tortoise beetle

tortoise beetle
any of several turtle-shaped leaf beetles, as Chelymorpha cassidea (argus tortoise beetle or milkweed tortoise beetle), which resembles the ladybird beetle and feeds primarily on bindweed and milkweed.

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      any member of more than 3,000 beetle species that resemble a turtle because of the forward and sideways extensions of the body. Tortoise beetles range between 5 and 12 mm (less than 0.5 inch) in length, and the larvae are spiny. Both adults and larvae of some species are destructive to garden plants and sweet potatoes.

      Tropical tortoise beetles are among the most brilliantly coloured of the subfamily and are used in making jewelry. The pits and grooves covering the South American leaf beetle Desmonota variolosa give it an iridescent green colour with depth resembling that of an emerald. The colouring disappears at death because of the drying and shrinkage that occur, and the dead beetle turns dull brown.

      In Panama about half of the species deposit their eggs in masses, and the larvae remain together through pupation. Even as adult beetles, they do not disperse very far; feeding and mating can occur on the same plant that the beetles hatched upon. Because of such sedentary habits and their preference for peripheral foliage, tortoise beetles are predictable and exposed targets for predators and parasites. Some species have evolved strategies to counteract the low survival rate that results. Maternal guarding, a rare behaviour among beetles, is known in four of these species. The female of Acromis sparsa climbs on top of her closely packed brood, defending them from predators such as ants and wasps.

      A more bizarre strategy is used by other tortoise beetle larvae, including D. variolosa and the North American argus tortoise beetle (Chelymorpha cassidea). During each molt, the old skin is pushed back and attached to spines at the hind end. The dried and shrunken skins plus extruded feces combine to form an umbrella-like shield that camouflages the larvae. A tortoise beetle of South China, Aspidomorpha furcata, can even erect the shield to discourage an enemy. This beetle and the argus tortoise beetle feed upon sweet potato plants; the argus also feeds on other crops, including cabbage, corn, and strawberry.

      The tortoise beetles belong to the leaf beetle family, Chrysomelidae. This family includes the asparagus beetle, cucumber beetle, potato beetle, and the Colorado potato beetle.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tortoise beetle — Cassida viridis Scientific classification Kingdom: Animalia …   Wikipedia

  • Tortoise beetle — Tortoise Tor toise, n. [OE. tortuce, fr. OF. tortis crooked, fr. L. tortus twisted, crooked, contorted, p. p. of torquere, tortum, to wind; cf. F. tortue tortoise, LL. tortuca, tartuca, Pr. tortesa crookedness, tortis crooked. so called in… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tortoise beetle — n. any of various small, often brightly colored or iridescent, turtle shaped beetles (family Chrysomelidae) that feed chiefly on plant leaves …   English World dictionary

  • tortoise beetle — noun 1. : any of numerous small tortoise shaped beetles of the family Chrysomelidae many of whom have a brilliant metallic luster and whose larvae feed upon the leaves of various plants 2. : any of several Australian tenebrionid beetles of… …   Useful english dictionary

  • tortoise beetle — noun Date: circa 1711 any of various chrysomelid beetles (subfamily Cassidinae) with leaf eating larvae …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • tortoise beetle — tor′toise bee tle n. ent any of several turtle shaped, brightly colored leaf beetles of the subfamily Cassidinae • Etymology: 1705–15 …   From formal English to slang

  • Golden tortoise beetle — Taxobox name = Golden Tortoise Beetle regnum = Animalia phylum = Arthropoda classis = Insecta ordo = Coleoptera subordo = Polyphaga familia = Chrysomelidae subfamilia = Hispinae tribus = Cassidini genus = Charidotella species = C. sexpunctata… …   Wikipedia

  • argus tortoise beetle — noun Etymology: after Argus, mythological being; from its spots : a reddish tortoise beetle (Chelymorpha cassidea) spotted with black * * * argus tortoise beetle noun A black spotted, reddish, tortoise shaped beetle that feeds on plants of the… …   Useful english dictionary

  • argus tortoise beetle. — See under tortoise beetle. * * * …   Universalium

  • milkweed tortoise beetle. — See under tortoise beetle. * * * …   Universalium

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