What do you get when you cross a turtle with a beetle? Besides a crazy looking, non-possible, mythical beast (please let me know if you see one though)… Why, the world’s cutest beetle of course! The simply adorable, tortoise beetle!
Maybe it’s just because I like bugs. Or because I like turtles. Or both… But I find these beetles to be the most endearing of critters. The tortoise beetle I found is the Clavate Tortoise Beetle (also known as the Translucent Tortoise Beetle), Plagiometriona Clavata (family: Chrysomelidae). Or Helocassis clavata if you are on iNaturalist, although it appears that this name is incorrect and the app apparently hasn’t updated their taxonomy yet. Taxonomy can get complicated and taxonomists don’t always agree on names, but all the primary sources I found say Plagiometriona Clavata is the correct name, so use that one…
The Clavate Tortoise Beetle is found throughout North America and into South America. Apparently its range is split by two subspecies though (an optional taxonomic level below species). One subspecies, Plagiometriona clavata clavata, is only found in the eastern parts of North America (east of the Great Plains), while the other subspecies, Plagiometriona clavata testudinaria, is only found in more western parts of North America and into South America. I’m not sure what differentiates the two subspecies, but sometimes geographic range and/or habitat type is enough.
While the Clavate Tortoise Beetle can be found in forests, grasslands, and meadows feeding on the leaves of Morning Glory, Horse Nettle, Jimson Weed, and other weedy Nightshade plants in the genus Solanum, it is more commonly found on farms or in gardens. Maybe this is because there are more people around to notice it. Or maybe it is because tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tomatillos are all in the nightshade plant family, clustered together for convenience, and suitable food sources for the beetle. Luckily, the Clavate Tortoise Beetle rarely does enough damage to be a significant garden pest. Which is good, because I really like them and did not want to have to choose between the beetle and my veggie plants. I don’t mind sharing a little though as long as the plant isn’t significantly damaged. Kinda like me sharing some of my parsley with the Black Swallowtails last year – although they did do notable damage unfortunately…
Now when I look at this beetle, I see a tortoise shaped critter, but many other people see a teddy bear. What do you think? Does the Clavate Tortoise Beetle look a bit teddy bear-like to you? If so, you are apparently not alone! Almost every source I looked at while fact checking mentioned the teddy bear-like appearance, lol. Despite the beetle looking like it has two “arms” and two “legs”, its legs (all six of them) are hidden underneath hardened wing covers (=elytra if you want to impress your friends). The whole area you are looking at is actually the beetle’s wing covers and not legs at all! Despite having wings and the ability to fly though, these beetles usually prefer to stay put and will usually just hunker down, retract their antennae (like a turtle retracting its limbs), and stay on whatever they are sitting on if disturbed. Usually a leaf they are eating. No sense leaving a good meal, right? The one I found must have been in between edible plants…
I so, so, so, wish I had a picture of the larvae (aka baby beetles) to show you. They sound totally bizarre, which of course makes them interesting to me… Apparently, the larvae have spiky sides and make “poop-shields” to defend themselves against predators! Kind of similar to the potato beetle larvae I found last year, but I think the Tortoise Beetle larvae look way cooler. Add to that, they have a “forked anal umbrella” to hold their stinky poop-shield. Need I say more? Lol. Check out these photos of the larvae on BugGuide here, here, and here.
To read more about the Clavate Tortoise Beetle, check out:
Check out my very cute Tortoise Beetle adorably cleaning its antennae… 😍
🦋✨💖 Thank you sponsors! 💕✨🦋
Thank you to all our wonderful patrons and sponsors - we truly appreciate your support.
Special thanks to this month’s Super Great Nature Lover Patron level sponsor:
We Stand with Ukraine
Our hearts go out to those suffering from the Russian-Ukraine war.
If you are in a position to do so, please consider helping those in Ukraine:
Sunflowers for Solidarity (Burpee to Red Cross donation)
Questions? Comments? Corrections?
I’d love to know what you thought and what’s on your mind. Email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or enter it into the box below. I’ll do everything I can to answer your questions, address your comments, and keep the stories updated :)
We’re also on Facebook so you can leave a comment or start a discussion there too if you prefer that medium…
Join the email list
Support the blog
Like my blog? Want to help keep the new content coming and the pages ad free? Consider becoming one of my Patreon Patrons! Any amount, big or small, helps me spend more time creating and less time trying to keep the lights on. Patreon Patrons can also get exclusive access to monthly newsletters, story sneak peeks, story requests, and more! Please consider supporting the blog and check out my Patreon Patron support page.
Ok, you say, but what is this Patreon thing you are talking about? Patreon is a service that helps connect content creators with folks who want to help support creative endeavors. Patreon is setup to be able to safely handle the financial side of transactions so both the patron and the creator can be confident their information is secure. You can read more about what Patreon is HERE.
Want Bug News in print? We’ve got you covered :)
Our Bug News Newsletters are now in print and available on Amazon.com:
Gifts & Swag Galore
Now you can get prints of some of our favorite critters on Red Bubble! Everything from tote bags and pillows, to greeting cards and note books, to t-shirts and mugs!
Check out it out HERE. The store is organized by design, so pick a critter picture to see all the gift options :)
Here are just a few examples:
And so much more! Check out all the bug patterns HERE.