Plant-Insect Interaction: Swamp milkweed leaf beetle

Swamp milkweed leaf beetle (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Labidomera clivicollis) photographed 07/28/2011 near Blissfield Michigan.

Last week I wrote about the larvae of swamp milkweed leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Labidomera clivicollis), and I posted a video of one nibbling on some flower buds.  A few days later I revisited the southeast Michigan floodplain forest where they were found, and I came across some adult beetles.

Swamp milkweed leaf beetle (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Labidomera clivicollis) photographed 07/28/2011 near Blissfield Michigan.

These tough little beetles have evolved to feed on the sticky, toxic sap of milkweed plants (Asclepias sp., Asclepiadaceae), especially swamp milkweed (A. incarnata).

Swamp milkweed leaf beetle (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Labidomera clivicollis) photographed 07/28/2011 near Blissfield Michigan.

Sticky milkweed sap can gum up mouthparts, but these beetles use a unique approach to get around that problem.  They bite into the leaves in several locations, causing the sap to gush out.  They then feed in different locations, where the sap then flows out with less force.  Their bold coloration also suggests they may acquire toxicity from the plant’s toxins, helping to protect them from predators.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Ecology, Entomology, Organism Interactions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Plant-Insect Interaction: Swamp milkweed leaf beetle

  1. Pingback: Random Plant: Swamp milkweed | The Life of Your Time

  2. Pingback: Plant-Insect Interaction: Oleander aphids on a swamp milkweed | The Life of Your Time

  3. Rachel says:

    Found one in my garden yesterday, thanks for helping me identify. Beautiful.

    Like

  4. Lynn says:

    I found this beetle on my backdoor and I wanted to check to see if it is harmful to plants other than milkweeds. I must say it is has beautiful markings.

    Like

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