Home / Leaf Beetles (Chrysomelidae) / Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata)

Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata)

The Colorado potato beetle is a leaf beetle known for being a major pest to potato crops in North America and Europe. It is most well remembered for being part of a propaganda campaign between East Germany and the CIA during the Cold War.

Colorado Potato Beetle

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Chrysomelidae
  • Genus: Leptinotarsa
  • Scientific name: Leptinotarsa decemlineata

Physical Description and Identification

Adult

Size: 10 mm (0.375 in)

Color: Its body is a bright yellowish-orange, with five distinct brown stripes running down each elytra.

Other Characteristic Features: These beetles are oval, weighing around 50-170 mg.

Leptinotarsa decemlineata

Larva

The larvae are an orange-pink color, with a black head. They go through four instars, with the protonum changing from black in the first two to orange-pink in the 3rd, and light brown in the 4th.

Its abdomen has nine segments and prominent trachea. By the final instar, it can reach a length of  15 mm (0.59 in).

Colorado Potato Beetle Larvae

Pupa

Once mature, the larvae pupate in a chamber 2-5 cm below the soil. The pupae are orange and shaped like ovals. Pupation takes place for about 5.8 days.

Colorado Potato Beetle Pupa

Egg

The oval-shaped eggs are yellowish-orange with a length of 1.7mm.

Colorado Potato Beetle Eggs

Quick Facts

Other namesColorado beetle, ten-striped spearman, ten-lined potato beetle, potato bug
Lifespan30 days
DistributionNative: Colorado and New Mexico in the United States Invasive: rest of the United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and the Netherlands
HabitatBurrows under the soil
PredatorsParasitoid wasps like the coffin fly, beetles like Lebia grandis, and other bugs and spiders
Seasons activeYear-round depending on temperature
Host plantsPotatoes; also other members of the  Solanaceae family
Diet of adultsSame as larvae

Colorado Potato Beetle Damage

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

Both adult beetles and larvae feed on the foliage of potato plants, stunting the plant’s growth. This can lead to complete loss of the crop.

Did You Know

  • After World War II, East Germany, then part of the Soviet Union, claimed that these beetles were introduced as part of a scheme by the CIA to create food scarcity. As a result, these beetles were hunted down. In fact, as a part of the campaign school children too were engaged in gathering these pests and eve .
  • They have a significant pop culture presence – appearing as an image on stamps in several countries and serving as inspiration for the nicknames of Italian mandolins and the German football club  Alemannia Aachen.
Picture of Colorado Potato Beetle

Image Source: saferbrand.com, entoweb.okstate.edu, vegento.russell.wisc.edu, bugguide.net, live.staticflickr.com, extension.umn.edu, gardenerspath.com

The Colorado potato beetle is a leaf beetle known for being a major pest to potato crops in North America and Europe. It is most well remembered for being part of a propaganda campaign between East Germany and the CIA during the Cold War.

Colorado Potato Beetle

Physical Description and Identification

Adult

Size: 10 mm (0.375 in)

Color: Its body is a bright yellowish-orange, with five distinct brown stripes running down each elytra.

Other Characteristic Features: These beetles are oval, weighing around 50-170 mg.

Leptinotarsa decemlineata

Larva

The larvae are an orange-pink color, with a black head. They go through four instars, with the protonum changing from black in the first two to orange-pink in the 3rd, and light brown in the 4th.

Its abdomen has nine segments and prominent trachea. By the final instar, it can reach a length of  15 mm (0.59 in).

Colorado Potato Beetle Larvae

Pupa

Once mature, the larvae pupate in a chamber 2-5 cm below the soil. The pupae are orange and shaped like ovals. Pupation takes place for about 5.8 days.

Colorado Potato Beetle Pupa

Egg

The oval-shaped eggs are yellowish-orange with a length of 1.7mm.

Colorado Potato Beetle Eggs

Quick Facts

Other namesColorado beetle, ten-striped spearman, ten-lined potato beetle, potato bug
Lifespan30 days
DistributionNative: Colorado and New Mexico in the United States Invasive: rest of the United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and the Netherlands
HabitatBurrows under the soil
PredatorsParasitoid wasps like the coffin fly, beetles like Lebia grandis, and other bugs and spiders
Seasons activeYear-round depending on temperature
Host plantsPotatoes; also other members of the  Solanaceae family
Diet of adultsSame as larvae

Colorado Potato Beetle Damage

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

Both adult beetles and larvae feed on the foliage of potato plants, stunting the plant’s growth. This can lead to complete loss of the crop.

Did You Know

  • After World War II, East Germany, then part of the Soviet Union, claimed that these beetles were introduced as part of a scheme by the CIA to create food scarcity. As a result, these beetles were hunted down. In fact, as a part of the campaign school children too were engaged in gathering these pests and eve .
  • They have a significant pop culture presence – appearing as an image on stamps in several countries and serving as inspiration for the nicknames of Italian mandolins and the German football club  Alemannia Aachen.
Picture of Colorado Potato Beetle

Image Source: saferbrand.com, entoweb.okstate.edu, vegento.russell.wisc.edu, bugguide.net, live.staticflickr.com, extension.umn.edu, gardenerspath.com

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