This week, I’m talking beetles.
That’s right, beetles. I had planned a column about something else, but everyone seems to be talking about those pesky little multicolored Asian lady beetles, so here we go.
However, first I would also like to write about an insect you may have never heard of, the grapevine beetle.
It is part of the scarab beetle family. It is related to the May beetle — also known as the June beetle — but most people call them “June bugs.”
And, like June bugs, grapevine beetles are attracted to lights. But not nearly to the extent that June bugs are. If you have porch lights on in the summer, you’ll generally see plenty of June bugs every night, but grapevine beetles only show up once in a while.
The grapevine beetle is almost egg-shaped and averages about one-inch in length, although some can grow a little longer.
They range from cream color to burnt orange or saffron.
They have one black spot on each side of the thorax (the section just behind the head), and three black spots on each elytron (wing cover), for a total of eight black spots.
Now here is something interesting, at least to me anyway. The legs of the grapevine beetle in my photo are a saffron color. This is a southern variation.
With the northern variation, grapevine beetles have dark, metallic green legs. Although I have seen where people have photographed the southern variations in states like New York and New Jersey. You call that southern? I would venture to guess the northern variation can also be found in more southerly locales.
Habitat and feeding
Habitat includes woods, thickets and vineyards. Adults fly from May to September. They feed on the leaves of grapevines, both wild and agricultural. Entomologists do not consider them significant pests as they do not have a serious impact on a vine’s health or growth.
Eggs are laid in rotting logs or tree stumps of deciduous trees in the vicinity of grapevines. The larvae — large, whiteish grubs — feed on decaying wood for about two years before pupating and becoming the adult.
Grapevine beetles can be found from Mexico up through Texas, Oklahoma and north to Canada, then east to the Atlantic coasts of the United States and Canada.
Odds and ends
• Grapevine beetles are harmless to humans and can actually be kept as pets. However, they have claws that are like little fish hooks and should be handled gently to avoid minor injury to one’s hand.
I would recommend having proper housing and knowledge of the insect before attempting to keep one as a pet.
• Grapevine beetles do not fly straight. They fly in a curved trajectory which can make a loud buzzing sound as they fly.
Now, on to the lady beetles.
The swarming of multicolored Asian lady beetles — also known as Asian lady beetles — has been all the rage for the past two weeks or so. Although, with this latest cold front, they have settled down a bit.
I have limited knowledge of these beetles. For more extensive information, I’ll have to do some research. I plan to study them over the next year and write a more in-depth column.
Here is what I know now. These beetles were introduced to the United States decades ago to control destructive aphids in orchards. They do a good job of that, but they are now considered pests themselves.
They can be found all over the United States and are slightly larger than our native “ladybugs.”
They are orange, but the shades of orange range from nearly yellow to nearly red. They have lots of black spots, but, sometimes they don’t. The spots can be faded to nearly nothing.
The surest way to identify an adult Asian lady beetle is by the black “M” located on the white thorax. Or, it could be a “W” if the insect is facing you.
When you see Asian lady beetles swarming in the fall, that is when they are trying to seek shelter in warm places like your home, or wherever it is warm through the winter.
Before becoming adults, the larvae look like strange little alligator-like creatures with six legs. They are black, with a little orange coloring on their backs. When they are ready to pupate, they cling to things like walls, trees, etc. You may have seen them on your exterior walls. The pupa resembles a tiny crushed up piece of orange and black paper.
The Asian lady beetle does bite — it’s just not that bad. I’ve been bitten, or stung, by much worse ... snakes, wasps, etc. And even the dreaded “love bug.” A love bug bite can cause all sorts of issues — marriage, insanity, etc.
Anyway, according to entomologists at Oklahoma State University, infestations may cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. They can also accumulate indoors in large numbers, and, if disturbed, produce an unpleasant odor and yellowish fluid that can stain curtains and clothing.