lady Beetle from Hawaii

 

Lady Beetle love

Blue Lady Beetle

Lady Beetle love
Location: South Point , Hawaii (Big Island)
June 26, 2011 3:53 pm
Hi again :D. This lovely lady was crawling across my patio when I went to my garden today. I was delighted to see it as I had just seen an image (I believe on this site)of a blue Lady Beetle from Volcano, HI. At least I think it’s a lady beetle–correct me if I’m wrong ;).
Here in Hawaii I’ve only see a few ladies over the years but none that weren’t spotted in familiar ladybug fashion. I used a pruned tomato leaf to let it crawl on for these pictures then put it in my garden.
Signature: Dasi

Blue Lady Beetle

Hi again Dasi,
We got a bit sidetracked on this identification because in searching Lady Beetles from Hawaii, we found this Insects of Hawaii photo gallery and we spotted the Black Stink Bug you submitted earlier that we misidentified as a possible Leaf Beetle.  The gallery also shows a Lady Beetle that looks somewhat like this individual and it is identified as
Curinus coeruleus.  We cross checked and found the Metallic Blue Lady Beetle well represented on BugGuide where we learned it is “Native to the Caribbean but widely introduced for biological control. Apparently imported to Florida from Mexico in the 1950s” because it feeds upon “Normally scale insects (order Homoptera, suborder Coccoidea), but also will feed on aphids and the Asian Citrus Psyllid (Diaphorina citri).”  We don’t know if it was purposely introduced to Hawaii or if it is an accidental introduction.

Halmus chalybeus

Correction:  March 24, 2013
Thanks to Luc from the University of Hawaii Insect Museum for informing us that this is
Halmus chalybeus, though the photo on BugGuide lacks the orange markings and attributes those markings to our original identification of Curinus coeruleus.  Perhaps BugGuide is wrong as well.

 

Letter 4 – Metallic Chrysalis from Costa Rica: Cream Spotted Clearwing Butterfly

 

Silver Metallic chrysalis
Location: Costa Rica
December 19, 2010 9:24 pm
Hey bugman, I’m trying to get an id on this chrysalis. If I had thought about it, I would have just gotten the name from the card sitting on the display. But six months removed from the time I took the picture, I can’t seem to find any info about it. The picture was taken in the butterfly garden at La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Costa Rica. From their webpage, I know the chrysalis came from one of the species listed here – http://www.waterfallgardens.com/butterflies.php. Any idea which it is? Thanks
Signature: Patrick

Cream Spotted Clearwing Butterfly Chrysalis

Dear Patrick,
It would seem that you are in possession of the same information that we would need to search for the identity of your Chrysalis.  If we wanted to identify the chrysalis of a butterfly that we knew was represented on a list of possibilities, our course of action would be to search for images of the chrysalis of each of the 39 species pictured on the Waterfall Gardens website by utilizing a search engine.  We would definitely eliminate the Swallowtails, Sulphurs and Whites from the first two rows as this is a Brush-Footed Butterfly or Nymphalid Chrysalis.  We noticed that the website you provided has individual pop up windows on the species that they picture, but alas, those do not have images of the entire life cycle.  We would hope that after searching the remaining 31 possibilities, eliminating known quantities like the Monarch, we might be able to provide an answer.  Doing this type of painstaking research often takes a great deal of time.  Working our way through the list, we are content that this is the Chrysalis of the Orange Spotted Tiger Clearwing Butterfly,
Mechanitis polymnia, the 37th species from the top, based on a photo on the Visuals Unlimited website and one on the PhotoBank website.  It is also pictured on the Obsession with Butterflies website.  The chrysalis of the closely related Mechanitis polymnia looks quite similar and it is pictured on the Butterfly of San Martín Peru website.

Thanks, I’m satisfied.

