The Greedy Golden Bug

The Greedy Golden Bug

The golden tortoise beetle is a great foodie, drilling out holes on leaves while devouring them up. 

Surviving on sweet potato and morning glory plants, this unique North American insect contains, underneath its transparent shell, three layers of cuticle, each covered in tiny nooks and crannies which appear smooth when covered with liquid, and reflect light perfectly like a mirror. 

Under attack from a predator, the beetle contracts spaces between the cuticle layers and forces out the liquid. The iridescence disappears and the insect changes its colour into a dull brownish-orange. This transformation is accomplished by microscopic valves which control the moisture levels under the shell. 

Beetles also change colour depending on the availability of their liquid layer. During the drier months, the bugs look less shiny and appear more in a shade of bronze with scanty flashes of metallic dazzle. 

Beetle is often mistaken as a broken piece of gold jewellery – till one picks it up! 

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