One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A beetle which infests potato or sweet potato plants; specifically (a) (more fully "Colorado potato beetle") a yellow leaf beetle with longitudinal black stripes on the elytra, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, which is native to North America and whose red larvae are highly destructive to potato plants; (b) (more fully "three-lined potato beetle") a yellow or reddish yellow leaf beetle with three longitudinal black stripes on each elytron, Lema trilineata, which is native to North America and infests potato plants and other plants of the family Solanaceae.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in Harper's Magazine. From potato + beetle.
potato beetle/pəˈteɪtəʊ ˌbiːtl/
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