Correction Courtesy of Keith Wolfe
December 22, 2010
Daniel, I’m sorry to be a grinch, since you obviously spent a fair amount of time trying to find an ID, but this chrysalis isn’t an Orange-spotted Tiger Clearwing (Mechanitis polymnia)-in-waiting, instead almost certainly being that of a Cream-spotted Clearwing (Tithorea tarricina)*, which is another common Costa Rican ithomiid featured in local butterfly exhibits.  The pupae shown in your second and third links appear to be correctly labeled as Orange-spotteds, however, the trio that pop up at the Obsession site are actually Cream-spotteds — note differences in the two species’ shape, patterning, and color.  (As I mentioned before, wrong identifications of caterpillars and chrysalises abound on the Web, thus the importance of keeping the Bugman “honest”.)  And here’s what Patrick’s Cream-spotted looked like several days earlier: http://culturalnomad.deviantart.com/art/Striped-tube-146765080.
Best wishes,
Keith
* http://www.tolweb.org/Tithorea/27578

Thanks so much for the correction Keith.  It is much appreciated.  It is interesting that the Cream Spotted Clearwing is not even represented on the Waterfall Gardens website.  Upon receiving your correction, we found an image on FlickR of the chrysalides of the Cream Spotted Clearwing to link to for reference.

Update from Keith Wolfe
Daniel, I just checked and Tithorea tarricina (Cream-spotted Clearwing) is listed by La Paz — reading left to right, 25 pix down.
Cheers,
Keith

Thanks Keith,
Our eyes looked right past it.

Letter 5 – Green Metallic Bees nesting and gathering food

 

Green Headed Bee or Wasp?
I have been watching these insects make a nest that looks like a miniature volcano. I thought they were wasps but after reading that digging wasps are solitary and that wasp young are carnivorous, I have come to think this is a bee. I have searched many sites and can find nothing that resembles this. These bees? go to nearby flowers, drink nectar and collect pollen on there legs. One can see the pollen balls on the one returning to the nest There is a parade of these going and coming all day long. I would like to know what these are and what their life cycle is. I have been watching bugs most of my 72 years and have never seen anything like this. Thanks for any info you can provide.
Dan Hollands
Webster NY

Hi Dan,
These are Green Metallic Bees in the genus Agapostemon, probably Agapostemon virescens. Green Metallic Bees are Sweat Bees in the family Halictidae. According to BugGuide, they are primitively Eusocial, meaning that they nest socially, but the structure is not as complex as the social structure of a honey bee hive.

Letter 6 – Halloween Greetings from a Longtime Contributor: Green Lynx eats Metallic Bee

 

Subject:  Happy Halloween!
Geographic location of the bug:  Coryell County, Texas
Date: 10/14/2021
Time: 01:48 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello again! I hope you are all well. Many insects in this photo, and I only know one, I think, a green lynx spider with prey. This photo is titled Macabre Magnolia in my photo collection. I reached up over my head to get a photo of what I thought was a beautiful blossom for my daughter-in-law, who loves magnolias. The joke was on me when I uploaded the photo. Susprise! Such drama, pathos, and humor. My favorite is the grasshopper munching away on the blossom as the rest of the drama unfolds. Photo taken May 30, 2020, and it makes me laugh every time I come across it.  Insect life is… interesting. Happy Halloween!
How you want your letter signed:  Ellen

Macabre Magnolia

Dear Ellen,
How nice to hear from you.  Daniel had been very negligent to the WTB? readership beginning about two years ago due to personal matters, but several months ago he committed to posting 90 new queries per month, though that stalled when he took a train across the country to Ohio earlier this month.  He plans to catch up this week and be on track once again for October.  He was still traveling when you wrote.  We love your image and we are featuring your Halloween Greeting on our scrolling banner.  The Green Lynx appears to be eating a Metallic Sweat Bee and there are several Honey Bees present on the blossom.  We agree the peeking Grasshopper is priceless.  Thanks for thinking of us and at least we got this posted before Halloween.

Thank you so much for the kind response! Wishing you all the best. Happy Halloween ????

