University of Kentucky Department of Entomology

Mystery Bug Answers

Mystery Picture #35

Mystery Picture #35

(Mystery Pictures)(Mystery Pictures)


Tiny Flea Beetles chew small, rounded holes in the leaves of many plants in the spring and early summer. They look like tiny black dots on the leaves and when disturbed, they use their large hind legs to leap in all directions.

The hopping behavior of these tiny beetles resembles that of another type of small jumping insect often found on dogs and cats (namely, fleas!), thus giving them their common name.


This leaf-feeding Inchworm Larva has fewer prolegs on its abdomen than do most caterpillars. As a result, it moves with a distinctive looping motion: it extends its front legs forward to grasp the leaf or stem, then folds its body up into a loop until the back prolegs are just behind the front. Thus, sometimes these caterpillars are called "loopers". Another of its common names is based on a unit of measure--"inchworm".

Extra credit:

  • What is the name of the family to which this larva belongs?


  • What does that name mean in Greek and why do you think it is a good name for this group?

    Geo -- earth, metri -- measure = "earth measurer": Like the common name we use in English, "inchworm", the Greek name refers to the characteristic walking motion of these caterpillars that makes them look like they are busy measuring the world!

Where I grew up, we kids used to scare one another by saying if you let an inchworm crawl on your sleeve, that it was measuring you for your coffin! If it measured you from head to toe, then that was the end for you! I remember the bravest kid was the one who dared let himself or herself be "measured" the longest! Meanwhile, if we had only known, the poor little inchworm was just trying to find a safe place to hide!

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