|University of Kentucky Department of Entomology|
Mystery Bug Answers
Mystery Picture #35
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".
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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