You would think a potato beetle would eat potatoes right? Apparently, that’s just not always the case…
This year I am the “lucky” recipient of not one, but two different Potato Beetles deciding my plants are the best to eat. But I don’t have any potato plants! These beetles are actually eating my tomatillo and eggplant plants.
Potato Beetles are in the taxonomic family Chysomelidae, aka the Leaf Beetles, because most members in the family eat the leaves of something. While Potato Beetles do eat the leaves of potato plants, they will apparently also eat the leaves of a number of other closely related plants found in the same plant family – the nightshade plants (taxonomic family = Solanaceae). This includes not just my eggplants and tomatillos, but also plants like tomatoes, Jimsonweed, and Horse Nettle. I may not have potatoes, but I have all the others growing in the garden or the weeds (last year I even found some Jimsonweed, which was a surprise).
At first I thought I only had the Three-Lined Potato Beetle, Lema daturaphila, in residence, as I had seen some of the adults earlier in the year enjoying an orgy on my tomatillos. And I definitely found both their eggs and their larvae, aka baby beetles, aka super poopers, on my tomatillo leaves. Want to know something gross? The larvae actually take their poop and pile it on top of their backs to hide under! They do this as a defensive mechanism against predators, because who wants to eat a pile of poop instead of a juicy grub? I sure don’t. Although to be fair, I really don’t want to eat the grubs either….
On to beetle species number two. At the same time as I found the Three-Lined Potato Beetle larvae, I also found a bunch of beetle larvae going to town chewing holes in my eggplant leaves. My eggplants are located in the same bed as my tomatillos, and the larvae looked kinda similar at a glance, so I thought they would all be the same thing. Not so! Upon closer inspection, while they do look a little similar, the beetle larvae on the eggplant leaves were a different color, different shape, and, and, they don’t have poop on their backs lol. These little buggers on my eggplant leaves are actually baby Colorado Potato Beetles, Leptinotarsa decemlineata.
Who would have thought? Two different potato beetles, but no potatoes!
Want to learn more about potato beetles? Check out the following resources:
- Utah State University Three-Lined Potato Beetle
- University of New Hampshire Three-Lined Potato Beetle
- University of Kentucky Colorado Potato Beetle
We’re still trying to figure out how to add comment boxes to the blog, so in the meantime, send me an email!
Join the email list
Want Bug News stories & announcements sent to your inbox? Join the Bug News email list
Support the blog!
Like my blog? Want to help keep the new content coming and the pages ad free? Consider becoming one of my Patreon Patrons! Any amount, big or small, helps me spend more time creating and less time trying to keep the lights on. Patreon Patrons can also get exclusive access to monthly newsletters, story sneak peeks, story requests, and more! Please consider supporting the blog and check out my Patreon Patron support page.
Ok, you say, but what is this Patreon thing you are talking about? Patreon is a service that helps connect content creators with folks who want to help support creative endeavors. Patreon is setup to be able to safely handle the financial side of transactions so both the patron and the creator can be confident their information is secure. You can read more about what Patreon is HERE.
The links below are Amazon.com affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. This helps pay for my blog and keeps it clean and ad free. I am very selective about what I recommend. The books below are all ones on my shelf that I regularly reference…