A couple of weeks ago as I was walking down to my veggie garden I spied something bright amongst the grass at the side of the path. Stooping to have a look, it turned out to be a rather large beetle. I hadn’t brought my camera, having been going to the garden for another purpose, so I hurried back to the house to grab it, hoping the beetle would stay put. When I returned, sure enough it had taken off from where I’d left it, but a bit of searching and patience revealed it a short distance away.
I wouldn’t ordinarily be so determined in trying to relocate something, but this was an eye-catching beetle: large, at nearly half an inch (10mm), with bright orange-spotted black elytra and a shiny green-blue thorax. I was convinced it had to be something unusual – wouldn’t I have noticed one before, otherwise?
Well, it turns out to be fairly common and widespread. It’s a Milkweed Leaf Beetle, Labidomera clivicollis. The species ranges throughout North America east of the Rockies and varies considerably in pattern across that area, with some being quite pale or having very reduced markings. The paler individuals all seem to occur west of the Mississippi. As its common name suggests, the beetles feed on the foliage and flowers of milkweed, primarily Swamp Milkweed but also Common. Apparently prior to feeding on a new leaf, both adults and larvae will clip the side veins as a drain, reducing the sticky latex left at their feeding site.
Tomorrow I’m hosting An Inordinate Fondness #5, the blog carnival about all things coleopteran. If you have a post about beetles I encourage you to submit it! Try to get it to me by tomorrow (Friday) afternoon; the carnival will go up in the evening, but I’ll still try to squeeze last-minute submissions in. Submit your posts here, or email them to me at canadianowlet [at] gmail [dot] com.