The Colorado potato beetle was first discovered by the American entomologist Thomas Say in 1824. He collected several specimens of this insect from the Rocky Mountains in the Western United States.
Colorado potato beetle of this member of the leaf beetle family began to be called after 1859, when this pest literally destroyed the potato fields in Colorado. And after 20 years, the beetle became so dangerous that many farmers stopped growing potatoes, despite the fact that prices for them increased several times. Then no one could have imagined that in a few decades this "conqueror" would conquer not only the United States, but also Europe.
In the holds of ships loaded with potatoes, the beetle safely crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Already in 1876 he was noticed in the German city of Leipzig. And at the beginning of the 20th century, the Colorado potato beetle spread throughout Western Europe. Only Great Britain managed to avoid the invasion, where it is very rare.
The beetle appeared on the territory of the Soviet Union in 1940. And by the beginning of the fifties, he was no longer a rarity on the territory of Belarus and Western Ukraine. And in 1975, the Colorado potato beetle reached the Urals: the year was dry, therefore, straw was transported from the territory of Ukraine for livestock feed, along with the straw, a pest beetle was also brought.
Since the beetle began to spread in the socialist countries with the beginning of the Cold War, the CIA was blamed for this disaster. The Polish newspaper "Tribuna lyudu" published an article in which it was reported that the beetle was thrown into the territory of Poland and the GDR by American aircraft.
In Czechoslovakia, a committee was even created to combat the potato leaf beetle. Not only farmers, but also schoolchildren, industrial workers and even the army entered the fight against the Colorado potato beetle. The most active collectors of beetles received prizes from the Ministry of Agriculture.
The life span of this insect is from one to three years. The beetle hibernates underground at a depth of 70 centimeters, therefore, it is able to survive even harsh winters. During the summer season, one female is capable of producing up to 1000 eggs, from which larvae emerge.
In just 2-3 weeks, the Colorado potato beetle larva is able to eat up to 10 potato leaves.
In unfavorable years, the beetle can hide in the ground in anticipation of better times. Scientists claim that this hibernation can last 2-3 years.
It is possible to destroy the Colorado potato beetle not only with chemicals. For example, turkeys and guinea fowls willingly eat this insect. They can be safely released on potato beds: these birds do not rake the ground, but eat those beetles that sit on the tops.