Bug Soup!

Waiter!  There's a bug in my soup!  ....er....there's 13 bugs in my soup!!!

Just thought I'd share this "unique" image with my followers since I find it so amusing.  :)
This is the way I rehydrate, or "soften", some of my beetles.  The dried beetles go into boiling water for 5-10 minutes and that softens them up enough that I can begin moving the wings and legs again.  It's a lot faster than putting them in my rehydration chamber for a 24-48 hour hydrating process.  Beetles' shells are made from chitin, which is an extremely tough substance, so this quick soak in water doesn't affect the color of most species.

Some butterflies can be done this way, but it's a risky process which I only do in emergencies.  You can't let their wings touch the water at all, so you have to sit there holding them with a tweezers, just dunking the body parts.


Caterpillar Visitor!

I was coming home this afternoon and I saw this right by my front door!  A Monarch caterpillar!  Since there is no milkweed in my front yard (that's what the caterpillars eat), I am suspicious that he might have left his food source to find a place to build his chrysalis.  That would be cool to watch!  I'll post more pics if I see him again!

Lawrence Public Library Show

I have finally finished installing my show at the Lawrence Public Library!   All of my framed pieces are there (and I do mean all of them!)  throughout the month of August.  They are spread out among three walls; they are hanging in both entryways and in the "media room" above the CDs.  To make my show more educational, each piece has a title card that tells what insect species is being used and its country of origin.  The title cards also have a price and my contact information, if you go there and see something you'd like to buy!  Hope you can check it out if you're in the Lawrence, KS area!  It'd be a fun, free, and educational outing for you and/or your kids!

Where:  Lawrence Public Library, 7th & Vermont St., Lawrence KS
When:  August 1-31, 2010

AIF #6: "Beetle Surprise!"

If there's something most beetles are good at, it's surprising me!  I am often amazed by their various forms and colors as I work with them in an artistic light.  Beetles can surprise us with more than just their looks, though.  Throughout this issue of "An Inordinate Fondness" Blog Carnival, we'll look at some ways that beetles have surprised our contributors.  Who knows, perhaps you too will discover a happy surprise in this issue!

The first submission is perhaps the most touching; the author woke up to discover that they could no longer see in color!  On their way to the doctor, they happened to look down and something green caught their eye!  It was, of all things, a green beetle!

All of the sudden, the author could only view beetles in full color.  It turned out to be temporary, thank goodness, but it gave the author a new appreciation for beetles.  To read more about the special "beetle vision" the author acquired, read the full story at Memorizing Nature's blog.

Another happy beetle surprise occurred when the author of Ptygmatic's blog took home what they thought was a stick full of moth larvae.  When they matured, they turned out to be (surprise!) Cerambycid beetles!  Read the full story here.

This next beetle has a surprise, but it might not be a good one!  Look too closely, and this guy will shoot a stream of toxic blistering agent at you!  It's so powerful that it has been known to kill horses!  Click here for the accompanying short article.

Along the lines of "not so good" surprises, this next author stumbled upon what they thought was an exciting find:  tiger beetles.  Not just one, either...several gorgeous specimens ranging in color from green to purple, and all wonderfully textured and metallic.  

Sadly, these gorgeous creatures had a surprise up THEIR sleeves, so to speak.....they weren't Tiger Beetles at all!  After further investigation, they turned out to be a more common (and easier to catch!) type of Marsh Ground Beetle. Oh well, they're still pretty!  Read all about the collecting adventure here at Fall To Climb's blog.

Next, for your viewing pleasure, a naughty surprise!  Menage a Trois, weevil-style!

Coming to us from MOBugs' blog, the weevils in question are known commonly as Hollyhock Weevils.  An import from Southern Europe, they were first discovered in the U.S. in 1914 and have spread like crazy ever since.  Given a look at this picture, it's not hard to imagine how that happened!  Interestingly, the female is on the bottom here, with the longest "nose".  She uses this rather showy (for a female, at least) appendage to chew into hollyhock flowers for egg-laying purposes.  Read more about Hollyhock Weevils here.

