Tortoise Beetles

photo of a Clavate Tortoise Beetle (Helocassis clavata)
Clavate Tortoise Beetle (Helocassis clavata)

Tortoise beetles are small beetles that resemble miniature turtles.  They are rarely found in high numbers in home gardens, so their feeding is primarily cosmetic.  You’ll find them on plants in the Convolvulaceae family (morning glories, bindweeds, etc.) as well as the Solanaceae family (potatoes, jimsonweed, groundcherries, tomatoes, beans and peppers).  The larvae of these beetles use their own frass and debris as a way of protecting and disguising themselves against potential predators (see an example in the second photo below), and they can even raise the entire mass up and onto themselves from a special structure at the tip of their abdomen (first photo below shows the pile of frass in the ‘lowered’ or flipped-down position).

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