Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Gold Bug


Golden Tortoise Beetle
Charidotella sexpunctata bicolor


Just after I finished building the cairn yesterday, I wanted to do some watering of some things that were looking a little wilted. As I stood there with the hose, the water happened to flip over a leaf of something I planted from seed but forgot to label (that means I have no idea what it is yet because it hasn't bloomed). There, glinting in the sun, attached to the underneath side of a leaf, was a piece of gold.

What?

This required closer inspection, so I turned off the water and crouched down. Wow! A gold bug! This immediately made me think of Edgar Allan Poe's story, "The Gold Bug." I'm sure I've read the story, because I used to like Poe when I was in high school, but I can't remember what the story was about.

I happened to have the camera out there, because I'd just taken a picture of the newly constructed cairn, so I grabbed it from the tree branch where I'd hung it, and got in for a tight shot. I was able to get three close-ups before it flew off.

When I brought the photos up on the screen, I immediately noticed the outer shell on The Gold Bug was clear! It didn't take much googling before I was able to identify it as a Golden Tortoise Beetle. It's a bit smaller than a ladybug, and it shines like a piece of fine gold jewelry. Except when it doesn't.

The gold color is caused by light reflecting on a thin layer of moisture between the outer shell, which resembles a tortoise's (hence the name), and its body. It has the ability to voluntarily compress this liquid, thereby changing its color to a muddy, spotty reddish color. It does this when it's stressed and it's also the color it becomes when it dies.

It feeds exclusively on the leaves of plants in the Convolvulaceae family, which includes sweet potatoes, bindweed, morning glories and convolvulus. Hmmmm ... maybe it was the convolvulus seeds that I planted there ...


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13 comments:

Mark said...

What a cracking picture and information . Is this bug considered a pest or friend? Looking at the types of plants i would have thought a pest apart from the bind weed.
I've done the same sort of thing in the veggie patch, sown some seeds thought i would remember and not bothered to label them. Ah well we are going to have loads of something....

Laurie & Chris said...

We have never seen or heard of this bug. It is very interesting. Thanks for the info.

Ki said...

Cool bug. Like a little jewel.

Beth said...

It looks like someone lost an earring!

farmingfriends said...

What an amazing photograph of this beautiful bug. I wonder whether this bug can be found in the UK.
Sara from farmingfriends

No Rain said...

This is the only the second bug I've thought of as beautiful. The first one was a June Bug, with its green/gold irridescent body.
Great photography.

Stacey Renee said...

I grew up in an area outside of our town in the country called Goldbug. I think it might be on a road map if you look in Whitley County Kentucky. It's off I-75, headed out of KY to TN. I did not realize there was actually a "gold bug". It really is a magnificent beetle. (I never thought I'd say that about a BEETLE!) Thanks for that! Very Interesting!!

greenlegs80 said...

Wow. God truly is creative!

Naturegirl said...

This has been very interesting! A golden bug!! Thank you so very much for ~CORRECTING~ the identification of my ~PORTULACAS~...I did mean to say that and have corrected the error! I really appreciated you stopping by with your generous comment and pointing this out for me!! hugs NG

Kylee said...

This bug is indeed a farmer's friend. ;-) But it's not mine, unfortunately. For as beautiful as it is, it's making swiss cheese of the convolvulus leaves. (Further checking tells me that yes, it was the convolvulus that I planted there.)

Sara, I don't know if this insect can be found in the U.K. I'd never seen one here until this week! It took me nearly 50 years to see my first one! (Only because I'd never really looked.)

Kylee said...

naturegirl, I always hesitate to mention what might be an error, but I know I really appreciate it when people inform me. It's very obvious that you know your stuff, so I suspected it might just be one of those times when you meant one thing and said another. I mean, after all, potentilla and portulaca are somewhat similar!

I seriously DO absolutely LOVE your gardens. I can only imagine how they look in person. Thanks for sharing them with us!

MrBrownThumb said...

Kylee that's an awesome bug! I'm so jealous. Thanks for posting it.

Drew said...

That is a really interesting bug.

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