Colorado potato beetle

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Colorado potato beetle
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Suborder: Polyphaga
Family: Chrysomelidae
Genus: Leptinotarsa
Species: L. decemlineata
Binomial name
Leptinotarsa decemlineata
Say, 1824[1]
Native ranges of the Colorado beetle and the potato

The Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, is a beetle. It is sometimes just called the Colorado beetle. It is one of the worst potato pests in the world.

The beetle is notable for its ability to resist pesticides. Over the last 50 years it has become resistant to 52 chemical compounds used in insecticides, including cyanide.[2] However, not every population is resistant to every chemical.[3]

The Colorado beetle first lived in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. Now it lives in most of North America and also in Europe and Asia.

What it eats[change | edit source]

The Colorado potato beetle now eats cultivated potato plants. Both larvae and adults eat the leaves and strip the plant down to a skeleton. They may also attack tomato and eggplants. There can be so many Colorado potato beetles in potato farms that they destroy the potatoes.

Defence[change | edit source]

Because the beetle rapidly evolves resistance to chemicals, the best defence may be biological control. A ground beetle, Lebia grandis is a predator of the eggs and larvae, and its larvae are parasitoids of the Colorado beetle's pupae.

Beauveria bassiana (Hyphomycetes) is a pathogenic fungus that infects many insects, including the Colorado beetle. It is probably the most widely used natural enemy of the Colorado beetle. There are commercial formulations that can be applied using a pesticide sprayer.

Bronze statue of a Colorado beetle in Hédervár, Hungary

Origins[change | edit source]

The Colorado potato beetle did not always eat potato plants. This is because potatoes came from South America, not near the beetle's original range. Before people brought potatoes to North America, the Colorado beetle ate a plant called buffalo-bur.

References[change | edit source]

  1. Leptinotarsa decemlineata (TSN 720110). Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  2. Plant pests: The biggest threats to food security? BBC News Science & Environment [1]
  3. Alyokhin A. et al. 2008. Colorado potato beetle resistance to insecticides. American Journal of Potato Research 85: 395–413.