Monday, July 19, 2010

Ancient Mystery Beetle

(What we did on our summer vacation, Part Umpteen)

Just south of Campbell River, Laurie noticed a sign: Black Creek Antiques, and an arrow. One rainy day we decided to check it out.  We followed the arrow to a family home with a sign over a door by the garage, and a pile of rusting household equipment outside in the rain; ancient washing machines, wood stoves, pots, "whats-its". Inside, Mike Lazare plays the cheerful host, always ready to move things, talk about them, run for something else we may be interested in. His store is jammed with everything imaginable; antiques, vintage stuff, English china, bottles and historical memorabilia, collectibles, curiosities, teapots, and much more. In back, Mike showed us an antique cannon and his vintage Ford. (I oohhed and ahhed; Laurie not so much. I'm the car person in this couple.)

We browsed for a while. Laurie bought a couple of items. I picked up a pair of Chinese ginger jars. And Laurie bought me a bug.

Mike called it an antique Egyptian scarab; a real one.

Scarab. About 1.4 cm. long. A glittering, metallic green.

Big round eyes. The pink dots below them are light reflecting off the curve of the antennae.

The underside looks like polished copper. The legs are folded tightly against it; nothing sticks out. I started to doubt. This could not be real! It looks too metallic, too manufactured. I decided to investigate.

Bottom. The camera renders the copper as green and brown; my eyes see only coppery brown.

Yes, with the camera on macro, I can see that this is too detailed for a copy. Here's the head end:

The antennae are tucked underneath the legs. The little stick off to the left is half of a front leg that fell off.

And to doubly confirm that this is a real beetle, I turned the microscope on it:

200x. The "ankle" of the last leg, with part of the abdominal rings. See the hairs?

Verdict; yes, a real once-living beetle. But I looked up the Egyptian scarab; this is not it. It's some sort of dung beetle, but I don't know what kind, nor where it came from.

Not that I'm complaining; it was a great gift. Laurie knows the way to a woman's heart! (Well, mine, at least.)


  1. Well, Scarabaeus sacer, the Egyption Sacrad Scarab, is a dung beetle, but you're right, that isn't it.

    Very pretty beetle.

  2. Once again you amaze me! I probably would have accepted what I was told, and not thought to look so closely.

    I love the way his antennae are tucked behind his legs.

  3. Anonymous8:43 pm

    Definitely not a dung beetle or a scarab. It's a tortoise beetle (chrysomelidae). No idea what species, but it's gorgeous.

  4. These are beautiful pics of beetles matching those I have in a brooch. I found this site after doing a search to identify the beetles. I would like to upload a picture of it. It has three matching beetles and the fourth beetle has fallen out and I would like to replace it. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!

  5. Zorah4:22 pm

    Hi, I saw your picture of the iridescent beetle. I would be interested in purchasing it for a piece of jewelry that is missing one. Would you consider selling it?

  6. Anonymous8:29 am

    It's a real scarab. They have been foiled in some way and then enameled. In the Victorin age those where used for stunning jewelry pieces. Very nice one ;)

  7. Hi, I am just researching the very same species, i have a headless one on a chain around my neck that was found outside my house. not foiled this is their natural color, and yes i believe they are some kind of tortoise beetle or Christmas beetle (Anoplognathus).

  8. Molly; Thanks for the Genus name; it narrows down the search.

  9. Anonymous2:10 am

    A few years late to the party, but I think it's Polychalca Variolosa.

  10. Thanks, Anonymous. That looks right. Here's a photo.

    (P. punctatissima lists P. variolosa as a synonym.)


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