Subject: bug with debris on top
Geographic location of the bug: southeast Louisiana
Time: 08:15 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: There were three of these critters on a tomato plant this May. At first I just though they were large frass or small bird dropings. On a closer look, I saw there were leg-like projections. I gently teased the debris off of one and discovered a beautiful, delicite being with what looked like a smiling frog face staring up at me.
How you want your letter signed: Art
This is the larva of a Clavate Tortoise Beetle, Plagiometriona clavata, and the debris on its back is fecal matter and it thought to act as camouflage or protection for the larva. Here is a BugGuide image. According to BugGuide food plants include: “ground-cherries (Physalis), Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), and Solanum spp. (Solanaceae)” and tomatoes are in the family Solanaceae.