From the Life of the Beetles

It is already a cliché to complain about increasing commercialization of such spheres of society as art and culture which earlier were not directly associated with commerce. But recently, concerned voices are repeatedly heard from the direction of science. Particularly, entomologists are very worried about the latest developments. They report that the same tendency has been observed also in their research area. It is weird, but apparently the spirit of commerce is now also penetrating nature. 

The capability of some insects for mimicry has been known for long. For instance, the orchid praying mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) is practically not to be distinguished from the orchid flower on which it is sitting. Some two years ago the new types of beetle were discovered in the area of Tunguska in Siberia. This was a group of beetles which do not belong to one type, but still they have the same feature: they can imitate not only the colours of plant forms in their environment, but also various objects which they meet coincidentally (a matchbox, a pencil, a piece of crumpled paper).

The whole group got the name “Tunguska Scarabæus”. (Tunguska is a remote area in Siberia. On the 30th of June 1908, an enormous explosion took place there. It is known as the Tunguska explosion. As a result of the explosion, the trees broke off at the basis of their trunks in the surroundings within 40 kilometres. The cause of the explosion has still been speculated about, also due to the fact that it took place in a very remote area. This creates mystery around the Tunguska explosion, and the wildest theories emerge).

And now here it comes: the latest discovery – a beetle which is able to imitate various coins. It is remarkable that the first specimen of the Tunguska beetle that were found looked like a rather rough imitation of a dollar coin. But the newest findings show that the beetles are honing to perfection their imitation capabilities. And if it goes on like this, soon we will have to do with the beetle-coins hardly distinguishable from the real Euro. Moreover, it seems that the Tunguska beetle comes to like imitating – the population of coin imitators is increasing.

According to the financial sector, the consequences of uncontrolled stuffing of big amounts of imitation coins are incalculable. 

An entomological laboratory of Saratov University in Russia (858 km from Moscow) is carrying out a research on the Tunguska beetle. The attempts to grow coins from the beetle larvae artificially did lead to a result, but not quite a desirable one: every time only old Russian coins, which are not in circulation any more, are coming out. But who knows what is lying ahead of us? 

At this moment the laboratory in Saratov is in possession of a unique collection of materials concerning the investigation of the latest spectacular developments in the beetle realm. The objects of the collection are never lent out because of their extreme vulnerability. That is why ceramic replicas of the most interesting pieces of the collection were made for this exhibition. Besides, drawings connected with the scientific investigation are presented in the exposition, next to some photos of the laboratory in Saratov.



The capability of some insects for mimicry has been known for long. For instance, the
orchid praying mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) is practically not to be distinguished from the orchid flower on witch it is sitting.

Left: the Hibiscus beetle has camouflaged as a plant twig.
Right: transformation of a Tunguska-beetle in a coin.

Left: the stories of eyewitnesses.
Right: during mating the male and female Tunguska-beetle have taken the form of a gas
mask witch was lying next to them at that moment.


In 1930, something of the same kind as the Tunguska disaster probably took place when
on the 13th of August three objects came down in the jungle of Brazil, at the Rio Curacá, close to the Peruvian border. Later, little ceramic figures of parrots with the beetles became very popular. They are still very loved among the local population. Previously, these little sculptures were seen only as a curiosity. But some years ago scientists discovered a Brazilian version of the Tunguska-beetle.They have also found out that these are the parrots that move the beetles, and so contribute to their spread.

 A big specimen of the Tunguska beetle found in Novogrod near the central station.
The beetle was discovered at the moment of transformation. Here you can see that the limbs of the beetle have already started to fall off. That indicates the last stage of

The beetle-coins.

 A Tunguska-beetle transformed into a bust of the famous Russian poet Mayakovsky.


Various modifications of the Tunguska-beetle from the collection of the Saratov
entomological laboratory.


A big specimen of the Tunguska-beetle, Krasnoyarsk region.