Pretty Plumes

18 Jun
Larvae on leaf.

Gregarious insect larvae eating a leaf in Argentina.

These little guys were tiny enough to overlook easily, but bizarre and striking on close inspection.  I am informed that the peacock like ‘plumes’ on the ends of these insects are likely to be made from cast skins or even ‘tubes’ of excrement.  The beauty of nature.

A leaf-skeletonizing chrysomelid larva on an arm.

A chrysomelid larva on an arm.

Insect larvae can be tricky to identify, but general consensus among entomologists I showed this to, is that these are some sort of chrysomelid (leaf beetle) larvae.  The family Chrysomelidae is a large and diverse group of small to medium sized beetles which take on a variety of forms, but tend to be found feeding on plants in both the larval and adult forms.  These particular larvae appear likely to be skeletonizing leaf beetles*, so named from the manner in which they feed off the plant, and the leaf ‘skeleton’ left behind.  Like many insect larvae, these appear to be somewhat gregarious, as I observed them mostly in small groups.

Two tortoise beetle larvae (Cassidinae) with dimorphic coloration.

Two chrysomelid larvae with dimorphic coloration.

*Update:  Laura suggests that these should be Cassidinae, or the larvae of tortoise beetles (see comments).  Tortoise beetles are fabulous little critters, so I’m thrilled to learn that their babies frequently make dramatic poop structures.

2 Responses to “Pretty Plumes”

  1. Laura February 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    Hey, there! I’ve found your blog randomly while looking for chrysomelid pictures – and I love it! Congrats! 🙂
    I just wanted to say that these look a lot like Cassidinae larvae, rather than Galerucinae. These fecal shields are typical of them.

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