The Q&A Archives: Gold Insect

Question: I noticed that something was eating small round holes in the leaves of my morning glory vines. I found several metallic gold bugs on the underside of the leaves. When I caught several of them and put them in a jar, they began to turn red. I have observed them for several hours and they keep changing from gold to red and back again. They resemble a ladybug in size and shape -- at first, I thought they were gold ladybugs. They have wings and can fly. What are they and are they actually eating my plants? If so, how do I get rid of them?

Answer: Sounds as though you've found a colony of Golden Tortoise beetles. (Coleoptera Cassidinae) These insects show transient golden reflections when in the sunlight but the color fades to a yellow-orange when the insect dies. The larvae and adults feed on foliage of sweet potato plants, morning glory, and bindweed. They can be quite destructive in the garden and natural predators are few; the larvae collect cast skins, debris and excrement, hold it over their flat bodies like an umbrella, and fling it at predators!

Try washing them off with a strong stream of water from the hose. Repeat the process for several days, making sure you hit both sides of the leaves plus the stems of the infested plant. They'll move on to greener pastures when faced with this unpleasant treatment.

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