19 May 2009

Mayate Verde

My fellow blogger John Calypso of Viva Veracruz posted a story to his blog today about a child that he saw playing with a bug and this reminded me that it is the season for the green junebugs that are common to many parts of Mexico and the Southwestern United States. The proper name for this bug is the "Figeater Beetle" and its Latin name is "Cotinis mutabilis". You can see a photo below. In Mexico it is called "Mayate" (mah-YAH-teh) from the Náhuatl word "máyatl" which means "escarabajo alado" (winged beetle). However, in these changing times that we live in the word "mayate" has also come to be a pejorative for "homosexual" and also "very dark skinned" so if you use the word "mayate" to describe the bug you should also use the word "verde" (green) as in "Mayate Verde" and you will be fine. The Mayate Verde is a rather large beetle that does not bite but has sharp claws on its legs. They are about an inch long, three quarter inch in width, and a half inch high. The general color is a metallic iridescent green or as they say in Spanish "verde tornasolado". The beetles emerge during the rainy season when the Nopal Cactus begin to flower and fruit and this is when they mate.

Young boys take a "tuna", or fruit of the Nopal, and they hollow it out a bit and set it in a tree or bush. The beetles enter the tuna to feed and there they can be trapped. Then the boys take a thread and tie it to the thorax or to one of the legs of the beetle and it will fly around tethered to the thread like a little air plane. There is another use for them also that is even more fun. The boys toss the beetles into the hair of little girls. The beetles have some very fine combs on their legs which get trapped in the girls' hair and there they flap around making a very loud buzzing sound. This, of course, drives the little girls nuts and makes them scream. All of you guys who are reading this better wipe that smile off your face before your wife sees it or you will be in really big trouble.

There is another bug that the boys like to play with called the "Pinacate" (peen-ah-KAH-teh) or "Tumblebug" (Eleodes obscurus), also called the Stink Bug". Unfortunately the word "pinacate" has taken on the same meanings as "mayate" so be careful when using this word. When this bug is threatened it will lower its head and raise its hind end and can throw off an oily stinky scent that is hard to wash off. Sometimes the bug topples over and has to right itself and hence the name "Tumblebug" or sometimes "Circus Bug". As kids become more educated and sophisticated and electronically oriented there is less and less interest in playing with bugs but some still do and some always will so now you know a little bit about them too.


Steve Cotton said...

Great stuff. When I was growing up, my favorite crawly was the wooly bear caterpillar, the caterpillar stage of the Isabella tiger moth. They made great additions to the pockets of a 4 year old's jacket -- especially, when the mother of the 4 year old would unexpectedly find them.

Bradpetehoops said...

Nice and colorful bugs.

glorv1 said...

I couldn't imagine having bugs like that in my hair. Oh my word I would go crazy. This was very entertaining thought and of course informative. Thanks Bob.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just discovered this blog.
When I was little, and that is a long time ago, we used to play with these beatles the same way as you discribe it here.
I lived in Belgium, we called them 'May beatles' and kept them in match boxes. They looked just the same but the color was brown. Later they disappeared because of all the poison that is spread on the fields.
Nice article, thanks

Gary Denness said...

I can handle these bugs, just about. We have a variant in the UK, although we call them May Bugs there. It's the Carra de Ninos that I really can't stand!

bob cox said...

Back in Georgia we called them June Bugs. And we also tied threads to their legs.We could easily catch them as the feasted on fig trees. I guess this is a universal appeal to little boys.

Alfredo said...

I had seen mayates and they do eat tunas and figs or apples. Never seen a pincate before. Are they in Guanajuato? Have you seen "pintos"? They are insects that also come out in the rainy season and sting like a mother of God, lol. They are spotted and that is why they call them pintos. Nice post, by the way, they sell mayate key chains at the market in Guanajuato city.

Saludos cordiales,


glorv1 said...

Hi Bob, thanks for the info on Firefox. I have it on my other computer but don't use it. I did d/l it to my laptop and it seems to be working okay except it keeps telling me I have to d/l plugins and I don't want to do that.
Oh by the way, I don't like ninos de la tierra, they really freak me out.
Have a great weekend.

Amanda said...

Oh yes, June bugs, when I was little I was right along with the boys and the string. Now they freak me out how they cling to your cloths. And yes they are thick here (green though and not brown like back home) I haven't seen the stink bugs but I remember a stink bug we use to play with growing up and if you squished it you better run.

Benja-Xocoyotl said...

Hi! Thnak you Bob for the visits to El Bable, I see you now are parte of the followers, I do a preciate a lot. I would like to point in something. In Mexico mayate is not the peyorative for homosexual, it is the way to call to the hustlers, those guys who perform the male prostitution. Peyorative for gay in Aztec (nahuatl) lenguage is CUILONI which means literally coward. Nowdays you may hear the word "JUILÓN" which is how became cuiloni... Ask anyone in Irapuato older than 50, he will know for sure what a juilón is. Youngers doesn't know, they had no (unfortunately) much influence on the old way of speak.

Saludos and thanks again!

Double D said...

LMAO!!! Im of Mexican origin and this is exactly what I used to do; to the word!!! Hahaha!! Brought back so many memories just now!!! Thanks for that!

Unknown said...

Si!! Cierto.
I have been living in the USA for 48 years I seen on in my back yard last summer.
Was such a joy to see it I told mi grand kids the story of how my brother and friend play with them. I could not tie it to the string!!
I kept it for a few hours as watching my grand kids in the pool, while I travel 52 years back. Thank you for this post.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.