Mystery beetle challenges identification

I like a good mystery. To be more accurate, I like to solve a good mystery. Speaking of accuracy, I want to know for sure I have solved the mystery and, for me, that means I’m looking for specific types of sources.

This beetle is one of those mysteries I haven’t been able to solve, at least not 100 percent. I think I’ve figured out what kind it is but I’d like more information and I’m still a bit confused about exactly what it’s named.

Let’s start with where I saw it. I came in from outside and felt something on my head so I reached up to see what it was but I couldn’t find anything. When I felt something tickling my neck a bit later I reached up again, felt a decent sized bug and tossed it across the kitchen. It smacked into the bottom part of the refrigerator and lay on the floor, feet up. Thanks to it’s hard exoskeleton it didn’t seem to be hurt by the fall.

I scooped it into a jar and took it outside to get some photos. At first it looked dark and pretty ugly. But when I put it down on our concrete patio in the sun, it gleamed iridescent in the light. It’s actually quite pretty! Fortunately it froze long enough for me to get several good, clear photos.

I uploaded the photo to inaturalist, the app I use for creature identification but I couldn’t narrow it down. So I set it as a metallic wood boring beetle, the category of beetle, not the specific name of this beetle. They are also known as jewel beetles.

Later, two fellow inaturalist users helped me out by identifying it as a spotted-belly buprestid beetle. But when I googled that name I didn’t find much except a blog written by a nature and photography enthusiast in 2017. (1.) It sure looks like the same bug from the photos.

I kept searching, hoping to also find an academic or government source with more information about the bug, but no luck. I did, however, find one at a bug identification website that sure looks like my bug friend, but has a slightly different name. (2.) The buprestis maculativentris, a ventrally-spotted buprestid, has spots on the underside of it’s abdomen. Too bad I didn’t take photos when my bug was laying on it’s back on my kitchen floor, kicking it’s legs.

Now, according to the dictionary, ventral does mean the underside of a plant or animal (3.) or related to the belly (4.). So perhaps these are just two slightly different names for the same bug.

That seals it for me. Writing this blog has helped me feel more confident in the identification. Some say spotted-belly buprestid and others say ventrally-spotted buprestid. Either way it’s a jewel beetle or a metallic wood boring beetle.

It also reminded me the importance of taking photos of creatures from as many angles as possible, possibly even the belly, which is the most difficult unless it’s on glass or a screen. My kid actually taught me this one this summer, when she kept trying to turn frogs over to look at their bellies. Then, later, I read that one of the ways to identify a frog I’d asked her to stop pestering by flipping it over, was to flip it over and look at it’s belly! Not all creatures are identified by looking at their bellies but clearly it can help for some.