Lifescapes Gallery

24 / Mar / 2010
Once Upon a Bug…
Jewel Bug, Coorg Photograph: Ganesh H. Shankar Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

Once Upon a Bug…

Long, long ago, in the days before PCs and video games, when TVs were tourist attractions at the homes of the connected, children in South India prospected for precious metals in their backyards. When you did strike gold, or any other likely gem, you tucked away the precious catch in miniature safe deposit lockers, which had previously served a more humble role as matchboxes. That could have been the reason why the jewels hidden within sparkled with an iridescent flame when they stepped out with a self important majesty that awed both owner and spectator alike, no matter how many times you’d seen them. We’re talking about the (un)common Jewel Bug, a beetle-like creature of fancy found in home gardens, that sparkled in rich metallic hues that’d put a rare ruby or lapis lazuli to shame. Known as ‘ponvandu’ in parts of South India, these dazzlers were prized finds for entire generations of children whose stock rose or dipped with the extent of their bug collection, and thus were guarded zealously. These living gems, however, had an inbuilt anti-theft mechanism to deter potential thieves: an offensive scent that could scare away all burglars, except those with malfunctioning olfactory units. While images of Jewel Bugs may remind some viewers of amethysts, corals, rubies, and other precious stones, they remind most of us of something infinitely more precious: the good old days!

We at Orange County have loved sharing this story with you, and shall bring you one every fortnight, as part of our Responsible Tourism Initiatives to raise awareness about the nature and culture of the environments we operate in.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 at 10:00 am and is filed under Insects . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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User Comments
  1. prasenjit chatterjee. says:

    awesum property, i’m loving it, going to face the interview for the orange county,bangalore,really feeling very excited.

  2. Magali Ver says:

    I never thought of it that way, well put!

  3. VDV says:

    Really beautiful! What happened to the other jewel beetle, called Ponn Vandu in tamil, it used to be quite common. Another user John V. has commented about this, would like to know if anyone has come across this beetle recently in urban or rural areas.

  4. Ganesh H. Shankar says:

    Nice to know you all liked it !

    – Ganesh H. Shankar

  5. Isaac Kehimkar (General Manager & Jt. Editor , BNHS says:

    Lovely photograph indeed. It is often difficult to capture such structural colours in camera, since these iridescent colours are “seen” at certain angles to the light. Bugs have sucking mouth-parts, while beetles have chewing mouth-parts. There are several differences, but some species could confuse us like this one. Of course, there are Jewel Beetles too. This bug’s scientific name is Chrysocoris stolli. But that’s not important, just enjoy the nature’s creation!!!
    Isaac Kehimkar
    GM & Jt. Editor, Hornbill, BNHS

  6. S.G.Neginhal IFS (Retd) says:

    These insects are known as jewel beetles and not jewel bugs as far as my knowledge goes. There are beautiful pomegranate red colours in these, which are bigger in size. As children, we used to keep them as pets and play with them.

  7. Raunak Raja says:

    I am really glad to receive such beautiful mails. I wish you keep sending me such beautiful mails. Thank You!!!

  8. Jagadish.B.Machimanda says:

    In my childhood I saw it in our vegetable garden, we played with this bug by tying a rope onto the leg and keeping it inside the match box. Nice writeup and good picture

  9. Shobha Bppanna navsaria says:

    Such beautful colours,wonder if they have sarees in those beautful……. colours? Just love the picture.

  10. Maya Pingho says:

    How cool…!

  11. Sailee says:

    This is the second time that Im seeing this beautiful creature…. Once the poor bug was caught amidst the local train in Mumbai (not the same one in the pic, bt yes the same family I guess) … N now this snap taken is so real that you can almost feel its sheer radiance….

  12. Ashwini says:

    Good write-up..remembered those days when we used to catch it…now i catch them to show my kid who also loves to see lady bug or jwel bug

  13. Thresi E. R. says:

    Whoever thought that a combination of green, yellow and blue could create something so idescribably beautiful!

  14. Ruby says:

    Lovely pic and a very apt write up ! I am definitely taking a trip down the memory lane.. Thanx guys !!

  15. Minnie Paul says:

    I stumbled upon this site by chance, and was really thrilled to see this brilliant photograph of a jewel bug. What a spendidly-coloured and patterned bug. It is such sights that remind us of the unsurpassable beauty of Nature.

  16. Kalyani Davidar says:

    Those golden days….when we had to ‘turn but a stone and start a wing’.

  17. Dr John Vaseekaran says:

    I have been watching all the pictures you sent to me. Of all these, this one was great! As a small boy i was a great collector of this ponvandu and i used to carry this in a match box as you have put it very rightly and they used to eat kodukapulli leaves. Along with this pon vandu a cascade of old sweet memories poured in to my mind making me very happy. I took a walk down the memory lane, all this because of your beautiful picture of the gem ponvandu. Thank you and thank you very much!

    Dr John Vaseekaran

    P.S– I will be seeing you soon in Orange County with my family

  18. giuliana - ITALY says:

    Congrats All You for a wonderful photograph.It remember me Orange County.
    Giuliana Peroglio, Italy
    Nature’s Loving

  19. Heike Keller says:

    I loved the photo – good job, Ganesh – as much as the comment. Even if it did not bring back memories for me, having grown up in Europe. Over here the “bug business” was not thriving the way you describe it because the local bugs may stink but they lack the beauty of your precious ponvandus. Thanks for sharing these beautiful creatures and reminding me of the wonderful moments spent in Orange County.

  20. Diwakaran Nair says:

    This is one wednesday that has taken me back to the mondays of my childhood, when i would go into school to compare the jewels that each of us had found over the weekend. Very often we used the ponvandus to barter for other gems or sweets. I remember once getting an exotic ‘imported’ eraser (that was catch those days, mind you) as exchange for 2 glowing beetles.
    Congrats Ganesh Shankar for a wonderful photograph, and Rajesh Ramaswamy for transporting me back in time.

  21. Hemalatha says:

    Simply awesome!! The bejewelled little bug and the write up!! wish to see more…..

  22. Akash Deep says:

    Marvelous photo & write-up… it has reminded me my childhood, when as a kid I took the jewel bug from our garden & put in my pocket considering it as a jewel. It was a tickling experience…. Cheers to Orange County.

  23. GANESH HR says:

    Dear Mr Ganesh H Shankar,
    I am very happy to see the Jewel Bug featured for Coorg. In fact, I have seen this jewel bug many times in the forest here and was delighted to see the photo in lifescapes by Orange County. I loved the write up too.

    thanks & regards,

    Ganesh HR (Naturalist – Orange County, Coorg)

  24. Shalu Varadkar says:

    Well..never knew about this..not even read anywhere…No wonder, If this beetle like creature was always there in home gardens..then there use to be the loads of Jewels…

    Its really appreciable from Orange County to bring such marvellous stuff for us and to let us know about nature and its beauty… 🙂

  25. Krish says:


  26. Teekay says:

    Felt happy suddenly after seeing the foto..
    Yes, indeed it brought back a stream of memories 🙂

    And as usual, xlnt write-up as accompaniment..

  27. Uma Gopal says:

    Brilliant commentary- dazzling like the bug itself!
    Really enjoy the lifescapes pieces- keeps nature so alive

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