Giant metallic ceiba borer (Euchroma gigantea)
|Also known as:||ceiba borer beetle, giant metallic ceiba borer beetle, jewel beetle, jewel scarab beetle|
|Size||Adult length: 5 - 8 cm (2) (3)|
Larva length: up to 15 cm (4)
The giant metallic ceiba borer has yet to be classified by the IUCN.
The giant metallic ceiba borer (Euchroma gigantea) is a large, colourful beetle with metallic-looking wing cases which give rise to its alternative name of ‘jewel beetle’. Its scientific name translates as ‘colourful giant’, and its attractive wing cases (elytra) are usually metallic green with a reddish or purplish tinge. There are two dark spots on the pronotum (2) (3) (5). The surfaces of the elytra have a wrinkled texture (3) (5), and in newly emerged adults they are covered with a yellowish, waxy powder, which later wears off (5).
This species is the largest in the Buprestidae family. Like other members of the group, it has a robust, elongate body and serrated antennae, and its elytra taper towards the rear (3) (5). A number of different forms of giant metallic ceiba borer have been described, which may be distinct subspecies (1) (3) (6).
The larvae of the giant metallic ceiba borer can grow huge, at up to 12 or even 15 centimetres in length (4). The body of the larva is elongate, with a distinctively flattened, disc-shaped thorax (5) and a yellowish head (7).
The giant metallic ceiba borer is widespread across Central and South America, occurring from Mexico to Brazil and Argentina (2) (3) (5).
The larvae of the giant metallic ceiba borer typically inhabit soft wood of trees in the Bombacaceae family, such as the giant ceiba or kapok tree (Ceiba petandra), balsa (Ochroma spp.), and Bombacopsis and Pseudobombax species, as well as the Parana pine (Araucaria angustifolia) and fig species (Ficus) (2) (3) (5) (7). The adult beetles are usually seen walking or flying around the trunks of the trees (3) (5).
The giant metallic ceiba borer is reported to occur in warm regions up to elevations of around 1,200 metres, and to be particularly abundant in the Amazon region of South America (3).
The giant metallic ceiba borer has been recorded breeding between December and March (4), when the female lays eggs on a woody plant or rotting stump (2) (5) (8). The eggs are laid in batches of up to 10, with an average of 4 batches on a single plant. Each female produces around 240 eggs in total (4). Some studies have recorded the giant metallic ceiba borer mating in August, the males apparently attracting females using a clicking sound produced by the elytra (9).
The eggs of the giant metallic ceiba borer hatch after about 19 days (4). As its common name suggests, the larvae of this species are wood borers, burrowing into the host plant and feeding on its wood (5), which is digested with the aid of bacteria in the gut (8). The larvae may remain inside the plant for up to two years, growing in size and passing through various developmental stages (‘instars’) (4) (8). The larva then pupates, a process which takes around 30 days, and finally emerges from the tree as an adult beetle (4).
Adult giant metallic ceiba borers are commonly active on warm, sunny days (5). Like other Buprestidae species, they are strong fliers and are likely to feed on leaves and pollen (5) (7). The bright colours of this species may play a role in camouflage or communication (8).
In some areas, the adults and larvae of the giant metallic ceiba borer are collected as food (3) (5) (10) (11), and the adults have also been taken for their attractive wing cases, which are made into ornaments and jewellery (3) (5) (8). However, this species is not known to face any major threats at present, and is often considered a serious pest of cultivated and ornamental trees, which may fall after its larvae attack their roots (3) (4) (7) (12).
In parts of the giant metallic ceiba borer’s range, such as in the Atlantic forest of Brazil, extensive habitat loss through deforestation and urbanisation may pose a potential threat to the trees in which it lives (13). However, the impact of this on the giant metallic ceiba borer is currently unknown.
There are no specific conservation measures currently in place for the giant metallic ceiba borer. However, there are a range of conservation initiatives underway in some of the areas in which it lives (13), and these may help to protect the habitat of this stunning insect.
To find out more about conservation efforts in the Atlantic forest, see:
Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots - Atlantic Forest:
WWF: Atlantic Forests:
SOS Mata Atlântica:
The Nature Conservancy:
World Land Trust:
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- Antennae: pair of sensory structures on the head of invertebrates.
- Atlantic forest: a highly biodiverse region found along the east coast of South America, comprising several different vegetation types, including high-altitude grassland, and lowland and montane forest.
- Elytra: in beetles and earwigs, the hard forewings. They are held aloft when the insect flies, and are often coloured or patterned.
- Instars: development stages of an immature insect. At the end of each instar, the insect sheds the rigid external skeleton (the exoskeleton), enabling it to grow and form a new, larger exoskeleton.
- Larvae: stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- Pronotum: in insects, the hardened cuticle on the upper surface of the first thoracic segment (the part of the body nearest the head).
- Pupate: the process of forming a pupa, the stage in an insect’s development when huge changes occur that reorganise the larval form into the adult form.
- Subspecies: a population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
- Thorax: part of the body located between the head and the abdomen in animals. In insects, the three segments between the head and the abdomen, each of which has a pair of legs.
Zipcode Zoo (January, 2011)
- Mecke, R. (2002) Insetos do Pinheiro Brasilero - Insekten der brasilianischen Araukarie - Insects of the Brazilian Pine. Attempto Service GmbH, Tübingen, Germany.
- Douglas, L.R. and Salazar, J.A. (2005) Coleóptera (III): Sobre algunas localidades Columbianas para conocer y estudiar a Acrocinus longimanus (L.), y Euchroma gigantea (L.) (Coleóptera: Cerambycidae- Buprestidae). Boletín Cientifico, Centro de Museos, Museo de Historia Natural, 9: 139-153.
- Garcia, A.H. (1998) Aspectos sobre a biologia de Euchroma gigantea (L., 1758) (Coleoptera - Buprestidae) em Paquira aquatica Aublet (Bombacaceae). Pesquisa Agropecuária Tropical, 28(1): 69-73.
- Hogue, C.L. (1993) Latin American Insects and Entomology. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.
- Moura, R.C., Melo, N.F. and Souza, M.J. (2008) High levels of chromosomal differentiation in Euchroma gigantea L. 1735 (Coleoptera, Buprestidae). Genetics and Molecular Biology, 31(2): 431-437.
- Rodrigues Netto, S.M., Campos, T.B. and Ide, S. (2003) Euchroma gigantea (Linnaeus) (Coleoptera, Buprestidae) como causa de queda de Chorisia speciosa St. Hil. (Bombacaceae). Arquivos do Instituto Biológico, 70(3): 381-384.
- Schwab, I.R. (2004) Jewels of the jungle. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 88: 857.
- Nichols, M.L. (1910) The spermatogenesis of Euchroma gigantea. Biological Bulletin, 19(3): 167-178.
- Hubbell, P. (1979) Adult beetles as food. The Coleopterists Bulletin, 33(1): 91.
- Ramos-Elorduy, J. and Moreno, J.M.P. (2004) Los Coleoptera comestibles de México. Anales del Instituto de Biología, UNAM (Serie Zoología), 75(1): 149-183.
- Garcia, A.H. (1999) Levantamento, identificação dos danos de insetos em árvores ornamentais na área urbana de Goiânia (GO). Pequisa Agropecuária Tropical, 29(1): 77-81.
Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots - Atlantic Forest (January, 2011)