Entomology (Study of Bugs)/identify beetle

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Question
very odd beetle
very odd beetle  
I discovered two of these very odd looking beetles on my young husk tomato plants (also known as ground cherry). It appears to be surrounded by a gelatinous mass and moved very quickly to the other side of the leaf when nudged or as surprised us immensely, it flew away. It came back after a few minutes, and settled back on the leaf. I live in western Massachusetts. What is it?

Thank you.

Answer
Eileen:

Thank you for including the image with your question.  I'm impressed you recognized it as a beetle!

The beetle is a "Clavate Tortoise Beetle," Plagiometriona clavata .  More information here:

http://bugguide.net/node/view/3021

They may be mimicking a bird-dropping.  The larvae do most of the damage to plants.  They sit on the underside of the leaf and have an "umbrella" made from their own dried poop that they adhere to tail-like appendages and curl over themselves.

Thanks for sharing your find.  I remember seeing them when I spent six months in South Deerfield and Amherst.

Eric

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Eric R. Eaton

Expertise

I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.

Experience

Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Publications
Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Education/Credentials
Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

Awards and Honors
One of the top 50 experts in all categories for AllExperts.com, 2009.

Past/Present Clients
Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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