Are Bejeweled Beetles A Creepy Or Chic Fashion Accessory?

Insects aren’t usually considered a must-have fashion accessory. But recently, a woman crossing the border between Mexico and Texas was stopped for her live beetle adorned with blue and gold jewels. The woman’s “brooch” was attached to her clothing with a gold chain and safety pin and was allowed to wander along her clothing. The beetle jewelry was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for further identification.

Apparently, adorning live beetles with jewels and chains is nothing new. It’s been going on for decades, maybe centuries, and Jackie Kennedy reportedly had one decked out with emeralds. The beetles are often of the Makech variety from the Yucatan Peninsula. They eat rotting wood, are wingless, and have hairy legs that stick to clothing like Velcro. If the Makech isn’t handled too much it can live for 4 to 5 years; whether that life will be a pleasant one is another question.

A few cycles back, “America’s Next Top Model” featured bejeweled Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches designed by Jared Gold of Black Chandelier, a boutique in Salt Lake City, UT. The cockroaches, which were studded with Austrian Swarovski crystals, were a hot item in 2006. Twenty-five were sold weekly for $60 or $80.

Now, though, the trend of living insect jewelry might pick up as more people learn about Makech. Getting them into the country, however, isn’t the only problem. Some people believe it’s cruel to adhere jewels to a living insect, even though we think of most bugs as pests. “Beetles may not be as cute and cuddly as puppies and kittens, but they have the same capacity to feel pain and suffer,” said a spokesperson for PETA. “It’s ironic. We spend hours each week helping kind people find humane ways to relocate lost insects such as ants, bees and roaches that wander into their homes. People feel so good about not hurting them, while this woman paid someone to mutilate them.”

So what do you think, are jewel-encrusted beetles cool or cruel? [Impact Lab, The Washington Post, The Holy Enchilada]