Bags for Bugs

We receive letters here from time to time from various charities and organizations, thanking us for coffee and burlap bag donations. It’s always a pleasure to hear how we have been able to help our fellow human beings. However, recently we learnt that we have also been helping a rather different species, namely the Lebia grandis (that’s a ground beetle to you and me). John Dudley Fort of the Underwood Ecology Lab at Florida State University wrote to us:

I am writing to thank you for supplying us with burlap sacks via Carla Marie Reid, owner of Black Dog Cafe in Tallahassee. As Carla may have mentioned, we are using these sacks to help us in our plant-insect ecology research. We are creating traps to capture the ground beetle Lebia grandis . This beetle preys upon the eggs of the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata ) and its cousin, the False potato beetle (Leptinotarsa juncta ). Studying these beetles will help us better understand their effect on a weed known as horsenettle (Solanum carolinese ).

The egg-predator Lebia grandis is an elusive and fascinating member of its family, the Carabid Beetles. According to Eleanor Groden’s ground-breaking research in Maine and Michigan during the 1980′s and early ’90′s, this beetle may be a significant source of mortality for the Colorado potato beetle. This would be an interesting phenomenon to better understand because the Colorado potato beetle has a strong negative impact on production of potatoes and related vegetable crops. Before the work of Dr. Groden, this beetle was only found by doing midnight surveys. However, Eleanor discovered that this beetle could be captured by wrapping wooden stakes in strips of burlap and periodically checking these traps. We are building these traps in Tallahassee and will be very interested to see what we find living in our local populations of horsenettle, a close relative of the cultivated potato.

It just makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?

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