Little brown flea beetle

2022 November 6

This extremely small beetle was on our dining room table on September 23, 2022. It probably came in on the cut wildflowers that we had as a centerpiece. It was just big enough to be distinguishable as an insect to the naked eye (about the length of this dash -), but I needed to get macro photos of it to see what kind of insect it was.

We can see that the hind legs had enlarged thighs, which typically indicates that the insect is a jumper (although this one didn’t jump for me). It also had long, threadlike antennae and the type of mandibles that are usually most suited for chewing vegetation.

It looks to be some variety of Flea Beetle, in the tribe Alticini. The BugGuide page says that the enlarged hind femurs are pretty diagnostic for this group of beetles. There are a lot of these, and I think this one looks the most like the flea beetles in the genus Longitarsus. It doesn’t look quite identical to any of the 20 species in the genus that BugGuide has pictures of, but there are “at least 46 described species and many undescribed” in this genus, so it is probably one of the ones they didn’t photograph yet.

This is apparently a very typical species for our area, though. It looks identical to one that I photographed back in October of 2015. At the time, we weren’t sure that it was a local species because we found it on an orange peel. But, since this new one didn’t appear to be associated with our groceries, I think it is probably a local.

Anyway, as tiny insects that can jump, these are one of the large number of insects that are commonly mistaken for fleas (along with the hundreds of species of springtails). So, just because there is a tiny insect in the house that jumps around, that doesn’t mean it is time to panic that you have a flea infestation. Under magnification, fleas look nothing like either a tiny beetle or a springtail, so if you see something suspicious, catch it on a piece of scotch tape and have a look at it under a magnifying glass. Actual fleas look like this:

(A rabbit flea, taken from BugGuide because, what with one thing and another, I’ve never actually gotten a good picture of a flea)

We don’t seem to have fleas in any great profusion up here in the Frozen North. Between the cold weather and the low density of wildlife, it appears that our local conditions just don’t suit fleas very well.

One Response
  1. December 23, 2022

    Whenever I look through your blog, I end up wishing I was keeping several terrariums with these critters inside. I once fish-sat for a man who had 75 aquariums, all filled with different types of fancy guppies, which he was breeding for color and tail shape. He was quite good at it and even had some of the latest fad in guppies, the hot pink ones.

    In any case, I marvel that your house doesn’t look like his with walls of terrariums in place of book cases.

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