Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Creature Feature: Ironclad Beetles.

"Fur is murder!" cries PETA. Ever since we started thinking that killing animals wasn't cool, especially for luxurious items like fur coats, there has been a certain stigma attached to wearing another animals skin. PETA is lucky that farm and fur animals tend to be cute and cuddly; we don't want to see what they would do about this if they suddenly took an interest in insects:

Just in case you missed it, that beetle is still alive. It has jewelry on its wings, but it's still a living insect. Fortunately, as beetles are not cute and cuddly as piglets, so PETA has not gotten to this practice yet. Also, making ironclad beetles into brooches is mostly done in Mexico, a place that would throw PETA into fits of spastic rage with or without beetle bling.


The beetle in question is called an "ironclad beetle." It eats wood (dead or alive) and fungus, which admittedly comes with eating dead wood. They are native to Mexico down to Venezuela.There are several genera of ironclad beetles, but the one used in jewelry is Zopherus.

When we say "ironclad," we mean it. Ironclad beetles have some of the toughest exoskeletons of all arthropods in general, but the members of the genus Zopherus ("dusky" or "gloomy" in Greek) are so sturdy that they can handle being living bling. Their shell is so solid that they cannot fly. They also only troll you if stepped on, playing dead and then laughing as they scurry away without harm. Hell, even when they are good and dead, entomologists and bug collectors need to use a drill to get through that shell.


The jewelry probably does not bug these beetles at all. Even if PETA did for some reason take up "beetle rights" like they have with lobsters, the beetles would just scurry along their coats going "meh" and eating pieces of old furniture. They would look totally fabulous while doing so. 

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