Buprestis rufipes, copyright Jennifer Linde.

Belongs within: Buprestini.

Buprestis is a Holarctic genus of jewel beetles whose larvae bore into trees such as conifers, maples, beech and oaks (Bellamy & Nelson 2002).

Jewels among beetles
Published 14 September 2017

There are many contenders for the title of most stunning-looking insect but there is no question that the jewel beetles have a place among the line-up. Some of these brilliantly coloured insects look as if they could have been sculpted from gleaming metal:

Buprestis niponica, copyright Kohichiro Yoshida.

Buprestis is a genus of jewel beetles found in the Holarctic region, with the greater diversity around the Mediterranean and North America. Somewhere between forty and eighty species are recognised, depending on whether the closely related genera Cypriacis and Yamina are regarded as distinct or not. Species of Buprestis come in a variety of colours, with green, blue or black backgrounds often patterned with yellow or red.

Female Buprestis octoguttata ovipositing, copyright Christian Fischer.

Despite their attractive appearance, jewel beetles are not always welcome. They spend the larval part of their life cycle burrowing into wood so some are known for damaging timbers. The preferred hosts of most Buprestis species, where known, appear to be conifers such as pine, spruce and larch. They primarily attack dead and dying wood, and females of some species are known for searching the trunks of trees following fires to find where protective bark has cracked open (some jewel beetle species in other genera are commonly known as ‘fire beetles’ in reference to this habit). Buprestis larvae have been claimed to live for extraordinarily long periods. Mature beetles have been observed emerging from furniture and the like multiple decades after the original tree was felled, leading to claims of larval life spans of up to 51 years! It almost goes without saying that such inferences have attracted their share of scepticism, with detractors suggesting the possibility of eggs being laid after the wood was already worked. It is true that the low nutritious value of dry wood might be expected to lead to slow development, but how slow are you willing to believe?

Systematics of Buprestis
Buprestis Linnaeus 1758 [incl. Ancylocheira Eschscholtz 1829, Anoplis Kirby 1837, Gymnota Gistel 1834]B85
|--B. (Buprestis)BN02
| |--*B. (B.) octoguttata Linnaeus 1758B85, L58
| |--B. (B.) maculativentrisBN02
| `--B. (B.) rufipesBN02
|--B. (Didonia Thery 1947 non Velen. 1934 [ICBN])B85
|--B. (Knulliobuprestis Kurosawa 1988)BN02
|--B. (Orthocheira Rikhter 1952)B85
|--B. (Pseudyamina Rikhter 1952)B85
`--B. (Stereosa Casey 1909)B85

Buprestis incertae sedis:
B. acuminataR26
B. amphichroaB35
B. arrogans [=Evides arrogans; incl. B. aurofoveata]B35
B. aurantiopicta [incl. B. decostigma, B. gulielmi White 1859]M86
B. aurulenta Linnaeus 1767B14
B. berolinensisR26
B. bicincta [=Polychroma bicincta]B35
B. biguttataR26
B. caloptera [=Selagis caloptera]B35
B. cancellataB35
B. chrysisL02
B. chrysocoelis Boisduval 1835B35
B. chrysoptera [=Abrobapta chrysoptera]B35
B. cichoriiR26
B. crenata [=Polychroma crenata]B35
B. cruciataB35
B. cunninghami Boisduval 1835B35
B. cuprea Linnaeus 1758L58
B. cupripennisB35
B. cyanicollis [=Polychroma cyanicollis]B35
B. decemmaculata [=Polychroma decemmaculata]B35
B. decemnotataM86
B. decoraFS90
B. dejeaniana Boisduval 1835B35
B. discoideaM86
B. douei Lucas 1846E12
B. duodecimguttataB35
B. duponti Boisduval 1835B35
B. erythromelas Boisduval 1835B35
B. erythroptera [=Polychroma erythroptera]B35
B. fasciataFS90
B. fascicularis Linnaeus 1758L58
B. festivaR26
B. fissiceps [=Diphucrania fissiceps]B35
B. flavoangulataF05
|--B. f. flavoangulataF05
`--B. f. baetica Verdugo 2005F05
B. flavopicta [=Polychroma flavopicta]B35
B. foveicollis [=Evides foveicollis]B35
B. gigantea Linnaeus 1758L58
B. grandis [=Conognatha grandis]B35
B. helopioides Boisduval 1835B35
B. hirta Linnaeus 1758L58
B. ignita Linaneus 1758L58
B. imperialis [=Cyria imperialis]B35
B. jacquinotii Dupont in Boisduval 1835B35
B. laevipennis [=Evides laevipennis]B35
B. leucosticta [=Diphucrania leucosticta; incl. B. squamulata, B. stellulata]B35
B. lherminieriFS90
B. limbataB35
B. linearis Linnaeus 1758L58
B. lineataFS90
B. lottinii Dupont in Boisduval 1835B35
B. macularia [=Conognatha macularia]B35
B. maculipennisFS90
B. mancaB35
B. mariana Linnaeus 1758L58
B. minuta Linnaeus 1758L58
B. nervosa Boisduval 1835B35
B. niponicaB14
B. nitidaR26
B. nitidula Linnaeus 1758L58
B. nobilis Linnaeus 1758L58
B. novemmaculata [incl. B. novemmaculata var. maculata]C01
B. pacifica Boisduval 1835B35
B. quadripunctata Linnaeus 1758L58
B. radiansB35
B. rubiR26
B. rufipennis [=Polychroma rufipennis]B35
B. rustica Linnaeus 1758L58
B. rutilansG20
B. satrapa [incl. B. suturalis, Evides suturalis]B35
B. scabiosaB35
B. scutellaris [=Belionota scutellaris]B35
B. smaragdulaB35
B. splendensB14
B. splendidaB35
B. sternicornis Linnaeus 1758L58
B. striataB14
B. stricta Linnaeus 1758L58
B. sulcicollisB14
B. taeniataL02
B. tenebricosaR26
B. tenebrionisL02
B. tristis Linnaeus 1758L58
B. undulata [=Polychroma undulata]B35
B. vertebralisB35
B. vetusta [=Geronia vetusta]B35
B. viridinitens [=Abrobapta viridinitens]B35
B. viridis Linnaeus 1758L58
B. vittataL02
B. xanthocera Boisduval 1835B35

