Monday, January 03, 2011

Macro Monday: Tortoise Beetle Larva (Charidotella sp)



Camouflage is an often employed survival tactic in the insect world, but a tortoise beetle larva has one of the more unique approaches to disguise.  It hides under a shield of debris composed of previously shed skins and fecal matter.  To a would be predator, the tortoise beetle larva looks like bird droppings or some other distasteful pile of debris.

The larva has a fork-like structure at the rear end of its abdomen.  These prongs curve back over the insect's body.  When the larva molts, its head emerges from the old skin first.  When the molt is complete, its old skin is left attached to these anal forks.  The insect's excrement is added to these shed skins forming a "fecal shield".  When disturbed, the tortoise beetle larva will often wave this shield at would be predators.

This particular larva is probably a Golden Tortoise Beetle (Charidotella sexpunctata) which ranges throughout most of the United States and Canada.   Both lavae and adults feed on the leaves of various Convolvulaceae (bind weed, morning glory, sweet potato) leaving the leaves riddled with small holes.  It was found on bind weed.


Here is a photo of an adult Golden Tortoise Beetle.




Sources and additional information:
BugGuide 
Garden Friends and Foes 
Bug of the Month
Insect Information: Tortoise beetles





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21 comments:

HOOTIN' ANNI said...

Oh my gosh, creepy but oh so excellent a photo.

Maneki Neko [My macro Link]

Do stop by to visit if you can. Have a great day.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What an interesting bug. No one could make up something that looks so bizarre and to think that it is alive. Wow.

Marvin said...

Thank you, Anni -- and I appreciate your visit.

Marvin said...

I agree, Lisa. The physical characteristics and life cycles of some insects are more bizarre than fiction.

Lady Grace Dreamweaver said...

How extraordinary! Thank you for sharing!

KaHolly said...

Oh, wow!! I can't wait until it's time to find some of these!!! They are beautiful! ~karen

Wren said...

Ewwwwww ... still, can't argue with effectiveness. I'd sure leave it alone!

Plant chaser said...

Wow! Is that some sort of duckling to a swan thing? The adult beetle looks great. Fantastic macros! -- Bom @ plantchaser.com

Ellen Rathbone said...

That is beautiful!

Pat - Arkansas said...

Great photos of an interesting beetle. It's amazing how much diversity and complexity there is in nature.

Marvin said...

Thank you for visiting and commenting, Lady Grace.

Marvin said...

Karen: While the larvae are interesting, the adults are a beautiful bug. They're a little tough to find since they're normally on the underside of leaves and quickly fly or, more often, simply let go and fall when disturbed. Still, every once and a while I find one on the topside of a leaf. In sunshine they're hard to miss since they shine like a jewel.

Marvin said...

Wren: Yup, in nature, survival is the name of the game.

Marvin said...

Thank you, Ellen. I appreciate your visit and comment.

Marvin said...

Thanks, Bom. Nature is full of surprises.

Marvin said...

Thanks, Pat. Several moths use the bird dropping disguise, but they don't employ the real thing to achieve the effect.

Crafty Green Poet said...

wow now that is excellent camoflage, what an amazing beetle!

lisaschaos said...

Oh isn't he neat! I've never seen one, or heard of it. Very frilly cool!

Marvin said...

Juliet: Indeed!

Lisa: I'm not sure what role the frills (setae)play, but they no doubt have a function in receiving sensory information.

jeannette said...

Never amazes me how little critters have such stunning features, only seen in Macro -thanks for educating us! Bytheway, wishing you and your wife a very happy New Year!

Marvin said...

Thank you, Jeannette. It was my camera's ability to take decent macros that led to my interest in insects.