Wild Fact #505 – Mmmmmm….French Fries! – Colorado Potato Beetle

Colorado Potato Beetle

Colorado Potato Beetle - Photo Courtesy of L. Carter

Now I know we tend to be sluggish on Monday mornings but I think this is a great opportunity for a Pop Quiz. You know, it will get those brain cells of yours working. Last week, I mentioned that we would have a theme for this week of Wild Facts. The first animal we are looking at is the Colorado Potato Beetle so your one question Pop Quiz is this. What is the theme for the week? Let’s learn a little more about the Colorado Potato Beetle as you think about your answer.

The Colorado Potato Beetle is also known as the Colorado Beetle, Ten-Striped Spearman, Ten-Lined Potato Beetle, and of course the Potato Bug. No matter what you decide to call them, these insects are about 10 mm (0.4″) long and have a beautiful yellow/orange colour broken up by 5 dark coloured lines. Wait a minute! If they only have 5 dark lines, why are they called the Ten-Lined Potato Beetle? That is a good question but shouldn’t you be focusing on your pop quiz? Obviously, if you count the dark and light lines, it equals ten…. At least I hope it does.

Controlling the population of the Colorado Potato Beetle may be tough since the females tend to be very prolific, laying up to 800 eggs. Instead of putting all of their “eggs” in one basket, the Potato Bug will generally lay batches of 30 eggs in any single location. Don’t worry, I did the math for you and that is about 27 batches of eggs they will lay. Normally these eggs hatch anywhere between 4 and 15 days; however, this is largely dependant on the temperature and the amount of light. If the conditions are not appropriate than these eggs will enter a stage called diapause, which is a fancy way of saying they will delay their hatching until spring.

Potato Beetles

Prolific Potato Beetles - Photo Courtesy of L. Carter

So why would you want to try and control these colourful little Potato Bugs? As you may have guessed by now, the Colorado Potato Beetle is a major pest of lettuce……what did you think I was going to say? Okay, you are right, they destroy potato crops but may also damage tomatoes and egg plants. No matter what your opinion is on the use of insecticide, you would think this would be an effective way to remove these pests from your garden, right? Wrong! The Potato Bug is capable of rapidly building up an immunity to insecticides. Even introducing natural predators doesn’t work too well since this pest is so prolific, with their 800 eggs and all. So how do they control these insects? Well, there really isn’t an amazing way to do it, so if you can find a cost effective way to remove the Potato Bug, I guarantee you will become quite wealthy.

All right, that does it for the first Fact of our themed week. Oh, I guess I have to mark your quiz before we leave. If you “guessed” this weeks theme to be Garden Pests or something similar then you get a sticker! See you tomorrow for the next pest.

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