In early fall, adult alder leaf beetles (Agelastica alni L.) retreat, for overwintering, to the top layer of the soil near their forage trees where the ground gets easily waterlogged so that the beetles will be submerged and cut off from atmospheric oxygen. Hence, unlike most other adult insects, alder leaf beetles encounter hypoxia/anoxia in their natural habitat and this may occur at moderate temperature. Exposing beetles to pure nitrogen gas at 20 degrees C had similar behavioral and metabolic effects as submerging them in water, causing rapid immobility and increasing the content of lactate about sevenfold to some 5&mgr;molg(-1) body weight during 10h anoxia. Recovery from 10 h hypoxia/anoxia in pure nitrogen was complete within about 90min.Hypoxia/anoxia triggered a marked decrease in metabolic activity in the beetles (microcalorimetry at 21.7 degrees C) as indicated by a precipitous drop in their heat flow rate, from 1.39+/-0.27 to 0.08+/-0.04mWg(-1) body weight, i.e. by about 94%, when the flow of gas through the calorimeter was switched from air to pure nitrogen. Post-anoxic recovery was accompanied by a peak in heat flow rate that exceeded the basal normoxic rate by about 50%. The homoeostasis of adenine nucleotides in Agelastica is lost when oxygen is wanting. Submergence at 15 degrees C for three days caused a dramatic fall in ATP, to less than 2% of the normoxic value, and a marked increase in AMP, while the total contents of adenine nucleotides decreased by almost two-thirds. Reduced metabolic activity, combined with the capacity to regenerate ATP after readmission of air, is regarded as a key factor for surviving transient lack of oxygen in alder leaf beetles.