Crioceris asparagi

Geographic Range

Crioceris asparagi is native to both Europe and northern Asia, with the exception of China. It is an introduced species in North America, and is particularly widespread in southern Canada. It is also an agricultural pest in Hawaii. (LeSage, et al., 2008; White, 1983)

Habitat

Crioceris asparagi, the common asparagus beetle, lives on cultivated and feral asparagus, in agricultural fields and grasslands. In the winter, these beetles are found in piles of woody debris and refuse, under small rocks, in piles of decaying asparagus tops, and in the loosened bark of trees and fence posts. (Kubisz, et al., 2012; LeSage, et al., 2008)

Physical Description

Crioceris asparagi has an oblong shape. It is typically 6 to 7 mm long, and is bluish-green with a red thorax marked with green. The pronotum is red and the elytra are yellow with a suture and three spots on each side. The sutural stripe and spots are connected and the spots may vary in size. The elytra are also punctured repetitively in rows. Like all Criocerinae (leaf feeding beetles), it has thickset, eleven-jointed antennae that are inserted at the front of the eyes and are widely separated. Front coxae are conical, contiguous, and distinctive. Additionally, this subfamily of the chrysomelids has a prothorax which is narrower than the elytra at their base and there is typically a strong middle constriction. Tarsal claws are simple and broadly spread out from the base.

Eggs are elongate, conical, 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

Development

During the winter, the common asparagus beetle hibernates as an adult. It emerges and lays eggs when asparagus plants begin to shoot in the spring. Larvae hatch anywhere from 3 to 12 days later and immediately feed on young asparagus. They cling to the plant with tubercles and anal prolegs. There is a two to three week period of larval development with four instars. The final instar falls from the plant to the soil, and forms a pupa in a round earthen cell. In 5 to 8 days, the pupa transforms into an adult beetle. Climate determines how many generations (2 to 3) occur annually because the timing of egg hatching and larval development are heavily temperature dependent and will fluctuate, taking longer during colder seasons and taking less time when it is relatively warm in a region. (Chittenden, 1917; Klass, 2012; LeSage, et al., 2008)

Reproduction

The mating system of Crioceris asparagi is typical of leaf feeding beetles. Chrysomelidae are known for relatively long mating associations during which males engage in such courtship displays as riding on the backs of females. Males do not court females prior to copulation but engage in "copulatory courting" and "post-copulatory courting." Mate guarding is typical of this family. In response, chrysomelid females will often exhibit avoidance behaviors such as moving their abdomens away from male genitalia or kicking males. Cryptic female choice within Chrysomelidae, where females mate with multiple males and retain the eggs of the male who they phenotypically prefer, is an interesting feature of this family. Females also control the ability of the male to fertilize. Females may have a spermathecal muscle that determines the success of sperm fertilization, and they may be able to emit semen post-copulation. (Chittenden, 1917; LeSage, et al., 2008)

Crioceris asparagi breeds in late April or early May after emerging from winter hibernation and feeding for a few days. Shortly after breeding comes oviposition. Eggs are deposited on leaves or spears as a single egg or in a group. Multiple eggs are laid in a row along the plant, and are secured by a dark green or brown adhesive that is secreted by the female. (Chittenden, 1917; LeSage, et al., 2008)

  • Breeding interval
    Crioceris asparagi breeds continuously throughout the spring.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding season is late April or early May.

Females provide enough nutrients in the egg to allow early development. Additionally, females secrete a very strong adhesive that keeps eggs firmly secured to the asparagus plants. This adhesive protects the eggs from adverse weather conditions, increasing the likelihood the eggs will survive. C. asparagi provides no other parental involvement. (LeSage, et al., 2008; Voigt and Gorb, 2010)

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

Lifespan/Longevity

Little information is available about the lifespan of C. asparagi, but development from egg to an adult generally takes 22 to 41 days. Adults live for an extended period after that, with the final generation overwintering and emerging again in the spring. (Chittenden, 1917; Klass, 2012; LeSage, et al., 2008)

Behavior

There is little information available on this topic, but it is known that C. asparagi is a mobile insect that is mainly active during the day. It is particularly active when dodging predators, running up and down the asparagus plant. It will even fake death in the event of an attack by a predator. It can fly, but does not do so often. (LeSage, et al., 2008)

Home Range

Crioceris asparagi likely remains close to areas of its host plant. (LeSage, et al., 2008)

Communication and Perception

Chrysomelids rely on acuity of vision and chemical perceptions to recognize characteristics of their specific host-plants. The mating behavior of C. asparagi, which is common for most Chrysomelidae, relies heavily on tactile and visual cues. Males ride on the back of females, while females exhibit such behaviors as kicking the males and moving their abdomen away in avoidance. (LeSage, et al., 2008; Mitchell, 1988)

Food Habits

Crioceris asparagi feeds on asparagus during its larval and adult stages. 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

Predation

Birds are significant 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 dodge predators by escaping to another part of the asparagus plant. At lower levels of predatory persistence, it will move to the opposite side of the stem, but when more highly threatened will fake death or run to a more distant location on the plant. The black and yellow-white coloration which is typical of Crioceris asparagi mimic those of a stinging insect and may deter predators; however, C. asparagi lacks the stripes of stinging insects and the strength of this defense is questionable. C. asparagi is less adapted to avoiding avian predators than C. duodecimpunctata, a closely related asparagus beetle, because it lacks the red-black coloration and stridulation which are used successfully by C. duodecimpunctata to ward off birds. Rarely does C. asparagi utilize flight or stridulation to defend against predators. (Capinera, 1976; LeSage, et al., 2008)

Ecosystem Roles

Crioceris asparagi is monophagous in North America on its host plant, Asparagus officinalis, but oligophagous in other regions. These beetles serve as food to avian predators and numerous insects. They are host to a hymenopteran parasitoid known as Tetrastichus asparagi, which pierces the eggs of C. asparagi and oviposits its own eggs. The parasitized eggs of C. asparagi hatch and develop normally through the larval instars until it drops to the ground to pupate. Development stops there as the parasitic wasp has eaten the entire larva by this point. The level of parasitism on C. asparagi by C. asparagi can be as high as 70%. The ichneumonid wasp Lemophagus crioceritor parasitizes C. asparagi in Canada and cooler latitudes. The tachinid fly Myiopharus infernalis is a known, but uncommon, parasite. Impudentia crioceris is a fungus that is found on C. asparagi. (LeSage, et al., 2008)

Species Used as Host
  • Asparagus officinalis
Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

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

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Since Crioceris aspargi feeds exclusively on asparagus, it can have a significant effect on the asparagus market. It can reduce the asparagus harvest, as well as decrease the market value when eggs or larvae are found on the plants. Washington, Michigan, and Illinois produce the most asparagus in the United States and are especially vulnerable to economic loss via asparagus damage. (Wold-Burkness, et al., 2006)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Crioceris asparagi has no special conservation status.

Contributors

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

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

aposematic

having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diapause

a period of time when growth or development is suspended in insects and other invertebrates, it can usually only be ended the appropriate environmental stimulus.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

hibernation

the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

holarctic

a distribution that more or less circles the Arctic, so occurring in both the Nearctic and Palearctic biogeographic regions.

World Map

Found in northern North America and northern Europe or Asia.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

polygynandrous

the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

suburban

living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

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.