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Crioceris asparagi

What do they look like?

Crioceris asparagi has an oval shape. It is typically 6 to 7 mm long, and is bluish-green with a red body marked with green. The pronotum (on the back between the head and body) is red and the elytra (which cover the wings) are yellow with three spots on each side. The elytra are also punctured several times in rows. Like all Criocerinae (leaf feeding beetles), it has thick, eleven-segmented antennae that are attached at the front of the eyes. The prothorax, the section between the head and the body, is skinnier than the body.

Eggs are long, narrow, and large relative to adult body size. They are grey or brown in color. The larvae of this species range from dark grey to olive green and have both black legs and black heads. (Arnett, 1993; Blatchley, 1910; Capinera, 1976; Downie and Arnett, 1996; Jaques, 1951; Klass, 2012; Kubisz, et al., 2012)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    6 to 7 mm
    0.24 to 0.28 in

Where do they live?

Crioceris asparagi is originally from Europe and northern Asia, with the exception of China. It is now also found in North America, and is particularly common in southern Canada. It is also a crop pest in Hawaii. (LeSage, et al., 2008; White, 1983)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Crioceris asparagi, the common asparagus beetle, lives on both farm grown and wild asparagus, in agricultural fields and grasslands. In the winter, these beetles are found in piles of decaying wood, under small rocks, in piles of old asparagus tops, and in the loose bark of trees and fence posts. (Kubisz, et al., 2012; LeSage, et al., 2008)

How do they grow?

Crioceris asparagi goes through complete metamorphosis. Its life stages are egg, larva, pupa, and adult. During the winter, the common asparagus beetle hibernates as an adult. It comes out of hibernation and lays eggs when asparagus plants begin to grow in the spring. Larvae hatch from eggs anywhere from 3 to 12 days later and immediately feed on young asparagus. There is a two to three week period of larval growth with four stages, called instars. The last instar falls from the plant to the ground, and forms a pupa in a round cell in the dirt. In 5 to 8 days, the pupa transforms into an adult beetle. The timing of egg hatching and larval development are different depending on temperature. It takes longer to develop when the temperature is colder, and it takes less time when it is warm. (Chittenden, 1917; Klass, 2012; LeSage, et al., 2008)

How do they reproduce?

The mating system of Crioceris asparagi is typical of leaf feeding beetles. These beetles spend long periods of time with their mates. Males show behaviors such as guarding their female from other males. Males also ride around the backs of females. In response, females may try to avoid males by kicking the males or moving their bodies away. Females in this family, Chrysomelidae, can choose the father(s) of their offspring, even if they mate with many males. Females can lay eggs that are fertilized only by certain preferred males. Females also may be able to get rid of male sperm after mating. (Chittenden, 1917; LeSage, et al., 2008)

Crioceris asparagi mates in late April or early May after coming out of winter hibernation and eating for a few days. Shortly after mating, females lay eggs. Eggs are laid on asparagus leaves or spears as a single egg or in a group. Multiple eggs are laid in a row along the plant, and are fixed in place by a dark green or brown glue that is produced by the female. (Chittenden, 1917; LeSage, et al., 2008)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Crioceris asparagi breeds continuously throughout the spring.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding season is late April or early May.

Females provide nutrients in the egg to allow early growth and development. Females also produce a very strong glue that keeps eggs attached to the asparagus plants, even in strong weather conditions. This gives the eggs a chance to survive long enough to hatch. C. asparagi does not provide any other parental care. (LeSage, et al., 2008; Voigt and Gorb, 2010)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female

How long do they live?

There is little information about the lifetime of C. asparagi, but development from egg to an adult generally takes 22 to 41 days. Adults live for a period of time after that, and adults that are still alive when winter starts go into hiding and emerge again in spring. (Chittenden, 1917; Klass, 2012; LeSage, et al., 2008)

How do they behave?

There is little information about the behavior of Crioceris asparagi, but it is known that C. asparagi is a mobile insect that is active during the day. When trying to escape from predators, it will run up and down the asparagus plant. It will even fake death when a predator attacks. It can also fly, but it does not fly very much. (LeSage, et al., 2008)

Home Range

Crioceris asparagi likely stays close to areas of asparagus plant, which it eats and lives on. (LeSage, et al., 2008)

How do they communicate with each other?

Crioceris asparagi uses sight and detects chemicals to find its host asparagus plants. The mating behavior of C. asparagi, which is common for most Chrysomelidae, uses touch and sight. Males ride on the back of females, and females do actions such as kicking the males and moving their bodies away. (LeSage, et al., 2008; Mitchell, 1988)

What do they eat?

