Monday, November 23, 2009

Flea Beetle - Kuschelina gibbitarsa

Flea Beetle - Kuschelina gibbitarsa
(Photo:  Marvin Smith on 11/14/09)

Flea Beetle General Description: Leaf-feeding beetles with a segment (femora) of the hind legs enlarged for jumping, which they will readily do when disturbed. Adult beetles chew small round or irregularly-shaped holes in plant leaves. Larvae typically feed on plant roots though some also feed on foliage. Many are serious agricultural pests, causing damage directly by plant feeding or indirectly by transmitting viruses. (Note: I suppose the flea beetle pictured here would actually be considered beneficial since it feeds on plants normally considered weeds.)

Species Identification: Typically four black spots on pronotum (short body segment between head and thorax) ... two spots toward the outer edges and two that blend together in the center ... iridescent green elytra (wing covers) ... approximately 5mm (1/4") long.

U. S. Range: Most of the eastern and central United States.

Host plants: Members of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Here in the Ozarks, I've found large populations of K. gibbitarsa on American Germander (Teucrium canadense).

Kuschelina gibbitarsa larvae on
American Germander leaf.

(Photo:  Marvin Smith on 6/25/08)

Comments: The beetle in the top photos was actually found while weeding a strawberry bed. Unfortunately, this bed was invaded by American Germander which we've been fighting for a couple of years. Like most members of the mint family, it is difficult to get rid of once established. K. gibbitarsa overwinter as adults. I'm sure this beetle was attempting to overwinter when we disturbed it with our weeding.

American Germander - Teucrium canadense
(Photo:  Marvin Smith on 6/24/08)



Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a handsome beetle. You caught the shine on its wings beautifully.

WR said...

I wonder why the bright color? From an evolutionary point of view, one would think it would make them more volunerable. But if they are a "pest" perhaps not vulnerable enough. In any case the color is wonderful. You have such a good eye for tiny detail!

Marvin said...

WR: I cannot really answer your question. Leaf beetles are a very large family of beetles and most of them are brightly colored. I can only assume their coloration is aposematic, a warming that they are not palatable.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this marvelous post. I've seen quite of few woolly caterpillars crossing the road as I ride my bicycle. I haven't run over a one.

Amila Salgado said...

Wow, this is how I should write my MM posts! Beetles fascinate me, for they come in all shapes, sizes and colours. I started photographing them recently and I love it.

Jay said...

What a gorgeous thing he is! My dad was a coleopterist, and this brings back some memories.

Dave Ingram said...

Marvin - your insect photographs are stellar! Great photographs and a great read too. I like your creature profiles!



Rambling Woods said...

That is a nice looking insect. You take the most wonderful macros Marvin...Michelle

Lana Gramlich said... pretty!

Shanda said...

I appreciate insects, although these little fellows have invaded my porch way... There are normally fifteen to twenty of them on the door and the screen door every time I open it. I have researched the plants they eat and we have nothing of the sort around our house. I am wondering if there is a way to deter them from loitering about in my doorway? I don't want to kill them but it has gotten to be quite the nuisance and a number of them have incidentally found their way in the house. Hoping there is a plant they dislike and I could possibly make a tonic to spray around the entryway? Any ideas would be helpful!

Marvin said...

It seems very odd that flea beetles would congregate in an area where there is no host plants for them to eat, but I do not know of any sprays or other concoctions to deter them. Sorry I could not help, Shanda.