Sunday, May 10, 2009

Coleopterans in the Coleus!

Hercules Beetle found in old bags of leaves out back. Truly an amazing sight!

Well, spring has sprung and the beetles have begun appearing all over the farm... and all over my precious plants. Some Coleopterans (beetles) I value and protect (when I can), like our bright Ladybugs, but many others, are here to drill into the trees, worm under the bark, eat the leaves, lay eggs to hatch larvae to eat everything.... ah, it's amazing how much damage they can create across a property. There are over 300,000 distinct species of beetles and the parade of them is relentless. Did you know that across North America, there are over 400 species of what-we-call Ladybug or Ladybird beetles? I try to be fair and forgiving of most living things, but I'm working to get a lot more savvy about beetles since I've started seeing serious bark beetle and ambrosia beetle damage in our fruit trees. The trick is to learn who's who, so I'm targeting the damaging insects and not the helpers.

It's interesting that it is usually the beetle larvae who are either the heroes or the villains -- the adults become the visual clue to the presence, now or later, of those larvae. I discovered a few seasons ago that I'd been diligently wiping the bright yellow eggs of the Ladybugs off my plant leaves, which explained why I wasn't getting any wierd little orange "alligators" (larvae) to eat my aphids. On the other hand, they aren't the only orange egg layers and things get really crazy. The key, always, always, seem to be continued observation, slowly getting to know who's who in all their stages.

When the famous evolutionary scientist, J.B.S. Haldane was asked "What has the study of biology taught you about the Creator, Dr. Haldane?", he replied, "I'm not sure, but He seems to be inordinately fond of beetles."

1 comment:

  1. OMG!
    I love Hercules Beetles (!!) and their most amazing awe inspiring look. You sent me off doing a bit o' research on them and I was surprised to learn how much info there is about raising them...though I don't really understand why one would do that.
    However my favorite find was a fabulous black paper origami Hercules that I found on google images...sheer magic...of course you'd really have to say that about the live one too. :-)
    Great post thanks!!


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