Friday, September 16, 2022

Saturday Critters: Chrysomelid beetle larva

Case-bearing Beetle Larva

This is a photo of an exciting find for my late husband and myself. It wasn’t just a lifer (bug hunters have lifers, just as birders do), it was one of an entire subfamily that I had never known, let alone seen. We all know leaf beetles to some extent: seed beetles, tortoise beetles, calligrapha beetles, the Colorado potato beetle, flea beetles, even lady beetles. But this is the larva of another: a case-bearing leaf beetle: “Larvae are casebearers, living in and protected by a case constructed of their fecal matter and sometimes plant debris. The case is shorter than the larva that remains folded inside it. Eggs are laid in carefully sculpted packets formed from feces and abdominal secretions. . . " (1)


I saw this minute lump, or dot, on an alder leaf in the top photo with my finger tip for scale. A flea beetle was inspecting the lump. I could tell immediately that this was a living creature because of the color and pattern on the dot. I did some shots, took the leaf, and carried it home for inspection. We had a great time figuring out what it was: we went through sawfly larvae, spiders (at one point, it looked like spider legs coming out of the case), until finally, after all the photos and observations, I thought of case bearers. Some case-bearers use leaf litter to construct their cases. This case-bearer uses its own poop (frass).



The only case bearers I knew of at that point were moths, but I searched for others and found Cryptocephalinae. Discovering the ID of a new-to-me insect without help from scientists is one of the most exciting things to do. Of course, what those entomologists have taught me through discussions of their finds and of my photos is what prepared me to be able to figure this out.

I kept the larva in a mason jar with alder leaves for a while but I didn’t like how the life cycle was progressing so I set it free. Unfortunately, I have never found another. I so wanted to see the adult. We could have identified which leaf beetle it was.




By the way: if anyone is interesting in insect hunting, I suggest investigating groves of alders. They sustain a huge variety of insects and, therefore, the birds, especially warblers, are there to feed on them.

References: 

More critters at
Viewing Nature with Eileen

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13 comments:

  1. Would have been a lifer for me too. Always an exciting event whatever the taxon.

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  2. Hello,
    It is an interesting beetle. The photos are awesome too. It would be a bug lifer for me too. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend.

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  3. Intriguing post and photos of the beetle ~ bug lifer ~ Xo

    Wishing you good heatlh, laughter and love in your days,

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

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  4. That's pretty amazing and such cool photos!

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  5. ...you take me back to the '60s and my one college entomology class!

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  6. Very interesting!
    Thanks for your comment on my blog!

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  7. How remarkable! There's always something to learn in nature. This is new to me too!

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  8. Hello Andree, I am also interested in insects, but have never seen one like this. Thank you for all the information about the Case bearers and other bugs. If I hadn't seen the legs poking out of the case, I would have thought it was just bird poop. Alway's interesting to learn more about nature
    Have a good day and thank you for your comment.

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  9. What an interesting find! Great photos, as well.

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  10. Wow! This is so interesting, I had to look them up. How fortunate to see one and photograph it so well.

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  11. Oh WOW, I've never seen such a critter before! Thanks for showing and telling us the story behind.
    All the best and a happy new week!
    Traude
    https://rostrose.blogspot.com/2022/09/strudlhofstiege-gartenpalais.html

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