Learn to love the Tortoise Beetle


This is an image of a Tortoise Beetle. If you grow ipomea then you have seen these. That would include morning glory and all forms of sweet potato vine, ornamental or not.

I must admit that I have horrified some people with my exuberant enthusiasm for this …pest. How could I have any kind thoughts for something that puts wholes in the leaves of ours and your ipomea? Well my reasoning is partly along the lines of "if you can't beat em". The fact of the matter is I have never seen plants in landscape circumstances that have not had some holes in the leaves caused by Tortoise Beetles.  Secondly I have also never seen enough damage caused by these creatures to effect the growth of the plant.

Now even the most die hard skeptic must admit that this is one of the most handsome bugs they have seen in the garden. They are a brilliant golden colour with some variations having some spots about the size of a lady beetle.  For me they are the perfect example of how you can learn to appreciate all elements of your garden and in the process allow a balance without the battle.

But I have not finished with my story and enthusiasm for the Tortoise Beetle. The larval stage of the beetle (likely responsible for the bulk of the damage) is not without its charms. The larva has a defence mechanism that makes it one of the coolest show and tell creatures in your garden. It has a tail about the length of it s body that it folds back along the top of its body. On its tail it deposits…its poop.  It ends up with this poop encrusted tail curled over its back. As if that was not enough to discourage predators it will flick its tail in the face of any threats.

So now the next time you are having a backyard barbecue and your guests are admiring your beautiful gardens you can show them both the most beautiful and coolest thing in your gardens …just don't let them get too close with their drinks!

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