Strange Looking Bug Not Identified
February 21, 2010
Hello, I see this bug on the leaves of our curry leaf tree. It doesn’t seem to feed on other tree leaves. Just the curry leaf tree.
This is the larva of a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae, possibly a Tortoise Beetle. Providing the name of the food plant, curry, should make the identification easier. We found a Local Beetles’ Battles page of the Asian Entomology Collection and Studies website, that pictures a Tortoise Beetle, Aspidomorpha deusta, and the quote:
“IN 1994, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia entomologist Prof Mohamed S. Mohamedsaid noticed strange white beetles on curry leaf plants. Careful study revealed that the beetles came from a genus restricted to Sri Lanka where it is represented by one species, Silana farinosa, commonly known as the tortoise beetle.
‘The occurrence of Silana farinosa feeding on curry leaves in Malaysia is probably a very recent introduction. It has never been reported before in the country,’ he says.
‘Aspidomorpha deusta’ is a common tortoise beetle east of Java. This foreign species was found on a beach off Kapar, Selangor. —
‘It’s very unlikely that its presence would have gone unnoticed, for the host plant is also an important crop,’ he explains, adding that the leaves of the plant are an essential ingredient in Malaysian cooking, especially curries.
The taxonomist, who works with UKM’s Centre for Insect Systematics, reckons the creatures might have been feeding on dry curry leaves when they were unwittingly packed into someone’s luggage and brought into Malaysia from Sri Lanka.
‘They are real pests as these popular plants are endangered by them,’ he says, adding that the curry leaf plant had never before been attacked by insects as it emits a powerful smell.
More recently, another species of foreign tortoise beetle was found on our shores.
‘In all my years of studying beetles, which included combing the beaches of Malaysia for tortoise beetles, I have never encountered a specimen belonging to the species collected in March last year,’ he says.
According to Prof Mohamed, Aspidomorpha deusta is common from Java eastwards to Papua New Guinea and Australia.”
We then found photos of larval Silana farinosa on the photomalaysia website, and they appear to match your photos.