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Three-lined Potato Beetle (Lema trilinea)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Three-lined Potato Beetle

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Image Credit: James G. from Southfield, MI
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The multicolored Three-lined Potato Beetle loves to eat a wide array of food plants making them a garden pest.

Updated: 02/16/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
This larvae of the Three-lined Potato Beetle feed on the leaves of potato plants, nightshades like peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes as well as tomatillos, the green 'tomatoes' used to make salsa verde. The larvae are grayish in color and are grub-like in form. Newly hatched Three-Lined Potato Beetles congregate on a food plant and eat its leaves until only the central veins remains. They secrete a frothy substance over themselves as they eat. Once the leaves of the plant have been completely devoured, the plant dies without bearing any edible vegetables.

Adults have red heads and black eyes. The red pronotum has two black dots on it. Yellow wing coverings have three black stripes on them. Their stripes resemble Striped Cucumber Beetles, but head colors are different and the potato beetle has a narrow 'waist' while the cucumber beetle does not. Three-lined Potato Beetles can be found in meadows, garden beds, or cultivated fields.

Females lay yellow eggs on leaves of a food plant. After hatching and eating the plant leaves, the larvae move to ground level and pupate in the soil, emerging as adults. Up to two generations can be produced a year, and adults can survive the winter. This makes the population growth somewhat rapid and amplifies their destructive effect on food plants.©InsectIdentification.org

Known Diet of the Three-Lined-Potato-Beetle

eggplant; pepper; potato; tomato; tomatillo
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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Garden pest insect icon
Harmful insect icon
Pest insect icon
Striped or banded insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Chrysomelidae
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          Genus: Lema
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            Species: trilinea

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Lema trilinea
Other Name(s): Potato Beetle; Potato Bug
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 5mm to 8mm (0.19" to 0.31")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; yellow; red; orange
Descriptors: striped; multicolored; flying; harmful; garden pest

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 5mm (0.2in) and 8mm (0.3in)
Lo: 5mm
Md: 6.5mm
Hi: 8mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Three-lined Potato Beetle may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Three-lined Potato Beetle. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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