Now, for a more G-Rated surprise, did you know that "June Bugs" could be so pretty?  Please click here to find out!  The surprise here for me is that I could not get this photo to import into my blog.  Sorry!  ;)
Luckilly, there was a second entry about June Beetles with another gorgeous photo that I was able to upolad:  

Please visit MOBugs' blog to learn more about these common spring/summer residents.  You will find out why they fly around so aimlessly, and you'll be surprised to learn that the adults can't even eat!  Just like some moths, they do all their eating in the larval stage and end up starving to death when they mature and (if they're lucky) breed.  I guess I just learned why they aren't still around...

The author of "Blue Jay Barrens" blog was pleasantly surprised when, after learning about Tiger Beetles from the wonderful blog "Beetles in the Bush", he was able to go out and find some for himself, right at home in Ohio!  Here is one species he was able to photograph surprisingly easily:

Read about how he was able to locate it here.  The species is the Eastern Red-Bellied Tiger Beetle, Cicindela rufiventris.
On another collecting trip, the same author found this guy, the "Punctured Tiger Beetle":

The next surprise is from Myrmecos:  he reveals to us a beetle that is surprisingly resistant to all types of pesticides!  The Colorado Potato Beetle has evolved to detoxify more types of pesticides than any other type of insect.  The Potato Beetle itself was in for a nice surprise when, in the 1840's, humans trekking West introduced it to their potatoes!  Before then, the "Potato Beetle" ate native plants that were very un-potato-like.  Read more about this interesting and beautiful beetle here.  

Dave Stone, of "All Things Biological", was surprised to find this scarab beetle in his house!   He also got a surprisingly great photo of it!  Click here for the link.  

Also contributing their surprisingly beautiful photos of beetles is Orion Mystery.  You won't want to miss these weevils!  (Seriously, check them out!  I'm having trouble uploading photos from Flickr, so I apologize for not having a preview.)  I've seen lots of weevils, but there were a few surprises for me in with this batch!  Really super-weird-looking weevils!

Here, from All Things Biological, is a surprising color variation of the Two-Spotted Lady Beetle.  They usually are red with black spots, but here is one that is black with red spots!  Read more about it here.

Margarethe Brummermann was in for a nice surprise when she went hiking in Arizona:  she found this gorgeous scarab specimen with a very localized distribution.  I'm sure she was surprised to find them all over her shirt and hat!  Read more about her lovely hike here.

Our own Ted MacRae was in for a nice surprise as well, when he gambled on taking a rather impulsive collecting trip to look for North America's largest Tiger Beetle, Amblycheila cylindriformis.  His hunch paid off when he was able to collect these fine specimens!  Read more about his pursuit of these beetles here.

To finish up, scroll down to my latest blog entry to see the surprisingly awesome beetles I was able to see "in the wild" on my recent trip to Costa Rica!  Each one of them was a pleasant surprise, but these two were the most impressive:

I hope the wonderful world of beetles has inspired you today, and that you were pleasantly surprised by something you saw here!  Happy Hunting!

Learn more about "An Inordinate Fondness" Blog Carnival here!

Beetles in Costa Rica

We saw lots of really cool bugs in Costa Rica last month, but I am dedicating this blog entry to beetles.  The most beautiful, by far, was this perfectly shiny gold one:

I'm holding this specimen because it was, sadly, dead.  You can see a crack on its head....maybe something tried to eat it.  I put it on the ground to photograph in a more lifelike pose:
The next day, we were lucky enough to find another of these guys, alive!  It was dark outside and very difficult to photograph, so there aren't any more pictures, but this thing was really awesome to see walking around.  It looks like some kind of Rutelid to me, but can anyone narrow it down any further?  We saw it in the Cloud Forest, near Monte Verde National Park.

Another cool beetle....again, possibly a Rutelid....was this guy, also in the Cloud Forest:
Near that guy, I spotted this surprisingly blue Tiger Beetle!  I was lucky to get a photo; he was quick!
At night, we saw this guy, possibly another Rutelid:

My husband was lucky enough to make a friend!  This guy reminded me of a big June beetle, but it is perhaps yet another Rutelid of some kind?

