A friend of mine has twenty acres of former farmland here in southeast Michigan. It hasn’t been farmed in over fifteen years, and it’s well into secondary succession. It has some similarities with mesic prairie and oak openings communities, but it’s rather unique. In addition to the scattered young trees, the ground cover is dominated by goldenrods (Solidago sp., Asteraceae), other asters (especially Symphyotrichum sp., Asteraceae), milkweeds (Asclepias sp., Asclepiadaceae) and wild carrot/Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota, Apiaceae). The most common plants seem to be goldenrods, however, and they tend to attract large numbers of goldenrod leaf miners (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Microrhopala vittata).
I easily come up with dozens of these beetles any time I sweep the foliage with a net during the summer. The adults usually have their heads buried in goldenrod leaves. Since they’re leaf miners, I imagine the larvae tunnel through goldenrod leaves as well.
These beetles bear a strong resemblance to a couple of other leaf miners I’ve covered this year: the basswood leaf miner (Baliosus nervosus) and another leaf miner (Sumitrosis inaequalis). Despite being in different genera, all three leaf beetles are in the same family (Chrysomelidae), the same subfamily (Cassidinae), and the same tribe (Chalepini). These relatively close evolutionary relationships make it unsurprising that they look so similar. Their host plants help to distinguish them, however. This is a good example of how it’s useful to pay attention to the plants that insects are found on.