Sunday 15 June 2014

Bulbous, Bulging and Bloated Leaf Beeltes

Image: Malcolm Storey
Good Lord! Look at this thing!

What has happened? What nematode, trematode, parasite or poison could have caused this? What curse from the gods? What pesticide has gone wrong in an ironic way so as to teach us all a valuable lesson?

Image: Malcolm Storey
Gastrophysa polygoni
Is this what happens when a beetle gets bitten by a radioactive sack of lard?

Nope. This is in fact a perfectly normal and healthy Leaf Beetle!

Image: Udo Schmidt
Galeruca tanaceti, perfectly normal
Normal and healthy.

Image: Malcolm Storey
Galeruca tanaceti, still normal! Sort of
Normal. And healthy.

Chrysomelidae is an ENORMOUS family of beetles containing some 35,000 species. They're called Leaf Beetles, apparently due to their habit of loitering on leaves and eating them.

Image: Josef Němec
Diabrotica virgifera
As you can imagine, they come in all manner of shapes and sizes. There are colourful ones, shiny ones, spiky ones and quite a few pest ones. The pests are often named after the particular leaves they eat, like the Colorado Potato Beetle or the Asparagus Beetle.

What if the Dead were named after what they eat? Would vampires be the Blood Dead? Zombies, the Brain Dead? If there was a species that had a taste for the flesh of delegates to the United Nations would they be the UN Dead?

Image: N Sloth
Galerucella tenella
Anyway, some Leaf Beetles are a blight on humanity for reasons other than they eat the same plants we do. They're a blight on the eyeballs, instead!

Image: Kerry Matz
Gastrophysa cyanea
It's one thing to put on a few pounds, it's something else to put on a whole lot of them and refuse to update your wardrobe.

That's the problem certain species of Leaf Beetle get into. Their abdomen bloats to an obscene degree and the bits of exoskeleton on there stretches out to accommodate their new reality. The wing cases... don't. At all.

Video: Pristurus

They end up looking like a chubby Leaf Beetle larvae with completely inadequate wing cases flapping about in the face of such unwholesome girth.

It's only the female who gets like this and she only does so during the mating season. She's packed full of of an unholy number of eggs. The Green Dock Beetle for example has 2 to 4 bouts of egg-laying in a single year. She lays several hundred eggs each time for a total of over 1,000 in her lifetime. And that's a shame for the dock, since the Green Dock Beetle is one of those named after the plant it eats.

Check out the accompanying pictures

The males are like "hey, fattie bum bum" and jump on.

Image: Josef Němec
Galeruca pomonae
They look like they're rolling around on one of those huge exercise balls.

The female can now go around divesting herself of all those eggs.

Check out the accompanying pictures

I must be nice take the weight off all those feet.

I wonder if you can get stretch-marks on an exoskeleton?


Lear's Fool said...

Anybody else have Sir Mix-a-Lot running through their heads during that article?

TexWisGirl said...

no, no, no! i knew by your title there would just be nothing good about this post... :)

Crunchy said...

Are you a bloated mass of unfertilized insect eggs or are you just happy to see me?

Joseph JG said...

@Lear's Fool: Oh man, I know!

@TexWisGirl: Glad I gave you fair warning!

@Porakiya Draekojin: Yeh, they look so soft and stretched...

@Crunchy: Haha! Well at least it's not as dangerous as a gun!