Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Little Bug Packs a Big Punch

This pretty little beetle is a trouble-maker in disguise. Many refer to it as the Spotted Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata), but its other common name of Southern Corn Rootworm hints at its more sinister side. Reaching barely 1/4 of inch as an adult and preferring to nectar at flowers makes this little bug seem harmless enough. Although it will munch on the leaves of many agricultural crops including corn and soybeans and can cause significant damage. It's not the adult we need fear, it is the young grub who recks havoc. (Yes, I know without the adult there would be no babies to fear, but this is my story) These little grubs tunnel into the roots and stems of many crops, and the young plants are either stunted or killed in the process. It's favorite being corn. Huge numbers of these beetles can cause much damage.They are even known vectors of bacterial wilt. Millions each year in crop loss are attributed to these little spotted beetles. There are two other subspecies of this beetle and each are equally problematic to farmers Western cucumber beetle is (Diabrotica undecimpunctata tenell) and the Western spotted cucumber beetle is (Diabrotica undecimpunctata undecimpunctata). They aren't typically found in our region, you will instead find them out west as their names indicate. As a farmers wife I can sympathize with the farmers in their constant battle to stay one step ahead of an often times unseen enemy force. The farmers job is to grow a good healthy crop, and get it to market (hoepfully for a profit) so he and his family can make a living. So when these unwelcome visitors make themselves at home in the crops, often times drastic measures have to be taken. All to often this in the form of pesticides. While I am a farmers wife I am far from an advocate of pesticides. All too often they are used in ways that cause more damage than good. Pesticides do not deferenciate between helpful insects or harmful insects. So many times the insects that actually benefit us are killed in the line of fire. I have no clear cut solution. Only opinions. I love insects, and even these little beetles are appealing to me, their pretty greenish/yellow coloring complete with black spots makes it a favorite to photograph. I rarely find them in large numbers, usually just one here and there on my flowers. I just make sure I don't point them out to my farmer husband.

1 comment:

  1. I can see farm fields from my backyard (there is only one row of houses between me and the fields), and I routinely get the Southern Corn Rootworm and the Northern Corn Rootworm beetle in my yards. The Southern seems to like to sit in my day lilies, while I have found the Northern in my sunflowers.