Besides that super-cool gold Rutelid, my other favorite beetle was this guy:
We made his acquaintance at a butterfly zoo.  The curator had seen it out on a walk, and recognized it as an endangered species.  He took it to the zoo and placed it in captivity for a short time for observation.  He took it out of the cage for us, and I put my hand next to it so you can see how HUGE he really was!  I could hardly believe this thing was real!  You see them on TV or read about how big they get or even see them dead in collections, but to see the actual living specimen was very special indeed.

During a night hike in the Cloud Forest, I came across another Tiger Beetle; this time, a royal purple one with an iridescent finish and tiny hairs covered in dew.  Beautiful!

I hope you enjoyed seeing these photos half as much as I enjoyed seeing them in person!  If anyone can offer any kind of identification advice, I would love to know what I saw!

New Beetle Tie Clips!

I have finally located some tie clip and tie tack backings, so I have been busy creating some new designs for men!  I guess I have a lot of green scarab beetles...each one is different but all are beautiful!  Check out my shop to see what is currently available, if you'd like one!

Bugs of Costa Rica

I recently returned from a trip to Costa Rica, where I was able to see LOTS of cool bugs in their natural habitat!  Please enjoy these photos I took and if you have any information about these particular insects, please add a comment below!  I would love to have some identifications!  The above is Morpho helenor, but that's about all I can tell you.  :)  If you would like to see the photos bigger, please visit my facebook photo album containing these same pictures, but larger, and with a bit of a description:  http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=224476&id=147353895860&ref=mf

The Return of Bughouse Chess!

Bughouse Chess II

insect artFinally, the return of "Bughouse Chess"! The first edition of this series was very popular and sold almost right away. Several people inquired about my making another, and so, two years later, here is the second incarnation. Each "Bughouse Chess" piece is one of a kind and unique. While each "chess board" is made in the same way, the bug "players" will be unique to each piece.

This piece has a "green/gold" team and a "red/copper" team. A complete list of beetle species will be included on the back of the frame for the winning buyer. There are a total of 32 beetles in this piece. The King and Queen on each team have been carefully decorated with real gold or copper leaf and Swarovski crystals. The king and queen of the red team are decorated in copper leaf and black & white crystals, while the royals on the green team are decorated in gold leaf with black, white, and green crystals. Gold leafing real beetles is a time intensive process that requires a very steady hand! Each end product is totally unique.

The chess board has been woven by me with strips of hand-torn black and white artist's paper. Chess board measures 12x12", and the entire framed piece measures 16x16x1". The average height for each beetle is about one inch. This piece comes framed, ready to hang on your wall. If you are interested in purchasing, please visit the listing in my etsy store.

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New Insect Paintings by Augustina Droze

Check out these fantastically detailed paintings from Chicago Muralist Augustina Droze! Droze has painted many large-scale murals throughout the world, and is now turning her attention to a new, smaller, series of insect paintings.
She says:

I have been fascinated with insects since a very young age. I have always viewed them as beautiful creatures that are misunderstood. My latest series of oil paintings celebrates the unique qualities of insects. Painting has long been a source of mediation to me. Inspired by Buddhist Mandala paintings I am creating mediation rings of insects. The beautiful patterns on the wings and bodies form a hypnotic composition. To me, the act itself of creating these paintings is meditative. The paintings are open to interpretation and some people view them as flowers or kaleidoscopes.

This foray into insect art is a new venture for me. I have been focused for the past ten years on mural painting as the proprietor of Augustina Droze Mural Studio, Inc. My murals can be found around the country in private residences, commercial settings, and public spaces. Many of the scenes have a nature theme and often the subject matter is magnified. I find the natural world fascinating to paint. Go to www.admuralstudio.com to see a portfolio of my mural work.

