Meet the Beetles

Flea Beetle (Altica spp.)

Flea Beetle (Altica spp.)

There are a variety of insects in the order Coleoptera commonly known as beetles.  While some beetles are destructive, others are nice and can play a role in responsible pest control or perform other beneficial duties.

I thought, to start, I’d focus on some shiny blue beetles.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!

fleabeetleDec2013AFirst up is a Flea Beetle (Altica spp.).  Hard to get this genus down to species. There is one that is called a primrose beetle, so these may be A. litigata given that these were found on Primrosewillow (Ludwigia octovalvis), a Florida Native Plant.

It may give a lacey look to the leaves of your Ludwigia spp.

It may give a lacey look to the leaves of your Ludwigia spp.

Altica spp. may be a pest of crape myrtle, but the usual host is Ludwigia spp., which can benefit from a little control. Some species of Ludwigia can be a tad aggressive in the wrong situation. I have never seen any of the flea beetles on the two crape myrtles I planted “before I knew”, and, given a choice, I would request they eat the exotic crape myrtle over my pretty Primrosewillows.

This Fruit and Flower Chafer (Trichiotinus spp.) has very long legs

This Fruit and Flower Chafer (Trichiotinus spp.) has very long legs

Next up are Fruit and Flower Chafers such as this Trichiotinus spp.  Flower Chafers are a subfamily of Scarab Beetles.  Beneficial in that larvae break down rotten wood.  Adults take pollen and/or nectar so have a hand in pollination duties, but may also munch on the plant.  I didn’t notice any particular damage on this Thoroughwort.  This guy may be T. lunulatus based on a Florida Entomologist key I found online. perhaps more black than blue in color, but the reflection of the sun made it look blue enough to me to call it a “shiny blue beetle”.  :)

This particular species of Flower Chafers is a little hairy underneath. You can see it coming out from under the elytra

This particular species of Flower Chafers is a little hairy underneath. You can see it coming out from under the elytra

Moving on.  This Colorful Foliage Ground Beetle (Lebia viridis) was enjoying nectar and/or pollen of a goldenrod.  They are beneficial in that they feed on the larvae of a pest, the Apple Flea Beetle (Altica foliaceae). It isn’t a stretch to think that they may also keep my friends the flea beetles discussed above in check.

Colorful Foliage Ground Beetle (Lebia viridis)

Colorful Foliage Ground Beetle (Lebia viridis)

Further, this ground beetle eats eggs of corn earworm (Heliothis spp.) which is a destructive pest, and adults have been found feeding on the immature stages of grape vine flea beetles.  Obviously given the photograph above, they also play a part in pollination.

OK, moving beyond our shiny blue friends, here in our beautifulwildlifegarden.com blog, Lady beetles  (or ladybugs if you prefer) are often discussed. Up until now I haven’t seen any mention of a particular species I found this week.

Mealy bug Destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri)

Mealy bug Destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri)

Meet the Mealybug Destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri). This is a lady beetle that can be as small as 3.4mm (for the metrically challenged such as myself, that is less than 1/8 inch). It is not native to the United States. It was introduced from Australia in 1891 as IPM control on citrus.  This guy (or gal) was on Dogfennel (Eupatorium capillifolium) and was so minute that I’m surprised I saw it.  The little flash of red gave it away. Predatory on mealy bugs which is where it gets its common name.

Despite being the size of a pin head, the bright red gives its location away

Despite being the size of a pin head, the bright red gives its location away

So, that’s my bit on a few species of beetles. It was a hard day’s night to figure out what they all do in our beautiful wildlife gardens.

© 2013, Loret T. Setters. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. Carole says

    Some years the flea beetles wipe out my pink primroses, but other years they are almost non-existent. Maybe those are the years the hummingbirds have been feeding on them.

  2. Valerie says

    Cluster Flies: they are crawling through every crack n cranny to their final resting place…my home tormenting for 6 years!!! Any suggestions? Do not have knowledge of the cluster flies just their routine life cycle but I’m being driven from my home in the fall n winter!!!

    • says

      Hi Valerie,

      Wow, I’m was not at all familiar with cluster flies but just did a little reading and it seems you have your hands full. They don’t seem to have a presence here in Florida so my resources would be limited to a search via google or similar.

      What I generally recommend is that you contact your local county extension services to find out what they recommend in combatting pest species for your particular area.

      Good luck. I know that any invasive problems can be trying.
      Loret recently posted..Ornate Bella Moth caterpillar (Utetheisa ornatrix)

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