Antlered Leaf Beetle & Spotted Judoline

Photographed after capture under controlled conditions [6], scale bar approximated

While out on the black cotton soil today, I spotted two tiny dots in the center of two leaves. Looking more closely, they were actually cute leaf beetles just 4 mm in length, resting motionless to resemble some sort of outgrowth on the leaves. They belong to the subfamily Cassidinae (Chrysomelidae), a clade consisting of beautifully adorned tiny beetles including the tortoise beetles, and many of which have large adhesive pads on the tarsal segments of their feet. Together with a small head and thick string-like antennae, this gives them a comical and adorable look. These two beetles (Dicladispa testacea) are heavily protected with tough black spines as well as a pair of four-pronged antlers protruding from the thorax, reminding me white-tailed deer horns. After searching the plant, I was able to find several larvae and pupae, also positioned at the center, though inside, of the leaves. Dicladispa is a leaf miner, biting on the underside of a leaf and ovipositing a single egg before closing the gap with frass. A single larva will spend its entire phase feeding on the mesophyll in that single leaf and eventually pupates along a narrow channel near the surface of the leaf. Finally, out pops a beautiful little leaf beetle, ready to continue chewing on its host plant to leave just an airy network of dry leaf veins.

Photographed in situ [1]

Ever since the first rains arrived, we’ve also seen a mass emergence of spotted jewel beetles (Buprestidae: Sternocera castanea boucardii).

See this link for the wonderful diversity of color within the Sternocera genus.

Photographed in situ [1]
Photographed after capture [5]
Photographed in situ [1]

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