By Eric Duran
When people think of flying insects into their gardens, butterflies are often the first to come to mind. There is, however, a plethora of various other insects that flutter by. This month, we’re going to have a look at common beetles that appear in Bellaire- and West University-area gardens. Beetles are the most diverse group of animals on earth, and they live in an equally diverse array of habitats, eating a wide variety of diets. They are often beautiful and interesting, and honestly, are one of my favorite groups of creatures.
Of course, one of the most iconic and delightful beetles that we see in our gardens are ladybugs, also called
or ladybird beetles. Ladybugs are usually predatory, feeding on aphids and scale insects. There are a few tiny “micro-ladybugs” that feed on mildew and other fungi.
Many commonly encountered ladybugs are actually non-native and were introduced into North America from Europe (Seven-spotted Ladybird) or China (Asian Ladybird). These non-native ladybugs, introduced and still sold through the garden trade for pest control, often harm native ladybug populations, as well as other native insects. We recommend that you do not use these in your garden.
Some of the native Texas ladybugs you can find in your garden are 2-spotted, 20-spotted (a micro ladybug), Pink Spotted, Convergent, and Spotless Ladybirds.
Not every beetle with spots is a ladybug. Another common garden beetle is the Spotted Cucumber Beetle. These small light green beetles have black spots but don’t tuck their heads under their thoraxes the way that ladybugs usually do. Cucumber beetles are in a family called the leaf beetles. As the name would suggest, the larvae or these beetles feed on cucumbers and other plants in the squash family. As adults, they are very active, flying around the garden, often feeding on pollen and nectar from flowers. You may also encounter two close relatives, the striped and the banded cucumber beetles.
The Green June Beetle is a large robust beetle that is often seen clumsily flying around area gardens in Spring and early Summer. They are a dull shiny green with a whitish border and sometimes with a bronzy wash over the green. They are in the same family, the scarabs, along with the other “june bugs,” dung beetles, flower beetles, and Hercules beetles.
The fat white grubs live underground and feed on humus, soil fungi, and plant roots. The adults feed on fruit (especially rotting fruit) and pollen and nectar from flowers. Every year, they emerge from underground in late spring in our outdoor animal enclosures and have to be let out of the cages every morning.
There are many other kinds of beetles that visit our gardens in this area. As a matter of fact, I could write a whole magazine’s worth of text about them. The best way to learn about them though is to buy a good guide to insects and head out into your garden or to Russ Pitman Park, which is part of my workplace. If you have any questions about beetles or other wildlife or stop by..
Duran is the head naturalist at the Nature Discovery Center, 7112 Newcastle Dr., Bellaire. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.