Highest regards,
Ellen

Letter 7 – Metallic Wood Boring Beetle: Genus Dicerca possibly

 

Metallic Wood Boring Beetle?
Location: Pleasant Grove, UT
August 15, 2011 7:48 pm
Hello,
A friend and I found this beetle early June on a dying Aspen. I’ve never seen a beetle like this before, especially since it was very eye-catching. It was metallic gold, as if covered in glitter (the photos don’t do a justice to the sheen). My best guess was that it was in the genus Chalcophora, but it doesn’t quite look like a Sculptured Pine Borer to me.
Signature: Dave

Flatheaded Poplar Borer, maybe

Hi Dave,
You are correct that this is a Metallic Wood Boring Beetle, sometimes called a Jewel Beetle because of its gemlike qualities, but we disagree with your genus identification.  Because of the bifurcated ends of the elytra or wing covers, we believe this beetle is in the genus Dicerca.

Flathead Poplar Borer, perhaps

You indicate that you found it on a dying poplar tree, which is strong evidence that it might be a Flathead Poplar Borer, Dicerca tenebrica, which according to Bugguide has the following food preferences:  “Larvae in bigtooth aspen – Populus grandidentata  Adults on other Populus spp.”

Flathead Poplar Borer, we believe

 

Letter 8 – Metallic Blue Lady Beetle

 

Red eyed beetle
December 11, 2009
Hi, a friend sent this photo. The beetle was on his car in Florida, near Miami, in December.
Curious
Miami

Metallic Blue Lady Beetle
Metallic Blue Lady Beetle

Dear Curious,
This is a Metallic Blue Lady Beetle, Curinus coeruleus, a species native to the Caribbean that was imported from Mexico into Florida in the 1950s for biological control purposes according to BugGuide.  The orange spots are marking on the pronotum, not eyes.

Letter 9 – Tamamushi: Japanese Metallic Wood Boring Beetle

 

Tamamushi
I just found out about your site, and thought for sure I could stump you. I browsed through pages 1, 2, 3… 11 of beetles, and just when I thought I was home free, there it was on page 12. Wish I had found your site a few months sooner. Well, here’s another picture of a Tamamushi, found in Aichi prefecture, Japan. It was laying on the side of the road, deceased I believe. You can make out an ant sitting on top of it. Keep up the good work,
Steven

Hi Steven,
It is actually quite easy to stump us, but thankfully we have several certified experts to assist us when we are in a bind. Your Japanese Buprestid, or Metallic Wood Boring Beetle, is quite beautiful. Despite being dead, the Tamamushi is still a stunning specimen.

Letter 10 – Invasive Species: Metallic Weevil, Eurhinus magnificus

 

(no subject)
Bugman,
Sorry for the low quality of the photos (I don’t own a macro lens for my digital yet) but this beetle was small at about 1⁄4 of an inch. The fabric it is walking on is a canvas cover for my boat, so you can get an idea how small it is. The photo was taken in Feb of 2008 in South Florida in my backyard. Can you give it a name? Sincerly,
George Detrio

Hi George,
The first time we received a photo of this beautiful metallic Weevil, Eurhinus magnificus, in April 2005, it created quite a stir. This Central American Metallic Weevil originates in Costa Rica, Panama and Southern Mexico, but was introduced to Florida.

Update: 17 June 2009, 7:27 AM
In trying to identify an unusual Weevil from Costa Rica today, we stumbled upon this great link with the life cycle of Eurhinus magnificus.

Letter 11 – Giant Metallic Ceiba Borer

 

Large, yellow, very impressive jungle beetle
The beast was huge – like a small cell phone. Brilliant yellow with prominent eye spots on the thorax. See picture. It landed on a friend and he now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress. Hope you can help and thanks if you do.
P.S. The specimen shed coloration from its wings when touched.
The Amazon (Ecuador)
N.R. ochs

Giant Metallic Ceiba Borer
Giant Metallic Ceiba Borer

Hi N.R.,
This is a most stunning photograph of a Giant Metallic Ceiba Borer, Euchroma gigantea, a species that is found in Central and South America.

