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 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.

Insects in Ancient Art: Part One

Did you know that real insects have been used in art for thousands of years? That's right; what I do isn't a new idea at all; it's just a variation on a theme that has been repeating itself throughout human history. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston houses a few pieces of artwork featuring real insect parts; here are a few examples of beetle wings being used for three very different purposes:

Above, you can see a textile (part of a cloth bag) from India that was made for Colonial Americans in the early 1800s. It's made from silk, gold, and beetle wings! Notice how well those beetle wings have held up over the past 200+ years!

Below is a watercolor painting from India dating to the mid 1600s. The painting is interestingly titled "Krishna Loosens His Beloved's Belt" or "The Deceitful Hero".
What I find most interesting about this painting (just one in a series) is that real beetle wings are used as "jewels" to accent the piece. All of the little green shiny things you see here are beetle wings: look for them in Krishna's headdress and on the "awning" of the room the couple is in, among other places. I am personally amazed that these beetle wings are still around after 400+ years! I hear real beetle wings have even been found in Egyptian tombs, as part of necklaces. I am searching to see if I can find a photo of that for everyone to see.

Below, we see a flute made by the La Compa Indians in Peru. It dates to "before 1920" and is made out of a bone, beetle wings, and feathers.

I apologize for the annoying underlined text in this entry! I am still learning how to use my new Mac!! Look for more antique and ancient Insect Art in future posts!