Friday, July 13, 2012

Don’t Bug Me!



35c/75c Surcharge - View:  Mullerthal

Set of 6 surcharged views issued 25 Mar 1936

Prifix P106 – FSPL P108




In the 1930s, the black and yellow-striped "potato bug" presented a serious danger for the potato farmers of the Luxembourg Ardennes, as my Luxembourgish grandfather once attested.   Both the striped beetle and their black-spotted red larva feed on potato leaves. The resulting damage can greatly reduce yield and even kill the plants.

So dangerous are these pests that in 1936 Luxembourg  surcharged the set of six 75c Charlotte postal viewcards to the 35c rate for domestic postal cards and cards to Belgium, and overprinted the cards with the drawings of the potato bug and potato bug larvae seen below along with stern warnings in French and German of the dangers the bugs posed to “l’agriculture et l’horticulture.”







Indeed, close scrutiny of potato bug anatomy (shown below) reveals them to be a predator well equipped to do severe damage to the plants they infest.  One website,, describes them as “[t]he most universally feared, hated and disgusting creatures on the planet.”



Press reports in September 1940 charged that British airmen were dropping bags of potato bugs on potato fields in Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium in an effort to lay waste to a major food source in those countries.  One report documents the finding of brown bags filled with potato bugs that had been dropped “north of a Luxembourg town” on September 8, 1940. 

So, with the understanding that the potato bugs are more than a garden nuisance, we can better appreciate that these 1936 “potato bug” postal cards not only performed normal postal functions but also provided a medium with which to alert the public to the very real dangers presented by this agricultural pest.

Here are some “potato bug” cards:

View: Clervaux

Dippach, 12 Mar 1937, to Wiltz



View: Echternach

Echternach, 25 May 1936, to Wellin, Belgium

Unsuccessful efforts to find the addressee in Wellin (and Wollin) Belgium, and at German destinations, with the card returned to Echternach from Plettenberg, Germany, 2 Jun 1936.




View: Luxembourg-Ville

Beaufort to Brussels, Belgium, 27 Aug 1936



View: Mondorf-les-Bains

Luxembourg-Ville, 20 Apr 1936, to Pétange

Postal card rate = 35c

Domestic registry fee = 1.75 F

COD fee = 75c



On this card the bugs are “hiding” under the
Remboursement and Non recouvré labels.


View: Mullerthal

Larochette, 6 Apr 1936, to Grevenmacher




View: Vianden

Luxembourg-Ville, 29 Apr 1936, to Wiltz, 30 Apr 1936







Translation into Luxembourgish:

Gromper (noun, f)

plant tuber eaten as starchy vegetable

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