We haven’t been able to walk through the woods since Hurricane Irma took down some really large trees last year. We made a couple of scouting walks, but can’t get through to the park without great effort – climbing under and over fallen trees. For a good part of 2018, we’ve been out of the country anyway but I have a little time this week to go through my photos from last year to remind myself of what I should be looking for if we ever get out there. More Air Potato Leaf Beetles, Lilioceris cheni, for sure. They are still some of my favorite little bugs.
In 2015, I posted about the mysterious little red beetle that appeared in the woods between our house and the St. Augustine Road Fish Management Area. The area was overgrown with the invasive air potato plant, Dioscorea bulbifera, and the little beetles were all over the plants. I found the answer online. The beetles were introduced to Florida in 2012 in the hope of controlling the air potato, its favored food.
The air plants die off in the winter but reappear every spring. Early in the summer of 2016, the occasional beetle appeared and by late August there were many of them all over the air potato plants. We spent some time inspecting the air potato leaves, including some that were curled up.
When we gently uncurled a couple of the leaves, we found eggs and larvae, presumably laid by the beetle on the source of food for its young.
I saw a beetle on the leaf with these eggs, so I am certain these are the eggs of that particular beetle:
And here they are, producing the next generation of air potato-eating beetles:
And more eggs and larvae inside a curled up leaf:
Evidently a lot has happened in the Air Potato Leaf Beetle world here in Florida since I first searched for information back in 2015. I was delighted to find a lot more online when I searched for info, including an Air Potato Management Plan and this cool poster from the “Solutions for Your Life” program:
2017 wasn’t a good year for walking in the park. Our travel schedule kept us out of town during the best weather and then the hurricanes moved through. Now we’re almost half way through 2018 and still haven’t gotten the nerve to try to clear a path through the woods. What to do?