Friday, November 11, 2011

The Glorious Golden Scarab

We found this gilded beetle trundling in the duff along the Clear Creek Trail up near Verde Valley, Arizona a few weeks ago. The species was dubbed Chrysina gloriosa, or “glorious golden one,” one of 30,000 or so beetles in the scarab family. The Glorious Scarab is supposedly camouflaged by its gleaming exoskeleton as it feeds on the foliage of juniper trees. As grubs, they make a living chewing tunnels in decaying sycamore logs, most common in riparian habitats of southern Arizona.

My son, who aspires to be an entomologist, studies the elaborate appendages while drawing our specimen. This beetle was in its last hours, so is now preserved in Orion's insect collection.

I was surprised to find very little other information about these living jewels. Their much homelier distant cousins, the Egyptian dung beetle, Scarabaeus sacer, however, have earned the status of gods in Mediterranean mythology. As a symbol of the sun god, Ra, the scarab is plentiful in the hieroglyphics, jewelry and sculptures of ancient and modern Egypt.

If you are a Facebook user, search for Chrysina gloriosa, which has its very own fan page, and give it a thumbs up!

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