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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 27, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests
Title: Infestation of shiny red and blue/black beetles
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Valerie Bugh

QUESTION:

I have an infestation of 1 cm long shiny red and blue/black beetles. They have red heads with black eyes and antenna, 2 (?) red spots on their sides, and a bluish black body. Before I kill them with insecticidal soap, I want to make sure that they are not beneficial. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants consulted with an entomologist, Valerie Bugh, to give you the best answer to your potential pest problem.  She said:

"Without knowing the host plant, location, or seeing a photo, this could be a description of a number of true bugs or beetles. Since the term "infestation" usually means a large number of individuals, there is an excellent chance that the insects are NOT predatory but herbivorous. One exception: some predatory stink bugs, which can be black/red, prefer to remain in groups. If the plant is a personal favorite and is declining in health, then it would make a gardener feel better to kill off the insects."

However, knowing that you live in the Central Texas area she thought that this might be Asphaera lustrans, a flea beetle that likes salvias, among other things. They may sometimes be rather numerous but never seem to do much damage.  Here is another photo and information from Nature Search.

 

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