Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Diabrotica but not diabolical

with 21 comments

Cucumber Beetle on Texas Mountain Laurel Flowers 5540

When I got close to some Texas mountain laurel flowers, Sophora secundiflora, at the Mueller prairie restoration on February 17th I spotted this spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata. Undecim is the Latin word for ‘one [plus] ten,’ which is to say ‘eleven,’ and that’s the number of spots (puncta) on this beetle (what would be the two center spots in the upper row merge). While we’re dealing with numbers, let me add that a cucumber beetle is about the same size as a lady beetle. In the realm of solid geometry, notice how the shape of the beetle mimics the convexity of the petals it’s on.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 1, 2016 at 4:54 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the early morning smile across my day…Spring and my immersion into gardening is only weeks away.


    March 1, 2016 at 6:25 AM

  2. Oh, I love the color combination here of the cucumber beetle with the laurel blossom. Wonderful clarity and geometric echo.

    Lemony (Gr)Egghead

    March 1, 2016 at 7:16 AM

    • I like the way you phrased that: a geometric echo. And yes, I also enjoy the interplay of colors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 1, 2016 at 7:43 AM

  3. Well, perhaps our friend is just a bit diabolical. I was curious about their antennae, and in the process of reading, I discovered that they’re considered a major agricultural pest.

    The antennae on yours caught my attention because I saw one of these, with only one antenna, on a Texas dandelion on Saturday. At first, I thought yours had only one. But I think I see the second, now: pointed directly at the camera. And I can count all eleven spots on mine, which seems like some sort of a bonus.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, your punctilious postings (noting, for example, the shared convexities of the beetle and bloom) really make these posts a delight.


    March 1, 2016 at 7:37 AM

    • I’ll point out that you’re always welcome to punctuate your comments with fine points; no appointment need be made.

      By looking at other photographs from the session I confirmed that this beetle did indeed have two antennae. I wonder what happened to the second antenna on the beetle you saw.

      As for the diabolical, I can understand why farmers are inclined to see this insect that way; the name cucumber beetle implies that the critter favors that vegetable. There are cucumber people, too:


      Steve Schwartzman

      March 1, 2016 at 7:56 AM

  4. Fantastic macro, Steven!


    March 1, 2016 at 8:44 AM

    • I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it, Pit. I assume you see cucumber beetles near you from time to time too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 1, 2016 at 9:49 AM

  5. That is a beautiful composition of the cucumber beetle on the bloom.

    Lavinia Ross

    March 1, 2016 at 10:21 AM

    • Thanks for appreciating it, Lavinia. The beetle kept moving, so I took a bunch of pictures to be on the safe side.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 1, 2016 at 10:41 AM

  6. Like Linda I concluded that this cute bug might be considered diabolical by some.


    March 2, 2016 at 2:18 AM

  7. ’tis a lovely beetle and, although a pest, would be a welcomed sight in our garden. Of course, if we were farmers the feeling would not be the same.

    Steve Gingold

    March 2, 2016 at 4:07 AM

    • And you’re a third person to give thought to agriculture, but as in me your photographic instinct comes to the fore, along with a longing for spring in your case.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 2, 2016 at 7:00 AM

  8. I love the title and I’d never seen or heard of a spotted cucumber beetle so I learnt something new today. The colour contrast and the matching geometry are very pleasing to the eye.


    March 2, 2016 at 5:30 AM

    • Your favorable comment is likewise pleasing. The fact that you haven’t heard of these beetles is good news: one less native American species to have invaded Australia (unlike the lantana that I was surprised to see growing wild there on my visit a decade ago). And yes, it’s a mix of colors I don’t think I often see.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 2, 2016 at 7:13 AM

  9. I think I lost myself in this photo Steve .. It is so good!


    March 4, 2016 at 1:09 AM

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