Larvae of Golden Tortoise Beetle
Naturalist(s): Karen Anthonisen Finch
Date: June 2011
Location(s): Sarasota, Florida (map)
Sarasota, Florida
Field notes Photos  
larvae of golden tortoise beetle
golden tortoise beetle
golden tortoise beetle
golden tortoise beetle
   By flipping a shield up and down on its back, the larva of the Golden Tortoise Beetle protects itself against small insect predators. As I discovered after watching several larvae, such shields are comprised of dried fecal matter attached to an "anal fork" located near the rear of a larva (see video). As I videotaped a larva grazing on the leaves a sweet potato plant (Family: Convolvulaceae), I noticed a long, yellow tube at its rear apply a stream of liquid fecal matter to the edge of its shield (see video). This liquid quickly dries and eventually covers the entire dorsal surface of the insect.

   The last instar of a Golden Tortoise Beetle larva is typically 5-7 mm long, roughly the same length as the winged adults. Like a turtle's carapace, the outer edges of the beetle's iridescent shell curves outward, hence the common name tortoise beetle. Most interestingly, a disturbed beetle can change its color. The few beetles I encountered were flying, and upon landing, quickly disappeared under a leaf, where they are known to lay eggs.
Additional comments and observations:
After molting, some larvae will place their discarded skin on their back which adheres to moist fecal matter.

To change color, an adult releases a liquid away from under its shell.

Development from egg to adult takes approximately 40 days.