Beetles On Asparagus Plants
Do you have beetles on your asparagus plants? If you're like me, you haven't spent the past several years waiting for your asparagus crop to come in only to have it gobbled up by bugs! There are two distinct species of beetles that attack asparagus in North America, and you will commonly find them side by side, eating your plants. The beetles are red or orange and are pretty easy to spot, but it is the larvae, or grubs, that do most of the damage. This article will help you identify the beetles eating your asparagus, and help you decide the best way to control them.
Asparagus Beetles -- the Deadly Duo
Okay, maybe not deadly, but certainly damaging. There are two asparagus beetle species that attack your plants, and together they can eat quite a bit. They may look different, but Crioceris duodecimpunctata and Crioceris asparagi have more or less identical life cycles. It is a little strange to find two species living side by side on the same plant, essentially occupying the same ecological niche without any apparent problem.
Common Asparagus Beetle
This is Crioceris asparagi, the common asparagus beetle. It is actually a really pretty insect, with a cool cross pattern on its elytra (wing covers). Like many beetles, this insect can fly, and they can move from plant to plant, and even from garden to garden, with ease. They are small -- about 1/4 of an inch long -- but they are easy to spot on your plants if you get close enough.
Spotted Asparagus Beetle
Crioceris duodecimpunctata is the scientific name for the spotted asparagus beetle, and if my Latin is correct it means "a whole mess of spots." This is an attractive beetle that is really just an asparagus eating machine. If there are enough of these insects on your plants, no matter how attractive it might be, they will eventually weaken your asparagus plants until they are susceptible to disease or drought.
Asparagus Beetle Grub
Like butterflies and moths, beetles undergo "complete metamorphosis," which means they have a larva stage that does most of the eating. Since the adults generally don't eat very much, it's up to the larva stage to store as much fat as possible. Larvae are therefore basically a length of investing with a mouth at one end and a butt at the other, and their goal in life is to get fat. Unfortunately, when you have asparagus beetles that means the larvae are busy eating all day and night. This can weaken or kill the entire plant.
This is a picture of the grub of one of the two asparagus beetles -- it's hard to say which, since they are basically identical in appearance. This is the guy who does most of the damage. If there are beetles on your apparatus plants, then there are almost certainly plenty of grubs, too.
How to Control the Asparagus Beetle
Okay, here we come the difficult part -- controlling asparagus beetles. This requires a little bit of fairly unpleasant work. Unless you run a commercial asparagus operation and need a chemical or biological solution, the best way to get rid of asparagus beetles is to pick them off by hand. For gardeners like you and me, that means putting on the gloves and going out into the rows to squish the little buggers one by one. Don't just shake them off - they'll fly away and then simply return for more. And in any case it's not the adults you're really after -- it's those hungry grubs. They're a little hard to see at first, but you'll get the hang of it. The grubs cling to the stems and leaves, or fronds, of the asparagus plant, and they can't run or move quickly. You can go down the row pinching as many asparagus grubs as you can find, and while you can't really exterminate every single asparagus beetle grub out there, you can do some serious damage. Repeat the process every few days and you will control the infestation pretty effectively.
This is the European Version of the Asparagus Beetle -- But it looks pretty much the same.
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