*Type species of generic name indicated


[B85] Bellamy, C. L. 1985. A catalogue of the higher taxa of the family Buprestidae (Coleoptera). Navorsinge van die Nasionale Museum Bloemfontein 4 (15): 405–472.

[BN02] Bellamy, C. L., & G. H. Nelson. 2002. Buprestidae Leach 1815. In: Arnett, R. H., Jr, M. C. Thomas, P. E. Skelley & J. H. Frank (eds) American Beetles vol. 2. Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea pp. 98–112. CRC Press.

[B35] Boisduval, J. B. 1835. Voyage de Découvertes de l’Astrolabe. Exécuté par ordre du Roi, pendant les années 1826–1827–1828–1829, sous le commandement de M. J. Dumont d’Urville. Faune entomologique de l’océan Pacifique, avec l’illustration des insectes nouveaux recueillis pendant le voyage vol. 2. Coléoptères et autres ordres. J. Tastu: Paris.

[B14] Bouchard, P. (ed.) 2014. The Book of Beetles: A lifesize guide to six hundred of nature’s gems. Ivy Press: Lewes (United Kingdom).

[C01] Csiki, E. 1901. Bogarak [Coleopteren]. In: Horváth, G. (ed.) Zichy Jenő Gróf Harmadik Ázsiai Utazása [Dritte Asiatische Forschungsreise des Grafen Eugen Zichy] vol. 2. Zichy Jenő Gróf Harmadik Ázsiai Utazásának Állattani Eredményei [Zoologische Ergebnisse der Dritten Asiatischen Forschungsreise des Grafen Eugen Zichy] pp. 75–120. Victor Hornyánszky: Budapest, and Karl W. Hierseman: Leipzig.

[E12] Evenhuis, N. L. 2012. Publication and dating of the Exploration Scientifique de l’Algérie: Histoire Naturelle des Animaux Articulés (1846–1849) by Pierre Hippolyte Lucas. Zootaxa 3448: 1–61.

[F05] Fernández, J. 2005. Noticia de nuevos táxones para la ciencia en el ámbito Íbero-Balear y Macaronésico. Nuevos táxones animales descritos en la península Ibérica y Macaronesia desde 1994 (IX). Graellsia 61 (2): 261–282.

[FS90] Fleutiaux, E., & A. Sallé. 1890. Liste des coléoptères de la Guadeloupe et descriptions d’espèces nouvelles. Annales de la Société Entomologique de France, 6e série 9: 351–484.

[G20] Goldfuss, G. A. 1820. Handbuch der Naturgeschichte vol. 3. Handbuch der Zoologie pt 1. Johann Leonhard Schrag: Nürnberg.

[L02] Latreille, P. A. 1802. Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière des crustacés et des insectes vol. 3. Familles naturelles des genres. F. Dufart: Paris.

[L58] Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Laurentii Salvii: Holmiae.

[M86] Masters, G. 1886. Catalogue of the described Coleoptera of Australia. Part III. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, series 2, 1 (1): 21–126.

[R26] Risso, A. 1826. Histoire naturelle des principales productions de l’Europe méridionale et particulièrement de celles des environs de Nice et des Alpes maritimes vol. 5. F.-G. Levrault: Paris.

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