Potato Beetles and Postage Stamps

Potato Beetles and Postage Stamps

We hear much about invasive species coming into the U.S. from Europe or Asia.  Surprise!  That works two ways.  The potato beetle, native to our states of Colorado and Nebraska, was first found in Germany in 1870 and by 1877 was causing significant damage in Europe.  It’s spread was enabled by the chaos of World War I.

When governments stabilized after the war, eradication and public awareness campaigns were carried out in the British Isles, Europe, and into Turkey.

The Potato Museum has examples of stamped envelopes cancelled with “watch out for the potato beetle” messages in several languages, and messages, sometimes with illustrations of the beetle, stamped on postcards.

The museum’s collection of postage stamps (commemorating agriculture, not beetles) includes, besides United States stamps, a number of countries in South America, Africa, Europe, the British Isles, Turkey, Russia, India and Mongolia.

The Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata.
The Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata.

Photo: Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota

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