Beetle Bling

beetle bling 2Decorating your little black dress with a crystal coated Madagascan hissing cockroach brooch will certainly be a conversation opener at the Christmas party.

A few years ago US fashion label Black Chandelier made a splash in the media with their Swarovski studded cockroaches. They were crawling out the store faster than the resident beetle blinger could glue on the gems.

Earlier this year the Daily Mail reported a story about a lady who was detained for trying to enter Texas from Mexico with a bejewelled but mobile beetle pinned on a gold chain to her sweater.

The beetle bling fad may seem strange to us but it’s an ancient part of Mayan custom and really not extraordinary in Mexico.The beetle barred from the US is a Maketch or Maquech which hails from the genus Zopherus. They are wood-boring insects from the Yukatan peninsula and have very thick exoskeletons. Indeed, the elytra are so thick that it is often necessary to drill a hole in them in order to mount specimens.

Madagascan cockroach = the hissing cockroachCockroaches have a part of their shell that extends over their heads. This hood is a non-feeling part of their body. They can live up to a year, if taken care of properly, and bejewelled or hissing Madagascan cockroaches can be kept as pets. They are slow moving, low maintainance and like to be held within the warmth of a palm. Pet cockroaches should not be confused with their dirtier, germ ridden cousins.

Matt Green, Entomologist for Rentokil commented, “decking out the insect with stick-on tom-foolery isn’t going to bother the insect much, the adhesive is applied to the carapace, which isn’t a breathing surface, and they don’t weigh much in relation to loads an insect can carry. The restriction on movement and therefore breeding is more of a worry for the Maketch, it’s not a long-lived adult and must mate in the adult form- it’s not going to mate if it’s anchored to a blouse. At least, you’d hope not.”

As Jared Gold, owner of Black Chandelier points out in the interview linked above, the hissers were sold as food so arguably they get a longer life, if not necessarily a better one.

However…..(and now for the segue way into the science and urban entomology bit)….if they were released into the wild and not immediately eaten by predators due to their new-found adornments the males might do very well indeed. There was an interesting study published in the SpringerLink Journal a few years ago looking at female mate selection by deathwatch beetle that found, when given a selection of potential males, they were more inclined to choose mates that were heavy (they weighed down puny males with blobs of Blu-Tack and made them more attractive- it’s a quality bit of scientific research).

Maybe beetle bling really could be hit with the ladies.

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