The mystery of the little red beetle is solved! Earlier this year, we started noticing little red beetles during our walks through the woods. We’ve been walking through these woods regularly for the past five years and never noticed them before. But I was in my lady bug phase, spending hours a day in our yard watching ladybug larvae pupate and hatch so I was on high alert for anything red that might be a lady bug. I mentioned the bug in a recent June post and earlier in the year, in my January at the St. Augustine Road Fish Management Area post
This month, we noticed much more of the bug-eaten foliage of the Air Potato, Dioscorea bulbifera and I wondered aloud if the red beetle was eating the leaves. I finally got around to searching online and found it! Our little red bug is the Air Potato Leaf Beetle, Lilioceris cheni, a native of Asia that was introduced to Florida in 2012 to combat the very invasive Air Potato. So these are a good, non-native bug, doing what they were brought in to do.
My online search turned up loads of newspaper articles from around the state and a few pages from university sites. The University of Florida “Featured Creatures” page even had photos of the eggs and larvae, which prompted us to look for both, which we found right away. Once we have a search image for something,, it is always easier to spot it.
OK, little beetles, carry on! We’ll be watching to see what impact there is on the Air Potato growth.