Montana Public Radio

Bug Bytes: Golden Buprestid

Jun 12, 2020

Forged in fire. Whether it’s glass or metal, many artists rely on heat and fire to make their craft. Then it should come as no surprise that a family of incredibly beautiful beetles also has a relationship with fire.

Metallic wood-boring beetles are commonly called “jewel beetles” because of their iridescent colors. And the golden buprestid is perhaps one of the shiniest examples. While primarily a bedazzled metallic green color, they also sport blue and purple highlights with a coppery-orange edge to their wing covers. They look more like a piece of insect art.

A buprestis aurulenta, more commonly known as a golden buprestid beetle.
Credit Glenn Marangelo

Their relationship with fire comes from the fact that the beetles are attracted to recently dead or dying trees that have often been impacted by forest fires or struck by lightning. Females will lay their eggs on the bark, with the newly emerged larvae boring into the wood.

Under normal conditions, the larval stage will last 2 to 4 years before the next generation of adults emerge. But sometimes their development hits a snag. The fire-killed trees are often harvested for lumber.

When trees containing the Golden Buprestid’s larvae are harvested and subjected to seasoning and low humidity, the growing beetles can become trapped in the milled lumber. But rather than killing the developing beetle, their life cycle slows down …way, way down.

The result? 20 to 30 years later, adult beetles have been documented emerging from furniture, wood paneling, cutting boards and more.

So the next time you are purchasing a piece of furniture, paneling, or some lumber for a project, don’t be surprised if a few decades down the road you find a shining jewel and more than you bargained for.