Letter 12 – Correction: Tumbling Flower Beetle

 

Black & White Bug
July 14, 2010
These photos were taken at around 5:20PM in Northeastern Ohio (Strongsville to be exact) on July 14th.
Lindsay Blaha
Strongsville, OH

Tumbling Flower Beetle

Hi Lindsay,
We did a quick search of the family Buprestidae on BugGuide in an attempt to quickly identify your Metallic Wood Boring Beetle.  We did not have any luck, and this will require a more thorough search.  We are posting your letter to see if any of our readers can identify your Metallic Wood Boring Beetle.  It appears your specimen is a female judging by the pointed ovipositor at the tail end of her abdomen.

Ed Note:  Correction
Mardikavana wrote in with a comment correcting our identification.  This species,
Hoshihananomia octopunctata, is actually one of the Tumbling Flower Beetles and there is more information available on BugGuide.

Letter 13 – Metallic Wood Borer from Malaysia

 

unknown cool-looking bug
Location: Malaysia
March 26, 2011 1:07 pm
I chanced upon this bug at around ten at night. The manner in which it was flying initially reminded me of a firefly, which was laidback and unhurried. It was, however, bigger than a firefly. I’d say that it was in the range of 6 to 7 centimetres, or approximately 3 inches, in length. I would love to know what it’s called, so please help! 🙂
Signature: earthquakeduck

Metallic Wood Borer

Dear earthquakeduck,
This is a Metallic Wood Boring Beetle in the family Buprestidae, and they are commonly called Jewel Beetles because of their coloration and markings.  We will try to identify your species.  We did a bit more searching and we believe your beetle may be
Chrysochroa bouqueti based on the Buprestidae of Indo-Malaysia, Indochina and Philippines website.

Letter 14 – Metallic Borer Beetle is Chrysobothris chrysoela

 

Subject: Small Black Beetle with Metallic Yellow Spots
Location: Christmas, FL Orange County
March 13, 2013 10:38 pm
Dear Bugman-
This one has me confused. I thought I’d be easily able to look this beautiful species up on the computer when I got home so I took a photo and went on with my day. Turns out I was wrong. I can’t find anything that looks like this beetle. I’m honestly not even sure what family it would belong to. I found it on a picnic table under some willow trees in Christmas, FL around mid- February. Compared to the grains of sand and the veins in the leaf, you can get an idea of how small it is. What do you think? Any information you might have would be helpful. Thanks!
Signature: Becki

Jewel Beetle
Jewel Beetle is Chrysobothris chrysoela

Dear Becki,
As is often the case when we are posting photos, the morning is passing and we have a train to catch.  The best we can do at the moment is to tell you this is a Metallic Borer Beetle or Jewel Beetle in the family Buprestidae.  You can try searching for the species on BugGuide if you cannot wait for us to do more research.

I saw the response on what’s that bug, but I didn’t know how to write back to thank you. Just by looking at some photos I think its in the genus Acmaeodera. There are so many species in this genus I’m content to call it Acmaeodera sp. I had no idea that a buprestid beetle could look like that. Thank you so much for your help!

Hi again Becki,
While your individual looks similar to the members of the genus
Acmaeodera pictured on BugGuide, we are not fully convinced as the spots look different.  We may give this more attention this weekend.

Update:  March 18, 2013
Thanks to Andre who provided an identification, using our comment option, of
Chrysobothris chrysoela, and we are able to confirm that thanks to BugGuide.

Wow, you guys are awesome! Thanks again 🙂

 

Letter 15 – Steel Blue Lady Beetle from Hawaii

 

Subject: Little Metallic bug from Maui
Location: Maui, HI
May 9, 2013 2:57 am
I was wondering if this were some sort of ladybug or beetle?
Signature: Nicole B

Steel Blue Lady Beetle
Steel Blue Lady Beetle

Dear Nicole,
We believe this is a Steel Blue Lady Beetle,
Halmus chalybeus, based on the Insects of Hawaii website.

