Nature’s variability never ceases to amaze me. Some years I see particular insect species en mass, and the next year they seem absent. This year in June I noticed Tortoise Beetle larvae all around my garden and backyard. They motionlessly clasp to the stems of various plants. They stand out because of they’re bright yellow and have an extremely odd shape. I love macro photography because it’s like exploring a different world, and Tortoise Beetle Larvae epitomize that. To most, this alien-like creature is probably more believable in sci-fi than on real Earth.
The saucer shaped body is lined with long, ominous-looking spikes. A dangerous looking appendage protrudes out of the abdomen in the posture of a Scorpion’s tail. In truth both structures are soft and harmless, and simply provide a barrier between would be predators and the larva’s soft body. The dark, crusty structure protruding from the abdomen is called a fecal shield. The name is pretty explanatory. The larva’s anus is telescopic and maneuverable, and is called the anal turret. It uses this ability to construct its fecal shield. Cleverly, the larva’s frass, the biological word for beetle crap, has concentrated toxic compounds from the plants that it eats such as alkaloids. This serves as a bitter deterrent to predators.
Friendly looking adult Tortoise Beetles look similar to Ladybugs; entirely different from their eerie looking larvae.
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 Macro
Filter: Raynox 250
Extension Tubes: no
Image Stack: 49 images
Shutter Speed: 1/25th sec
Light Source: Ambient cloudy
Stabilization: bean bag
Subject Size: 1 cm
Species: Tortoise Beetle (Cassidinae spp.)
Location: Fort Collins, Colorado