Morning Glory Tortoise

Chelymorpha phytophagica

a tortoise beetle with dark orange elytra and black spots, Chelymorpha phytophagica, photo © by Mike Plagens

Observed in Florida Canyon, Sta. Rita Mountains, Arizona, USA. 31 July 2013.

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Many leaf beetles have very colorful elytra, the hardened first pair of wings that protect the soft body and the folded up flight wings. The convex elytra of tortoise beetles, a sub-family within the leaf beetles, resemble those of miniature turtles and in a similar way protect the softer body parts from attack. When feeding on leaves the insect can pull its shell down around itself and pull in its legs and head. Ants, for example, find it nearly impossible to get a grip on any vulnerable appendage. This species feeds upon the leaves of morning glory species where both adults and larvae can be found. Chelymorpha phytophagica is most likely to be found in the southeast quadrant of Arizona and hence south into Mexico.

Chrysomelidae -- Leaf Beetle Family

More Information:

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Arizona Naturalist
Sycamore Canyons
Invertebrates in Arizona's Sycamore Canyons


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 18 August 2014