Crioceris asparagi eats asparagus both as a larvae and as an adult. Larvae eat the spears of asparagus as they grow during spring. In North America, it feeds exclusively on Asparagus officinalis, but in Europe and Asia it feeds on several different asparagus species. (White, 1983)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Birds are predators of Crioceris asparagi, including ducks, chickens, and North American birds including house sparrows and eastern kingbirds. A few species of coccinellid beetles, Coleomegilla maculata and Hippodamia convergens prey on larvae and adult stages. Large carabid beetles also prey on C. asparagi, including Poecilus lucublandus, Pterostichus melanarius, Harpalus pennsylvanicus, and Harpalus erraticus. A melyrid beetle, Collops quadrimaculatus has been known to feed on eggs and larvae of C. asparagi. Additionally, Pentatomidae such as Podisus maculiventris and Stiretrus anchorago are known predators of the asparagus beetle larvae outside of Canada. A damsel bug, Nabis rufusculus, and an assassin bug, Sinea diadema, have both also been observed preying on larvae. The vespid wasp, Polistes fuscatus, damselfly, Ischnura positum, and lacewing, Chrysopa oculata, are all predators of the larvae as well. (Capinera, 1976; LeSage, et al., 2008)

C. asparagi will escape predators by moving to another part of the asparagus plant. It will either move to the opposite side of the stem, or when it feels more threatened, it will fake death or run to a farther location on the plant. The black and yellow-white colors of Crioceris asparagi looks like the colors of a stinging insect, which makes predators less likely to attack, for fear that they will get stung. However, C. asparagi lacks the stripes of stinging insects, so this disguise may not be very effective. C. asparagi does not usually fly away when in danger. (Capinera, 1976; LeSage, et al., 2008)

  • These animal colors help protect them
  • mimic
  • aposematic

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

In North America, Crioceris asparagi eats only its host plant, Asparagus officinalis. In other regions, it eats several different species of asparagus. These beetles are food to bird predators and many insects. A wasp parasitoid known as Tetrastichus asparagi, lays its eggs within the eggs of C. asparagi. The wasp develops within C. asparagi as the beetle develops, until the beetle is ready to pupate. At this point, development of the beetle stops because the wasp larva has eaten the beetle from within, killing the beetle. In the wild, C. asparagi can parasitize up to 70% of C. asparagi populations. The ichneumonid wasp Lemophagus crioceritor parasitizes C. asparagi in Canada and other cooler regions. The tachinid fly Myiopharus infernalis is an uncommon parasite. Impudentia crioceris is a fungus that is found on C. asparagi. (LeSage, et al., 2008)

Species (or larger taxonomic groups) used as hosts by this species
  • Asparagus officinalis
Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host

Do they cause problems?

Since Crioceris aspargi feeds entirely on asparagus, it can have a significant effect on the asparagus market. It can reduce the amount of asparagus produced, as well as decrease the value when eggs or larvae are found on the plants. Washington, Michigan, and Illinois produce the most asparagus in the United States and are the most effected economically by asparagus damage. (Wold-Burkness, et al., 2006)

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • crop pest

How do they interact with us?

There are no known positive effects of Crioceris asparagi on humans.

Are they endangered?

Crioceris asparagi is not an endangered species.

Contributors

Rachael Gingerich (author), University of Michigan Biological Station, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Brian Scholtens (editor), University of Michigan Biological Station.

References

Arnett, R. 1993. American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico. Gainesville, Florida: The Sandhill Crane Press.

Blatchley, W. 1910. Catalogue of the coleoptera of indiana. Indianapolis, Indiana: The Nature Publishing Company.

Capinera, J. 1976. Asparagus beetle defense behavior: adaptations for survival in dispersing and non-dispersing species.. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 69: "269–272".

Chittenden, F. 1917. "The asparagus beetles and their control" (On-line pdf). Accessed August 02, 2012 at http://books.google.com/.

Dickinson, J. 1997. Multiple mating, sperm competition, and cryptic female choice in the leaf beetles. Pp. 164-183 in J Choe, B Crespi, eds. The Evolution of mating systems in insects and arachnids. Cambridge, United Kingdom: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.

Downie, N., R. Arnett. 1996. The Beetles of Northeastern North America. Gainesville, Florida: The Sandhill Crane Press.

ITIS, 2012. "Crioceris asparagi" (On-line). ITIS Report. Accessed August 02, 2012 at http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=719888&print_version=PRT&source=to_print.

Jaques, H. 1951. How to Know the Beetles. United States of America: WM. C. Brown company Publishers.

Klass, C. 2012. "Asparagus beetles" (On-line). Accessed August 02, 2012 at http://entomology.cornell.edu/cals/entomology/extension/idl/upload/Asparagus-Beetles.pdf.

Kubisz, D., L. Kajtoch, M. Mazur, V. Rizun. 2012. Molecular barcoding for central-eastern European Crioceris leaf-beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Central European Journal of Biology, 7: 69-76.

LeSage, L., E. Dobesberger, C. Majka. 2008. Introduced leaf beetles of the maritime provinces, 6: the common asparagus beetle, Crioceris asparagi (Linnaeus), and the twelve-spotted asparagus beetle, Crioceris duodecimpunctata (Linnaeus) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 110: 602-621.

Mitchell, B. 1988. Adult leaf beetles as models for exploring the chemical basis of host-plant recognition. Insect Physiology, 34: 213-225.

Voigt, D., S. Gorb. 2010. Egg attachment of the asparagus beetle Crioceris asparagi to the crystalline waxy surface of Asparagus officinalis. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 277/1683: 895-903.

White, R. 1983. A Field Guide to the Beetles. United States of America: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Wold-Burkness, S., P. Bolin, W. Hutchison. 2006. Early-season phenology and temporal dynamics of the common asparagus beetle, Crioceris asparagi (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), in southern Minnesota. The Great Lakes Entomologist, 39: 72-79.

 
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Gingerich, R. 2013. "Crioceris asparagi" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 25, 2014 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Crioceris_asparagi/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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