I think tortoise beetles are adorable! They are about the size of ladybugs (also cutie-pies) and have been studied for use as a means of bio-control for noxious weeds such as field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) that likes to sneak into my beautiful wildlife garden when I’m not paying enough attention to weeding. Over the years I have photographed the life cycles of three different species of tortoise beetles in my neighborhood.
GOLDEN TORTOISE BEETLE – Charidotella sexpunctata
The larvae and adult beetles of this species eat the leaves of various plants in the Convolvulaceae family (morning glory), including field bindweed and sweet potato vine.
If you look closely at the amber-colored egg you can see the larva inside. Each larva carries a fecal shield that can be flipped up over its body. Their forked rear end holds onto any shed skins and fecal material creating a gross little umbrella of sorts to hide their identity. Okay, I admit that I don’t find that trait particularly adorable. The dark larva in the photo above will become a golden tortoise beetle, while the green one is a species called the mottled tortoise beetle.
The photo above shows what the pupa looks like. If an adult golden tortoise beetle was to become annoyed – say by a silly photographer – it changes color from its normal opalescent gold to a bright orange-red to scare away the potential threat.
MOTTLED TORTOISE BEETLE – Deloyala guttata
This species of tortoise beetle can be found sharing the same host plants as the previous golden tortoise beetle. I would consider them to be beneficial since they munch so much on pesky bindweed.
And just like their cousins, these larvae sport that fashionable fecal shield.
Here are the top, bottom and side views of the pupa. Just like the ladybug pupa form, these guys are able to “sit up” when disturbed.
Here we see the golden tortoise next to the mottled tortoise beetle.
CLAVATE TORTOISE BEETLE – Plagiometriona clavata
The clavate tortoise beetle looks just like a tiny little turtle…with the addition of antennae. Its shell is shiny and has small triangular bumps across the middle. The “feet” are just a design on the shell, while the real feet are orange and delicate. Two of them can be seen peeking out from the front end on each side of the antennae.
The larvae and adult clavate beetles eat the leaves of plants in the Solanaceae family (nightshades).
The pupa looks very similar to the larva… actually it reminds me of a horseshoe crab in this stage. I used a toothpick to lift up the fecal shield. After that, I tickled him with a tiny paintbrush so he would sit up for this next shot.
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