Thursday, July 19, 2012

Warty Leaf Beetle

I probably pass by thousands of interesting insects while I’m out walking.  Their ability to blend in with their surroundings makes it easy for them to escape notice.  At first glance I assigned this little brown lump to the category of deformed plant tissue.

The shape and position of the brown lump was odd enough to make me stop for a more detailed examination.  It just didn’t seem like something that would have been manifested by the Black Walnut upon which it was positioned.

When the lump began moving, I knew I had found an insect.  I have seen the larvae of Warty Leaf Beetles, but this is the first time I have come across an adult.

It’s a shame that this neat little beetle is so tiny.  The beetle is said to be a mimic of caterpillar frass.  The size and color are right for something passed from a large caterpillar, but it lacks the grooves formed by the intestinal folds.  I would hope that potential predators would have senses better attuned than mine to identifying potential food items.  This looks to me more like a plant deformity such as a gall or a shriveled bud.

The beetle looks more like a carving than a live animal.  The wing covers have a jagged inner edge and merge together in an almost zipper like manner.  No matter what it is actually trying to mimic, there’s no denying it’s unbeetle like appearance.

This is an odd looking beetle from any angle.  It’s always a thrill to personally encounter something that has been previously known only from photographs.  There’s that little surge of adrenalin that comes in that instant you realize that you know what this is.  The intensity of that experience is always greatest when the discovery is unexpected.  Most of the time, little brown lumps are just that and you question why you took the time to investigate.    Little gems like this are the answer.


  1. Such an awesome set of photos! He certainly is warty, but up close he is so exquisite... rarely do I see insects up close, so this is really neat! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks Melissa. Tiny insects often show beautiful designs and forms. It's always a treat to see them magnified.