Beautiful Poison Producing Beetle

The Dogbane Leaf Beetle is a beautiful resident of Tennessee. As you may be walking along trails or at the edge of creek banks, you may notice this jewel of a beetle. Where the path ends, and weeds begin are Indian hemp and Dogbane plants. It is these very plants that you can see the Dogbane Leaf Beetle sitting out in the open, as if daring a predator to strike. They would be easy targets, as they do not use camouflage or blend in with the surroundings; rather the Dogbane Leaf Beetle is a bright iridescent blue green that stands out. What makes their appearance so brilliant is their outer shell that is made up of many different shells. Each shell is designed to be at a different angle, which makes the light reflecting from the beetle to appear different colors depending on the direction you are admiring. What appears as a dark blue will slowly change to a bright green as you walk by and change the angle of light. The Dogbane Leaf Beetle is a marvel of creation and an amazing insect to find.

However the Dogbane Leaf Beetle has even more interesting characteristics to help it survive. They feed on Dogbane plants which are poisonous humans and animals, but store it rather than ingest it. As any creature breaks the skin of the Dogbane plant, it will release a milky substance that can poison the predator. As this poison is eaten, it slowly hardens and can get sticky enough to deter an insect from further eating due to the fact that their mouth can’t work properly.  But the inventive Dogbane Leaf Beetle knows this, so it eats until this sticky concoction begins to get in its mouth, then slowly walks backwards and wipes its mouth on the plant to prevent getting a mean case of lock jaw. This beetle also is smart enough to walk backwards when cleaning its mouth, to prevent walking through the sticky mess and spreading it to more parts of the plant, making it inedible, or getting its legs stuck in the gum. The Dogbane Beetle then finds a fresh clean spot to resume eating the leaves and avoid the milky mess. It is in these leaves that the beetle takes in the nutrients that it needs to survive, but separates the poisonous portion to internal glands to use for defense at a later time. That is why this colorful easy target can feed out in the open; if a predator dares to try and bite, the Dogbane Leaf Beetle then releases the poison to survive an attack.

During their short lifespan of about 8 weeks, they live in small groups to mate. The male will find multiple partners during his adult life, mate at least once per day and then ride on the females back to protect her from other males trying to fertilize her. At this point the female will lay her eggs under a leaf where they will hatch and fall to the ground and feed upon roots of the plants that they inhabit. No adult stays around to protect the young ones as they develop, they are left to fend for themselves as each generation is born at a rate of one per year and only two to three eggs per female.

The Dogbane Leaf Beetle may be a pest to the plants that they feed on, but they are not generally considered a pest to homeowners. If you do experience problems with other beetles invading your home, or have additional Nashville Pest Control issues call us. Certified Pest Control Nashville, Tennessee is your local family of choice to provide quality, thorough services to protect your home. Call today for a free quotation to prevent Nashville pests year round.

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