Letter 16 – Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle: Unnecessary Carnage

 

Subject: Beetle
Location: Broken Arrow, OK
June 17, 2017 7:26 am
A neighbor of mine posted something about this bug. None of us knows what it is and I was wondering if you knew? I tried to google it but no luck….
Signature: Penny Roberts

Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle

Dear Penny,
We began our research on identifying this Tiger Beetle with a web search that led us to the Beetles in the Bush site, where there are images of the Florida Metallic Tiger Beetle posted, and they look so similar to the individual in your images, that we suspected they might be in the same genus, so we searched the genus 
Tetracha on BugGuide which led us to the Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle, Tetracha virginica, which is featured in some nice BugGuide images.  According to BugGuide:  “Crepuscular or nocturnal. Hides during day under stones, rocks, etc., especially near water. Attracted to lights at night” and it is described as “Tiger beetle shape. Glossy green body and elytra, distinctive compared to Cicindela species. Legs are a contrasting tan. Elytra lack maculations. Compared to other members of this genus, no light crescent-shaped markings at apex (tip) of elytra. Note also large size–largest North American member of this genus.”  Tiger Beetles are fierce hunters that pose no threat to humans, and for that reason, we are tagging this entry as Unnecessary Carnage.  We hope you inform your neighbor that these beautiful beetles, much prized by collectors for their gorgeous metallic colors, are beneficial in the hope that future encounters to not end with a death.  As an aside, though named the Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle, this species is actually reported as far west as Texas and Oklahoma based on BugGuide data.   

Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle

Letter 17 – Metallic Borer Beetle

 

Subject:  Dashboard Beetle?
Geographic location of the bug:  Union City, California
Date: 12/04/2017
Time: 08:46 PM EDT
Bugman, while waiting for my daughter in the parking lot of her orthodontist, this bug went crawling across my dash. I’ve never seen such a critter.  I scooped it up and tossed it on a nearby bush.  What’s that bug?
How you want your letter signed:  John

Metallic Borer Beetle

Dear John,
This is a Metallic Borer Beetle or Jewel Beetle in the family Buprestidae, but the image is too blurry to make a conclusive species identification.  It does look similar to a pair of mating
 Dicerca hornii we observed at the What’s That Bug? offices in Los Angeles this year.

Yes, apologies for the blurry picture. I blame my phone, but I’ll try better next time.
Thank you, Daniel!
~ John

Letter 18 – Carolina Metallic Tiger Beetle

 

Subject:  Bug Lookup
Geographic location of the bug:  Morehead City, NC
Date: 07/22/2019
Time: 07:49 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Just trying to find out what kind of bug it is.
How you want your letter signed:  No

Carolina Metallic Tiger Beetle

This is a beneficial, predatory, Carolina Metallic Tiger Beetle, Tetracha carolina, which we identified on BugGuide and on Flickr.  According to BugGuide, the habitat is “Sandbanks of rivers, pastures, open, disturbed areas; often near water. Hides under boards, rocks, trash, etc. during day” and “Nocturnal. Comes to lights. Apparently, does not fly often.”

Reader Emails

7687

Letter 1 – Plinthocoelium suaveeolens

 

I can’t find this bug in your pictures
We found this gorgeous bug on a piece of wood from a mesquite tree that had been recently cut down in our son’s yard in Saint Hedwig, TX. It is just east of San Antonio. We usually take pictures of neat bugs and love your web site. Any help would be appreciated.
Muriel & Tom Dougherty

Hi Muriel and Tom,
We actually do have a photo of this particular beauty on our second beetle page from 2004, but it was unidentified. This predates our collaboration with the awesome Eric Eaton who usually manages to identify everything we cannot. Here is his response when we asked him if he recognized this gorgeous green Cerambycid: “Yes, I do! It is Plinthocoelium suaveeolens. I almost caught one in southern Missouri, but it got away:-( Larvae bore in the trunks and roots of tupelo and mulberry trees. Eric”

Letter 2 – Plinthocoelium suaveeolens

 

Metallic Green Longhorn Beetle
I found this metallic green beetle in 2001 just east of San Antonio in La Vernia, Texas. At the time I in the fifth grade and was doing a bug collection for school. I could not identify the bug, so I sent a picture of it to Texas A&M University’s Entomology department. I was soon sent a reply that the insect, which they had never seen before, was called a Metallic Green Longhorn Beetle. This year I am doing another insect collection for school and I would like to reuse the beetle because it is still in excellent condition. However the man from Texas A&M failed to send me the family or scientific name and I can not find it. Can you help?
Claire

Hi Claire,
Your photo is quite blurry and it is difficult be be certain, but we would bet money on Plinthocoelium suaveeolens.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Plinthocoelium suaveolens: proposed common name Tupelo Tree Borer!!!!

