COMMON NAMES: Makech
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Zopherus chilensis
The Makech is a hardy beetle in the zopheridae family, also known as the zopherid beetles, which have long, flattened bodies and a thick, scaly exoskeleton. The Makech has a golden hue with black speckles. Like most beetles in this family the Makech is flightless, lending it to well to its cultural use as living jewellery.
HABITAT AND RANGE:
Zopherid beetles live in dead wood and other rotting plant material in dry forests. The family is distributed across the Americas but the Makech hails from Central and South America and gained its fame for its use by Yucatan people of Mexico.
The Makech has been used for centuries by Yucatan people as a living brooch, decorated with jewels and gold and tethered to a pin so that it can walk around on the wearer's shirt. The Makech is well suited to this purpose as it is flightless, long-lived, and can survive for a long while without food. It has been claimed that Makech can be kept alive for up to a year on apple slices alone. The beetles are harvested by 'Maquecheros' and sold to artisans for decoration; the harvesting has long been regulated by local communities but some conservationists are encouraging breeding to replace the wild harvest. Tourists are told wonderful stories about the origin of the Makech in Mayan culture. One story goes that an ancient princess had a forbidden love affair and when the couple were discovered the princess's lover was sentenced to death. The princess had a local shaman turn her lover into a beetle so that she could decorate him and wear him over her heart as a brooch to remind her of their eternal love. Whether you believe the legend or not, this piece of jewellery would certainly be a talking point at parties!
Ivie, M. A. (2010). 105. ZOPHERIDAE Solier 1834. American Beetles, Volume II: Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea, 2, 457.
JENNIE HARVEY MSC
Jennie has an academic background in Biology and Ethnobotany and is currently studying for a PhD in Geography. She has interests in ethnobiology, biocultural conservation, traditional knowledge, and sustainable food systems.