Air Potato Beetle: Friend or Foe?
What are Air Potato Plants?
Air potato plants are related to yams and originate in Asia and Africa and were introduced to Florida in 1905. Because of this, they are non-native to Florida and are an invasive species that chokes native plants of oxygen and other nutrients. They are vine plants with heart shaped leaves ranging from 3 to 8 inches. They grow round bulbs that resemble potatoes, but be warned as they are not safe for human consumption. Unfortunately they grown relatively quick so it doesn’t take long for them to completely invade an area.
What are Air Potato Beetles?
As their name suggests these insects are small beetles that originate from Asia. They were brought to Florida to control the Air Potato population in 2012. These beetles are roughly half the size of a dime in length and can range in color from orange to red with their legs, head, thorax and abdomen being black.
What do they eat?
Luckily this species strictly feeds on air potato plants and cannot complete their life cycle on any other species. Both air potato plants and air potato beetles are from the same origin and thus these insects can only thrive on their native plants.
When they attack air potato plants they devour the leaves, thus giving them their whole name the air potato leaf beetle. It’s easy to spot if they’ve visited your garden. The air potato plant leave will be filled with small wholes covering the leaf similar to holes punched in paper.
Will they harm my other plants?
Even though these beetles are from Asia they are non-invasive so they won’t end up harming any of your foliage. They may go after any garden potato leaves but shouldn’t do much harm.
Are they Invasive?
This question goes along with the previous question on whether other plants will be at risk. Luckily these beetles don’t have an appetite for other Florida species. This means they are not dangerous or pose any threat to the surround environment. They strictly feed on the air potato plants and then die or move on to find more.
Can I get rid of them?
There’s really no need to try and rid your garden of these insects. All they want is they destroy invasive air potato plants and be on their way. You can however be a citizen scientist and visit the University of South Florida Website to be part of the Air Potato Patrol Here and let them know they’re entered your area.
So are they a friend or a foe?