 

phymatodes testaceus??
Bugman-
we need your help! We live near Chattanooga, TN and found this bug flying in our back yard. It has amazing colors- metallic green and orange. When it flies it’s wings are a very bright green and when it turns to the side, you can see the flashes of orange. What is this beautiful bug? I’ve lived in this area all of my life and never seen anything like this. We visited another website(after looking through yours) to try to find a closer match and thought it was phymatodes testaceus- I don’t know what the common name is from the mumbo- jumbo, but some kind of borer??? Thanks,
The Ushers

Hi Ushers,
You are correct about this being a Borer Beetle, but you have the wrong species. The correct species is even more of a tongue twister: Plinthocoelium suaveolens. While we understand that the Linnean binomial system of naming living things is not conducive to speaking in normal conversational English, it can be impressive when these polysyllabic words are casually inserted in day to day conversations. It is unfortunate that this gorgeous insect does not seem to have a common name. BugGuide indicates that: “Larvae are trunk and root borers of Tupelo ( Nyssa ), Bumelia , and Mulberry ( Morus )” so either Tupelo Tree Borer or Mulberry Borer would seem appropriate. We will see if Eric Eaton can shed any light on the noticeable lack of a common name here. If Will Smith could get the word “jiggy” added to the vernacular and then getting it placed in Webster’s compendium of words, we see no reason that What’s That Bug can’t coin the common name Tupelo Tree Borer for this beauty. Just before posting, we did find that the much less smooth sounding common names of Texas Bumelia Borer and Eastern Bumelia Borer are used for two subspecies. Thanks for your beautiful photo and thought provoking letter that has allowed us to digress and wax poetic.

Update: (07/28/2008)
Daniel:
Hope your lecture at the Getty went well! I do like your suggestion for a common name for Plinthocoelium suaveolens. Such a beautiful insect really should have one….You might petition the Entomological Society of America committee on common names….I could be tempted to do so on your behalf, actually.
Eric

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts

50 thoughts on “Metallic Bugs: Unraveling the Science Behind Their Shiny Appearances”

    • Thanks voltron7. We have gotten a second opinion and we have posted the correct identity. Thanks so much for your assistance.

      Reply
  1. I’m glad to read that you see that it is a longhorn despite this creature’s unusual appearance. Those kind of antennae are unique to cerambycidae. This is Gaurotes cyanipennis. Imagos are found mainly on flowers.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much mardikavana. Getting a compliment from you just made our day. We will now link to additional information on this gorgeous specimen.

      Reply
  2. Dear Bugman,

    Sorry, but I must disagree mardikavana.
    I still think Curious Mom’s images look different than the Gaurotes cyanipennis and still think it looks more like Pseudogaurotina cressoni. The legs are 2 toned black and orange and the antennae are black. The Pseudogaurotina cressoni images show all orange legs and orange antennae, too. Actually, I can’t find an image of Gaurotes that matches the submitted images.
    http://bugguide.net/node/view/302410/bgimage

    Reply
  3. I’m now rather curios. What is the main difference between genus gaurotes and Pseudogaurotina? As I see they were in the same genus some time ago. Could you please ask Eric Eaton.

    Reply
  4. Beautiful metallic green and orange
    Location: Bilston, West midlands, UK
    20th May 2012
    Dear bugman,
    I was in my in-laws garden yesterday afternoon and sw this bug on a nettle. Have never seen anything like this before and it was the same size as a ladybird. I was wondering if you knew what this bug is and what you know about it.
    Thank you
    net

    Reply
  5. Hi,

    I am currently in Florida, and yesterday I found this exact same guy. Using BugGuide I found out it was this guy: Chrysobothris chrysoela.
    You can tell by the colorful indented spots and the jointed spots (or some cases separated spots) at the end of the elytra.
    Cheers!

