The Iridescent Green Dock Beetle (our organic jewel)

Nature gives us what we need. When we started our conversion to organic farming in 1998, Terry the farmer was very uncomfortable about allowing nettles, thistles and dock leaves to grow on the farm. He had grown up on a ‘tidy’ farm where such things were eliminated. One of the toughest lessons was to allow these weeds to grow.

Then we realised that even if you spray them every year, every year they come back and you spray them again and again, (putting profits into the pockets of the multinational chemical companies). So we try to reduce them by management. This is why organic food is sometimes more expensive to produce because people have spent hours in the field ‘spudding’ thistles or pulling ragwort and docks.

Gastrophysa Viridula

The Green Dock Beetle at Beechenhill Farm

Now we have a little helper- Gastrophysa Viridula, the Iridescent Green Dock Beetle. Dock leaves in meadows (mowing fields) are a bit of a nuisance. Their strong, stringy stalks in the silage (preserved grass) are not good for cows to eat and docks are very good at producing prolific seed heads. Their tap roots are very robust and difficult to pull out.

Gastrophysa Viridula eggs

Green dock beetle eggs

The jewel like dock beetle lays its little yellow eggs on the leaves, and when hatched the little beetles munch their way through the entire crop- it’s miraculous! If we were to spray either pesticide or weed killer we would lose these little friendly helpers.

Green dock beetles working on a dock leaf

Green dock beetles working on a dock leaf

Omsco (The Organic Milk Suppliers Co-op we sell our organic milk to) held a Hedgerow Safari here last week. We were able to show the children our friendly beetles, they were extremely impressed- until they saw the bank voles that was!

Fin from OMSCO with a bank vole at Beechenhill Farm

Fin from OMSCO with a bank vole at Beechenhill Farm

The contractor who cuts our silage came to check the fields a few weeks ago, ‘you’ve got a good crop of dock there’ he said. Then by the middle of June when he came to cut the fields, the docks had disappeared! ‘How have you done that?’

Dying dock leaf

Lacy remains of dock leaf after the green dock beetles have eaten

The next day we found him with a little box collecting some of the Gastrophysa Viridula and taking them off to his farm- trouble is he will have to stop spraying if he wants to keep them….

No docks left

No dock leaves left

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4 Responses to The Iridescent Green Dock Beetle (our organic jewel)

  1. It’s amazing how the smallest of creatures can be so much help to you!
    Do they survive the harvest or do you need to “cultivate” your beetles for future use?!

    • sueprince says:

      They are amazing, we don’t do anything, they just appear each year. There are a few dock leaves left around the edge of a mown field, so I suppose they stay there.

  2. Pamela says:

    My turkeys love eating dock leaves, so the beetle would be no good to me!

  3. Gill Brown says:

    This is a lovely blog. I love dock beetles, they are a wonderful way of introducing children to the invertebrates that do so much to keep the world turning as they can find eggs, larvae and adults on the same leaf. I’ve just done an internet search to see why I have never found pupae, and discovered that they pupate underground. You learn something new every day!

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