Bug Blog

The Blug: Jewel Beetles

Coleoptera has never looked so fashionable

August 17, 2020
a black and white graphic of a hand with a jewel beetle on it
The iridescent shell of the jewel beetle resembles the changing colors of an overturned CD. [MK Manoylov | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Coleoptera

Family: Buprestidae

Adam Sandler recently starred in the movie Uncut Gems. Well, his stardom doesn’t match the technicolor iridescent glow of these Flying Gems. 

Ooh, shiny bug. That’s the jewel beetle. They’re also called the metallic wood-boring beetle. 

They’re found throughout the world, with over 750 species inhabiting North America.

Why do jewel beetles look so shiny? Research suggests that the iridescent carapace, or outer shell, of the jewel beetle acts as camouflage. 

While the beetle appears green at first glance, its color changes depending on the angle you look at it. It’s the same as when you tilt a CD or look at a soap bubble. They appear a light green in some lights but have a heavier blue appearance in others. 

Changing colors benefit the beetles when they hang out on waxy, shiny leaves. 

Fun facts: 

  • With over 15,500 species, Jewel beetles are one of the largest family of beetles.
  • They’re herbivores who mostly live under plant matter.
  • Different cultures use the bodies of jewel beetles for, well, jewelry and other decorations. For example, jewel beetles make an appearance in the Yucatan legend in which an ancient Maya princess gives one to her lover.

About the Author

MK Manoylov likes covering trees, the environment, microbes, and all things bugs. MK was the former opinion editor for The Red & Black newspaper and moved to Brooklyn to pursue science journalism. When not writing, you can find MK editing videos or drawing comics.

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