Anticipating summer: Dogbane beetles

Dogbane beetles.
Dogbane beetles.
Spreading dogbane
Spreading dogbane

Spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) has pretty pink bell-like flowers and a nice yellow autumn colour. It grows thigh-high and spreads into large colonies on dry, sandy soil. It is common, often growing along roadsides and in waste places, but you may not have noticed it, as the flowers are not that large and they hang their heads.

The best thing about spreading dogbane is its lovely beetle, called, sensibly enough, dogbane beetle. Every time I find dogbane beetles, I want to wear them in my hair as living jewels. It is an impractical idea, and I am sure they would not like it. What they want to do is to eat dogbane and reproduce more dogbane beetles.

dogbane2If you come across a good-sized patch of dogbane in late summer, after the flowers have faded and while the long seed pods are forming, look closely at the leaves. Chances are good you will find some of these jewel-like beetles. They are perfectly harmless to everything except dogbane plants – spreading dogbane and the closely related Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum). Evolved to be able to metabolize the toxic compounds in dogbane sap, they do not eat anything else. They won’t move onto your vegetables or garden plants. Just watch them for a while and marvel at their iridescence.DSCN0063

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Published by

Trish Murphy

Artist: botanical, still life, and natural history illustration. Garden designer: native plants and naturalistic gardens