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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Beetle, Its Eggs and the Secrets of a Glue

"Wax is slippery stuff, a characteristic that many plants employ to keep nasty things off them. The needlelike branches of asparagus plants, for example, are covered with wax crystals, which make the branches practically unwettable and keep things from sticking."

"Or so one would think. Yet the asparagus beetle, Crioceris asparagi, manages to glue its eggs to these branches. And it does it the hard way: the oval eggs are perpendicular to the branch, with only the smallest area of contact."
"Scientists in Germany who study biomaterials have now figured out how the beetle does it. Dagmar Voigt of the Max-Planck Institute for Metals Research in Stuttgart and Stanislav Gorb of the University of Kiel say it secretes a compound, probably containing proteins, that has surfactant qualities — it spreads out rather than beading up. The compound forms a composite with the wax crystals, and as it dries it forms a glue that keeps the egg stuck. The findings are reported in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences."
"Dr. Voigt said the long-term goal of the research was to protect plants. Knowing how insects glue their eggs may lead to the breeding of plants with different surface characteristics, or to the development of sprays that could dissolve the glue so the eggs fall off."


Here are some facts concerning the asparagus beetle (Scientific name: Crioceris asparagi):

"This beetle attacks only asparagus.
- Adult: hibernates in the ground or under decomposing plants; to feed, it nibbles the foliage. The female lays its eggs at regular intervals, singly or in groups of 3 to 8.
- Egg: embryonic development lasts 3 to 8 days.
- larva; the young larva gnaws the various aerial parts of asparagus. Larval development lasts 15 to 20 days for the first generation, 10 to 15 days for the second. Its growth finished, the larva climb down the plant and pupates in the ground.

The principal damage is due to larvae which gnaw and destroy all the green parts of the fronds, reducing considerably or totally preventing photosynthesis." (source:
The use of male-only varieties of the asparagus eliminates this beetle as a pest. (source:

This beetle was first described by  by the Swedish Botanist Carl Linnaeus in the year  1758.  
(see: for more information about the life of Carl Linnaeus)

The asparagus beetle is found throughout North America.  These species, which can be serious pests, were accidentally introduced into North America from Europe about 1862; they thrived and became widespread in a short time because they had no natural predators. (source:

Important natural enemies of asparagus beetles include a tiny parasitic wasp, Tetrastichus asparagi Crawford, which attacks eggs, and several species of lady beetles, which feed on asparagus beetle eggs and small larvae. (source: )

If you grow asparagus in your garden then you should harvest spears as early as possible. Beetles are attracted to plants with an abundance of foliage; therefore, growers can leave a small portion of their crop unharvested as a decoy for beetles to congregate, while the rest of the crop is harvested. Thoroughly remove all plant debris from garden and surrounding areas after harvest to eliminate beetle overwintering sites. Spray or dust with botanical insecticides when larvae are first noticed feeding on plants. 

Source of image of Asparagus beetle:


Ashley said...

Do you recommend any sprays for getting rid of these guys? I was searching online and found Safer Brand's Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer. Have you heard of it? It's OMRI Listed and compliant for use in organic gardening.

Wayne said...

Hi Ashley,
I live in Canada so the product you are talking about is not available up here. However, I have used a similar product which works very well. I did some research about Safer Brand's Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer online and found out that the product you are using consists of an insecticide soap and another insecticide. The latter can be dangerous to you if you ingest it or if you inhale itso make sure you wash your hands well after you use Safer's brand and you should probably wear rubber gloves and use some sort of mask over your face as to be safe.Inhalation of the fumes or the insecticide itself seems to be the main concern with this product,that is why I suggest you use a mask.Also be careful if you are reapplying Safer's brand to a plant, because the dust created by the product after it dries on the plant can be a source of contact with your respiratory system and your skin even though the product is dry. In addition, this product breaks down when it is exposured to light and air,which lessens your chance of getting affected by it. However, if you live in a sunny place you probably need to apply more of the product to your plants, because the sunlight will make the insecticide less effective over time.

I hope this information helps you
Ashley,have a very productive and wonderful summer with your plants (and garden) and thanks for visiting my blog,

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.