Here is a photo of her working on another new insect piece. I love her attention to detail and the wonderful, bright colors she chooses. The way she captures light on each insect makes them look very real! What do you think the artist is trying to say with this series? I find them speaking to me about the natural beauty that is all around us each day. Seeing through Augustina's eyes, we can all catch a glimpse of nature's color palette.
Please visit Augustina's web page here to see more examples of her inspiring nature murals. You can even hire her to paint a mural for you!

"North America's Largest Jewel Beetle"

I recently came across this article by a local Entomologist and found it very interesting. Check out this gorgeous Jewel Beetle from Jamaica! Notice especially how it changes color as it matures! The photo below is the fully mature beetle, while the author's photo below this purple specimen shows a newly emerged adult.

Euchroma gigantea in Jamaica. Photo © Steve Meyer

In recent weeks I’ve featured a few jewel beetles that I have encountered amongst specimens sent to me for identification . While the new distributions and even unknown species that they represent are fascinating from a scientific perspective, their diminutive size (~6 mm in length) probably makes them less than spectacular to the non-specialist. The family Buprestidae does, however, contain some very large species, including a few that qualify as bona fide giants. One such species,Euchroma gigantea (Giant Metallic Ceiba Borer Beetle), occurs from Mexico through Central America, the West Indies, and most of South America. At a maximum of 65mm in length, it is not only North America’s largest jewel beetle, but also the largest jewel beetle in the entire Western Hemisphere.

My colleague Steve Meyer encountered and photographed this individual in Negril, Jamaica. Although its scientific name translates to “colorful giant”, the beetle in the photo is especially so due to the delicate, waxy bloom covering its elytra. This bloom is secreted by the adult after transforming from the pupa and prior to emerging from its larval host, giving it a bright yellow-green appearance. After the beetle emerges and becomes active, the bloom is quickly rubbed off and the beetle takes on the shiny, iridescent purple-green color by which it is more familiar. The presence of bloom on this individual suggests that it had just emerged from the trunk of the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) on which it was sitting. Kapok and other large trees in the family Bombacaceae serve as hosts for larval development for this species (Hespenheide 1983).

Indigenous peoples in Central and South America have long utilized the dazzlingly colored elytra of these beetles to create beautiful natural jewelry and adorn their clothes and textiles. The species is also eaten in both the larval and adult stages – Tzeltal-Mayans in southern Mexico (Chiapas) roast the adults when available, and the Tukanoans (northwestern Amazon) also eat the larvae (Dufour 1987). I have eaten a few insects in my day, but none as thick and massively juicy as the grub of this species must be. Holometabolous larvae typically contain a rather high percentage of fat (up to 66% dry weight) to meet the demands of pupal development and adult reproduction, and I suspect this makes the larvae quite tasty (especially when roasted). If there is any insect in the world that I really, really, really want to eat – it is the larva of this one!


Dufour, D. L. 1987. Insects as food: A case study from the northwest Amazon. American Anthropologist 89(2):383–397.

Hespenheide, H. A. 1983. Euchroma gigantea (Eucroma, giant metallic ceiba borer), p. 719. In: D. H. Janzen [ed.], Costa Rican Natural History, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2010

Why are Female Moths Bigger?

New Research Explains Size Difference in Moths:

Image is of an Atlas Moth & Cocoon piece I made and sold a few years back.

Sexual Dimorphism is the term used to describe how one sex differs from the other in a particular animal species. A good example of this in the insect world is how female moths are larger than their male counterparts. Why would large size be a benefit for females? It seems likely that female insects can benefit from larger sizse because that means they are able to lay more eggs and produce more offspring. The tricky question that has, thus far, eluded scientists is: How do female moths grow larger than the males, given that they have the exact same genetic configuration for growth? Scientists have recently "thought outside the box" on this issue by studying the larvae (caterpillars) instead of the adult moth, and have come up with a simple solution: Female caterpillars spin their cocoons later than the males, so they have more time as caterpillars to keep eating and thus, grow larger than the male caterpillars, who are more in a hurry to metamorphosize.

Read the whole story here in an article published by the University of Arizona.