Entomology 101

"God in his wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why."
- Ogden Nash

My husband Joe got into some kind of tick bed at the Belize Zoo and his legs are now polka-dotted with bites. Near Jaguar Paws cave float site, we witnessed a war between termites and fire ants. The termites were winning big-time. The battlefield was clearly visible and it was fascinating to watch. Let’s face it, bugs are a part of our lives here in Central America, and they aren’t all bad.


When a very big, very interesting-looking insect flew into the cockpit of a nearby boat, I took photos and sent out a request to “Name That Bug.” Chisme December

One of the more knowledgeable answers was “Cicadas,” but that was incorrect. One of the more humorous answers was “Beetlejuice.” Mark S. of NASA was sure it was a Texas cockroach. Several entomologists declined to answer on the grounds that it might tend to incriminate them and one sweet scholar-lady said, “Let me know when you find out! I’m intrigued!”

Well, the bug was correctly identified by Dr. John A. Jackman of the Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University; Professor Timothy Forrest, University of North Carolina at Asheville; and the What's That Bug website. Turns out our Rio Dulce bug was one of the largest beetles in the world! Its family is Buprestidae and it is known as a “metallic wood borer.”

Metallic Wood Borer
Metallic Wood Borer

Dr. Jackman went on to say, “That species is Euchroma gigantea (Linnaeaus) which has the largest individuals in that family in the Americas and probably the world.  In spite of the large size it is quite harmless unless you let it bite you with the mandibles. The shiny yellowish material is present on a lot of the Buprestidae right after the adults emerge but wears off quickly.  The function of the yellow powder is not well known but it is sometimes called pseudo-pollen. The larvae are grubs that borer in wood, probably dead logs or stumps rather than living trees."

What's That Bug contributed, "The elytra or wing covers are made into jewelry and ornaments by peoples in
Central and South America; adults are eaten by Tzeltal-Mayan Indians in Chiapas, Mexico. The range of the insect reaches from Mexico to Argentina."

I guess life is good if you stop and smell the roses, but it’s even more fun when you stop and watch the bugs. Now, if I could just get rid of that itchy place on my ankle...