Unexpected Find - A Tiny Jewel Beetle

06th July 2012
Jewel BeetleI'm trying to learn more about the UK's solitary bees and wasps, and there have been a few in the garden recently. These have included some of the very small varieties, including Hylaeus bees and Crossocerus wasps. Sometimes if you're lucky, you can find them "roosting" overnight or during chilly/wet spells, in flowers/foliage. When I do find them, I sometimes bring them indoors to photograph and then release them.

Yesterday, one of the little solitary bees I'd been photographing indoors flew off and I lost sight of it. Later, I saw what I thought was the bee, on the inside of my lounge window. It wasn't the bee, but this tiny (5mm), rather beautiful (and somewhat unusual-looking) beetle. I say "beetle", but at the time, I must admit that I wasn't sure exactly what it was. It looked beetle-ish, but somehow not quite right. I decided to photograph it and then attempt to identify it later. I picked a leaf from the garden and then gently brushed the beetle from the window onto it. It didn't attempt to fly or move off. I got several shots with my Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens zoomed in to about x3. The beetle seemed unresponsive, but did occasionally raise a leg in warning, like bees sometimes do.

I have been experimenting recently with additional ways of diffusing the light from my macro flashes. With beetles and other shiny insects, it can be difficult to avoid getting bright "specular" highlights reflected back. I use the Canon TwinLite flash clipped to the end of my macro lens(es) together with push-on Stofen diffusers. They improve the situation but are not always ideal. For the beetle shots I also just pushed a disposable polystyrene cup onto each of the TwinLite flash heads for extra diffusion.

(Click on images for a larger version)

I posted one of the shots onto iSpot and John Bratton, one of the iSpot Invertebrate Experts, suggested Buprestidae. This is a family of beetles known as Jewel Beetles because of their glossy iridescent colors. After hours "Googling" and checking books, I found that there are around 16 species of Buprestid beetles in the UK, ranging from 2-20mm in length. From online images and decriptions, it looks like my specimen could be Agrilus angustulus, one of three Buprestrids associated with oak (oak borers). There is a large oak in our next-door neighbour's garden.

I put the beetle onto a garden plant after photographing. I little later I went back and saw it drinking from a water droplet. For that shot (above right), I didn't use the polystyrene "diffusers". You'll see (for comparison), that there's more reflected glare.

I'll be posting a Blog/article about the photographic techniques that I use, in the near future.

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