Saturday, September 24, 2005

Three lined potato beetles

This year for the first time, I have spotted the eggs of these destructive pests. At first glance, the cluster of tiny yellow eggs looks like ladybug eggs, except when you look at them under magnification, they have a disctint "head" end, and also they appear extra shiny, even a little slimy looking. (which is fitting, since the larvae themselves are sort of slimy as well.)


Young larvae, working together to devour a leaf.

The thing that's so interesting (and gross) about these beetle larvae is the way they protect themselves. They feast on plants in the nightshade family, even though the leaves are loaded with natural toxins. It gives them "toxic poop", which they excrete from an opening in the middle of their back. The muddy-looking toxic poop blobs keep would-be predators from eating the little grubs. As a result, the plants can get damaged quite a bit.

Bigger larva with "protective layer".

Adult beetles are similar in size to ladybugs, and much cuter than their larval state!
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