Golden Tortoise Beetle

Charidotella sexpunctata

Last updated: August 31, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit SIMON SHIM/Shutterstock.com

Golden tortoise beetles have a metallic gold color which can change to dull brown when disturbed.

Golden Tortoise Beetle Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Insecta
Order
Coleoptera
Family
Chrysomelidae
Genus
Charidotella
Scientific Name
Charidotella sexpunctata

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Golden Tortoise Beetle Conservation Status

Golden Tortoise Beetle Locations

Golden Tortoise Beetle Locations

Golden Tortoise Beetle Facts

Name Of Young
larvae
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Golden tortoise beetles have a metallic gold color which can change to dull brown when disturbed.
Most Distinctive Feature
Metallic gold elytra
Distinctive Feature
Extended elytra shaped with transparent edges.
Other Name(s)
Goldbug
Habitat
Garden, forests, or bushes
Predators
Spiders, other beetles, lizards, and rodents
Diet
Herbivore
Lifestyle
  • Nocturnal
Favorite Food
Plants in the family Convolvulaceae such as bindweeds, morning glory, and sweet potato.
Type
Leaf beetle
Common Name
Golden Tortoise Beetles
Special Features
Golden tortoise beetles have a metallic gold color
Origin
North America
Location
United States, Mexico, Canada

Golden Tortoise Beetle Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Golden
Skin Type
Exoskeleton
Lifespan
Less than a month
Length
5.0mm to 7.0mm (0.2 inches to 0.3 inches)
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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The golden tortoise beetle is a species of insect in the leaf beetle family, known for its striking gold color. They have rounded, domed bodies, similar to that of ladybugs. This beetle has a unique ability to change the shade of its pigmentation from bright to dull gold using microscopic cavities in its cuticle. When threatened, the beetle presses its body close to the leaf surface, then tucks its appendages underneath its body like a tortoise. Golden tortoise beetles are herbivores, feeding on plants in the Convolvulaceae family. 

Golden Tortoise Beetles Species, Types, and Scientific Name

The golden tortoise beetle is an insect species in the leaf beetle family (Chrysomelidae). This group consists of more than 37,000 species of fully herbivorous beetles grouped into 2500 genera. This makes them one of the most commonly encountered beetles. This beetle is sometimes referred to as goldbug. 

The golden tortoise beetle species – Charidotella sexpunctata – contains one subspecies, Charidotella bicolor. Both are considered golden tortoise beetles. They’re native to the Americas and are mostly found in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

The goldbug is one of the few bugs in the world with a fully gold-colored body. They belong to a subfamily of insects known as tortoise beetles. This group of beetles is characterized by a wing covering (elytra) that extends to the side of their body, long enough to cover their legs, hence the name tortoise beetle.

Appearance: How to Identify Golden Tortoise Beetles

Two golden tortoise beetles eat
Goldbugs are small, measuring between 5 and 7 millimeters.

Silmiart/Shutterstock.com

Goldbugs have round and domed bodies. They are similar to lady beetles in shape and size. Of course, they differ significantly from ladybugs in color and behavior. Like other tortoise beetles, adult golden beetles are characterized by expanded elytra that cover their head and appendages. The margins of the extended wing cover are not golden like the rest of their body. Instead, it is transparent and has a glass-like appearance. 


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These beetles are fairly small. They typically measure between 5 to 7 millimeters in length. Their most distinctive feature is their shiny, metallic gold color which earned them their common name and nickname, goldbug.

Although they’re known for their bright golden color, golden tortoise beetles don’t always maintain this color. Their color changes as they grow, when they’re mating, or when they’re disturbed. 

Scientists are not certain of the mechanisms for this color change, but it is believed to be due to changes in the microscopic particles on their cuticles. Some theories also suggest that the color change is due to their ability to withdraw or introduce moisture to the surface of their exoskeleton. They can dull their bright metallic sheen, turning the lovely gold color to a brown or reddish brown. When the insect dies, the metallic gold color fades.

Habitat: Where to Find Golden Tortoise Beetles

The golden tortoise beetle is native to the Americas. They mostly live in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. In places they live, they’re mostly found in association with plants in the family Convolvulaceae, their primary host. Adults emerge during the winter, but the beetles usually move to the host plant around spring. 

The field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is typically their early season host. Later, they move to other plants, like the sweet potato and morning glories. Mostly found in fields and gardens, goldbugs rarely venture indoors. Many gardeners prefer to keep them around because of their striking appearance. 

Diet: What Do Golden Tortoise Beetles Eat?

Like all leaf beetles, golden tortoise beetles are fully herbivorous. They’re one of several tortoise beetles that feed on garden vines. Both adult and larvae forms of this insect feed on plants, leaving unsightly holes on the leaf surface. Plants in the Convolvulaceae family are their only food source. This includes morning glories, bindweed, and sweet potatoes. They do not form large swarms, and the damage they leave behind is mild. Most plants recover fully. 

What Eats Golden Tortoise Beetles? 

Parasitic wasps of the genus Tetrastichus and the parasitoid fly, Eucelatoriopsis dimmocki, prey on goldbugs. Several ladybug species also prey on the larvae of this beetle. Damsel bugs, assassin bugs, shield bugs, and other insects with piercing and sucking mouthparts may prey on the larvae of golden tortoise beetles. Although the larvae carry a shield made from waste products and dead skin to deter prey, it is only effective against small predators. 

Prevention: How To Get Rid Of Golden Tortoise Beetles

Golden tortoise beetles don’t occur as major infestations. Hence, they’re hardly a concern for gardeners; however, if you prefer to keep them away, you should keep your garden free from weeds and make sure you care for your plants properly. This will help prevent various pests, including goldbugs. 

Since they’re quite conspicuous, you can remove the beetles by hand. This is the easiest way to handle small infestations. You can also mix an organic spray using two tablespoons of neem oil, one tablespoon of dish soap, and a gallon of water. Spray this on your plants to get rid of small clusters of the beetles.

Goldbugs have a lot of natural enemies. These include aldrich flies, burks, and several species of ladybugs, such as damsel bugs and assassin bugs. You can release them into your garden to get rid of the larvae of this beetle. Chemical insecticides should only be a final resort, if any of the organic control measures don’t work.

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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated freelance writer on Upwork. He can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing on health, technology and animals. He is inquisitive and currently aspires to become a software engineer. He loves animals, especially horses and would love to have one someday.

Golden Tortoise Beetle FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where can golden tortoise beetles be found? 

Both species of golden tortoise beetles are native to the Americas. They’re commonly found in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. They’re widely distributed in the eastern United States, west to Iowa and Texas.

Do golden beetles exist?

Yes. Charidotella sexpunctata and Charidotella bicolor are popularly known as golden tortoise beetles or gold bugs. They’re small bugs that belong to the leaf beetle family. They are called gold beetles because of the striking metallic-gold color of their domed shell. In many species, their body is entirely gold with transparent edges.

Why are golden tortoise beetles gold?

The golden tortoise beetle appears to have a golden color because of the way light reflects off pockets of fluid stored in microscopic layers of their exoskeleton. The beetle’s ability to withdraw fluid from its outer shell makes it possible to change color from golden to dark red!

Sources
  1. Missouri Department of Conservation, Available here: https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/golden-tortoise-beetle
  2. Bugwood, Available here: https://wiki.bugwood.org/HPIPM:Golden_Tortoise_Beetle
  3. University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Department, Available here: https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/veg/potato/golden_tortoise_beetle.htm
  4. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charidotella_sexpunctata

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