    Andre

    Reply
  6. Hi,

    I am currently in Florida, and yesterday I found this exact same guy. Using BugGuide I found out it was this guy: Chrysobothris chrysoela.
    You can tell by the colorful indented spots and the jointed spots (or some cases separated spots) at the end of the elytra.
    Cheers!

    Andre

    Reply
  7. Completely wrong with the id. This is clearly Halmus chalybeus, which has been introduced to HI and NZ via Australia. Close, but no cigar. Please let me know if you have any further IDs before just spuriously IDing wrong species.

    Reply
    • Thank you for the correction on this Luc. We have no entomologists on our staff. Our mission is to relay an appreciation of the lower beasts to readers who are not members of the scientific community. We try to the best of our ability to identify the diverse and divergent creatures that come to us from all parts of the world. No doubt we have countless misidentified or unidentified creatures on our site, but the beauty of the internet is that we do not have to wait for a new edition to come out in print to make corrections. Expert input like yours can result in instant gratification for corrections.  Alas, it may take us some time to track down Dasi who submitted the original photo.

      Reply
    • Thanks Cesar. We feel the same way, and though we have written back to Luc the University of Hawaii INsect Museum, he has ignored our request for additional information.

      Reply
  8. We have a beetle like this in our carport. He is missing a hind leg. He kept going to our dog water bucket, so I filled a bottle cap with water and he drank it, but I don’t know what they eat. He is not looking too good today. Can you advise me what to do for him?

    Reply
  9. We have recently found: in between patio stones, volcano like small hills (1 inch) with circular holes (3) at the top from which bright green, small wasp/bee like critters fly into and out of the holes regularly during the day. I have just noticed that at dusk, the holes are filled with very small balls (pin head size) of earth. These insects do not make any discernible noise when flying.
    They also poke their heads out of the holes and wait before flying out.
    After a heavy rain, the top of the volcano like structure was able to be moved with a stick and was found to be a very hard chunk of earth which held together in one piece. The insects had created new ‘volcanoes’ by the end of the next day.
    The nighttime covering of the holes is fascinating. Any information would be wonderful.
    We are in Toronto Ontario. Thank you.

    Reply
  10. We have recently found: in between patio stones, volcano like small hills (1 inch) with circular holes (3) at the top from which bright green, small wasp/bee like critters fly into and out of the holes regularly during the day. I have just noticed that at dusk, the holes are filled with very small balls (pin head size) of earth. These insects do not make any discernible noise when flying.
    They also poke their heads out of the holes and wait before flying out.
    After a heavy rain, the top of the volcano like structure was able to be moved with a stick and was found to be a very hard chunk of earth which held together in one piece. The insects had created new ‘volcanoes’ by the end of the next day.
    The nighttime covering of the holes is fascinating. Any information would be wonderful.
    We are in Toronto Ontario. Thank you.

    Reply
  11. Im in Southern CA, high desert region and I have quite a few of these in my squash right now. I accidentally disturbed their nest while weeding and was bit. A very mild bite. Slight swelling and a red calf that only lasted a few hours. I’m noticing that they are most active at dawn and dusk before it heats up.

    Reply
  12. “This is clearly Halmus chalybeus”

    I think you are wrong, unlike the Halmus Chalybeus this one’s shell is not as vibrant, the eyes are bright with orange, and the shell does not flare at the edges. I vote Curinus Coeruleus.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your input. You may be correct. We have been wrong in the past and we expect we will continue to make errors in the future as well. We never received additional input from Luc who disagreed with our original identification. Additional research into Luc’s credentials proved to be a dead end.

      Reply
  13. “This is clearly Halmus chalybeus”

    I think you are wrong, unlike the Halmus Chalybeus this one’s shell is not as vibrant, the eyes are bright with orange, and the shell does not flare at the edges. I vote Curinus Coeruleus.

