Friday, July 24, 2009

Mystery Beetle...and Awesome BugGuide

Wow. Two mysteries in one week.

Better yet, two mysteries SOLVED in one week.

The second mystery of the week was a colorful beetle that I saw briefly (and managed a somewhat blurry photo of) a little over a week ago. Being on a roll yesterday, I decided to try to identify it...and got nowhere with the source material I had at home.

Even the internet didn't help least at first.

Enter BugGuide, hosted out of Iowa State University. I've used this site to identify other insects, including larvae and eggs, but this time just searching through it didn't seem to help. I was pretty sure that this beetle belonged in the leaf beetle family, Chrysomelidae, but there are LOTS of leaf beetles and I just couldn't locate one that looked like this. So I registered with the site and uploaded my rather sorry little photo last night before I went to bed.

Lo and behold, this morning I had 2 responses already. Better yet they had identified my beetle! It is a shining flea beetle, Asphaera lustrans. Once I had the species name I could research it a little more fully on the web. It turns out that the host plant of this beetle is the genus Scutellaria, skullcaps - and I have a Smoky Hills skullcap, Scutellaria resinosa 'Smoky Hills', located right next to the woodland phlox where I saw my beetle. That plant is still a wimp, having just been planted a month or so ago, but here is a photo of the Smoky Hills skullcap that I planted last year....

Obviously I need to get at least one more home reference for insects, one which gives me a better handle on beetles, because in going back through my books here at home, only one showed any flea beetle species at all. None of them showed this guy, despite his incredibly good looks. (Yes, I am trying to justify my inability to identify this beetle, at least to myself!)

Hmmm, an excuse to get another book. Isn't solving mysteries fun?!

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