Saturday, February 13, 2010

Weird Bug News

I try to make a habit of picking up our local alternative newspaper, the Tucson Weekly; if only for my guilty pleasure, the “News of the Weird” by Chuck Shepherd. His column sometimes has me laughing out loud. Not surprisingly, some of the stories revolve around an entomology theme, as did one this week.

The first entry in his column is entitled “Bejeweled Beetle,” and reads thus:

”In January, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers confiscated a live, jeweled beetle that a woman was wearing as an ‘accessory’ on her sweater as she crossed into Brownsville, Texas, from Mexico. Blue jewels were glued onto the beetle’s back, which had been painted gold, and the mobile brooch was tethered by a gold chain attached to a safety pin. Even though the woman orally ‘declared’ the animal, the beetle was confiscated, because she had not completed the bureau’s PPQ Form 526, which is necessary to bring insects into the country. Reportedly, such jewelry is not that rare in Mexico. A spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was, of course, appalled.”

There you have it, folks, your tax dollars at work. I only wish that we were collectively so vigilant when it comes to agricultural and forest pests. There is certainly nothing to fear from the beetle species employed as a living ornament. That would be Zopherus chilensis, an “ironclad beetle” in the family Zopheridae. They are scavengers that feed on organic debris and pose no known threat to the health of humans, pets, livestock, crops, or garden plants. I only wish I could say the same about most of the human characters in “News of the Weird.”

4 comments:

  1. LOL!

    Excuse me, now I have to go google Zopherus chilensis.

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  2. ok, this "Mayan Prince" of the bug world seems harmless to me. I say let the decorating commence.

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  3. I've seen a couple of these decorated beetles. They were brought home to Canada by a tourist about 30 years or so ago - no doubt, in the days when there wasn't as much vigilance regarding crossing borders with non-native flora and fauna. The ones I saw were quite gaudy looking. I'm not sure how long they survived after being brought home - I'm guessing "not long". After they died, the owner kept them on display in a "cabinet of curiosities".

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