    Reply
  14. Ha! I think Luc deserves a nasty reader (commenter) award and to be fired as this is clearly a Metallic Blue lady bug which were introduced to Hawaii as Integrated Pest Management.

    While it does appear that males of the Steel Blue variety have a lighter orange dot on each side of their head it’s different (Metallic Blue has a narrower center black space) and they also seem to be much greener or at least more blue and ironically more metallic than the Metallic Blue, not to mention that cute little flare on the edges which the metallic blue does not have and a dimpling/netting effect on the shell.

    http://naturewatch.org.nz/taxa/steelblue_ladybird

    Whereas this is a misidentified metallic blue which should be a steel blue (male).

    http://www.feathersandphotos.com.au/forum/showthread.php?7473-Metallic-Blue-Ladybird

    So, pat on the back! You did well in your ID here Bugman. :^)

    Reply
    • Thanks for your support Curious Girl. We also thought Luc’s comment was a bit snarky, but not necessarily worthy of a nasty reader award.

      Reply
  15. Ha! I think Luc deserves a nasty reader (commenter) award and to be fired as this is clearly a Metallic Blue lady bug which were introduced to Hawaii as Integrated Pest Management.

    While it does appear that males of the Steel Blue variety have a lighter orange dot on each side of their head it’s different (Metallic Blue has a narrower center black space) and they also seem to be much greener or at least more blue and ironically more metallic than the Metallic Blue, not to mention that cute little flare on the edges which the metallic blue does not have and a dimpling/netting effect on the shell.

    http://naturewatch.org.nz/taxa/steelblue_ladybird

    Whereas this is a misidentified metallic blue which should be a steel blue (male).

    http://www.feathersandphotos.com.au/forum/showthread.php?7473-Metallic-Blue-Ladybird

    So, pat on the back! You did well in your ID here Bugman. :^)

    Reply
  16. I found a green scarab beetle in my backyard. I had to poke at it to be sure it was dead because I was not sure of their defense capabilities. I did keep the specimen in case it might be needed. I am unsure of where is the insect primarily resided (assuming it was tropical/jungle like surroundings from the little information I found about their primary residence). So maybe it is just my wild imagination but should it even be here in the Central Valley, CA? We live in Dinuba, CA and I wanted to know if that was odd and if I should take it somewhere to document the occurrence if it is unusual for this area. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  17. Hi NR. I would love to use this image in my book on world insects. I would need your copyright name to include. My publishers do not pay for images, so I can only offer the small fame of published image and very big thanks from me.
    Paul

    Reply
  18. Hi NR. I would love to use this image in my book on world insects. I would need your copyright name to include. My publishers do not pay for images, so I can only offer the small fame of published image and very big thanks from me.
    Paul

    Reply
  19. I’m in Moundsville WV, clear across the US and I found this exact beetle just now. It is quite pretty and this one played opossum when I picked it up. It finally woke up and I switched hands and it did it again. Is this a trait of this beetle or did I just get a scardy cat beetle.

    Reply
    • The beetle in question is a West Coast species, however, a similar looking relative in the same genus, Pseudogaurotina abdominalis, is reported on BugGuide from Ontario and Quebec.

      Reply
  20. 313D9FAB-CE6A-4ABB-BE66-CC25A79A615F.JPG
    My cousin and I were at the bird banding/mist netting site run by Pt Blue, formerly PRBO, on May 31, 2017 and one of our seven year old grandchildren spotted the same insect. The site is near Bolinas California. We were delighted to read all the notes on it. We are wondering if it has been spotted this far south before. It is soooo beautiful.

    Reply
  21. Was sitting, getting my hair cut and something bit my hip. I felt it in my long pants, and jumped up. A LOT of swatting and shaking, and i found nothing. An hour later i got home. Took my pants off, and one of these scurried out of my pantleg. I flagged him as necessary carnage. Tulsa OK btw.

    Reply
  22. Hi, I’ve actually found this exact beetle in far north queensland (horn island to be precise) and came across this thread while trying to identify it. I’d be happy to provide images if you can give me an email address to send them to.

    Reply

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