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animated graphic of book title plate with a flea beetle walking across it and underneath a magnifying glass; title content: Guide to Palearctic Flea Beetle Genera (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae, Alticinae) [by] Alexander S. Konstantinov and Natalia J. Vandenberg, Systematic Entomlogy Laboratory, ARS, USDA

The leaf beetle subfamily Alticinae is composed of minute to medium-sized, compact beetles whose enlarged hind femora and renowned jumping ability have earned them the name of flea beetles. Flea beetles are common denizens of the backyard garden, drilling tiny holes in the leaves of tomatoes and eggplants, wildflowers and herbs. Their bodies are elegantly crafted and minutely sculpted with dimples and ridges. They come in many colors--often in jewel-like tones of amber, ruby or jet with coruscating bronze, green or metallic blue wing-covers--making them a not-unexpected favorite among insect collectors.

Although flea beetles feed on almost all higher plant families, the individual species (of which there are well over 4,000) are often highly specific in their feeding habits. This trait has transformed some species into severe agricultural pests, while others have risen to prominence for their beneficial role in controlling introduced weeds. Several outstanding sucesses in the biological control of weeds have involved the intorduction of foreign flea beetles into the United States and Canada. Among these, are species established for the control of alligator weed in southern waterways, tansy ragwort in western pastures, and leafy spurge in pastures and rangelands. Imported flea beetles have saved millions of dollars worth of damage to natural habitats and rangelands.

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