Nature on our doorsteps - Useful survival techniques

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

The term ‘leaf beetle’ is applied to a range of beetles which feed on leaves of different plants.

A particularly interesting leaf beetle was spotted recently in a garden in Tallaght.

This beetle is feeding on the wild plant Hedge Woundwort compressor

This beetle is feeding on the wild Hedge Woundwort

It was distinctive in being a lovely shiny green-to-bronze colour, with bright red legs and antennae.

 This leaf beetle does not appear to have a common name, but its Latin name is Chrysolina banksi, where the word ‘Chrysolina’ has its origin in the Greek words for ‘gold thread’ and where ‘banksi’ is likely to be a connection to the English naturalist Sir Joseph Banks who died in 1820.

This species of Chrysolina eats leaves of plants like Mints, Dead-nettles and Woundworts.

 It was once more commonly found than it is now, as habitat loss and the use of chemical insecticides has impacted on its population in recent years.

The green-brown colouration helps to camouflage this beetle, and this is just as well as it is a slow-moving insect.

Its shiny green wing cases act as camouflage compressor

Its shiny green wing cases act as camouflage

It also, however, has other useful defence mechanisms.

When it feels threatened it stays still and, like a tortoise, it pulls its head and legs in under the hard, shiny shield that protects its body.

If that doesn’t work, it simply drops off the leaf, ‘playing dead’ until the threat goes away.

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