Do Dogbane Leaf Beetles Bite? Uncovering the Truth

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Dogbane leaf beetles are small, colorful insects that feed on the leaves of dogbane plants, including spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) and hemp dogbane. They belong to the family Chrysomelidae, which includes thousands of predominantly plant-eating beetles. Many people wonder if these vivid beetles pose any threat, such as biting or causing harm to humans.

While dogbane leaf beetles are most commonly known for their bright colors and mating habits, they are not known to bite humans. These beetles primarily feed on the leaves of their host plants, and their primary concern is finding and consuming their preferred food source. As a result, human interactions with these beetles are generally harmless, and there is no significant risk of being bitten by them.

In addition to not posing a threat to humans through biting, dogbane leaf beetles contribute to the ecosystem by acting as pollinators. As they move from plant to plant in search of food, they inadvertently help pollinate the plants they feed on. This makes these beetles an essential part of maintaining the biodiversity and health of dogbane plant populations.

Dogbane Leaf Beetle Overview

Species and Scientific Name

The Dogbane Leaf Beetle is a species of leaf beetles found in North America. Its scientific name is Chrysochus auratus, and it belongs to the family Chrysomelidae within the order Coleoptera, class Insecta, phylum Arthropoda, and kingdom Animalia.

Physical Description

Dogbane Leaf Beetles are oval-shaped and exhibit metallic colors. They feature iridescent blue-green hues and copper-colored shine on their front wings. Additionally, their legs and antennae are dark blue, almost black.

Characteristics of Dogbane Leaf Beetle:

  • Oval in shape
  • Metallic, iridescent colors
  • Blue-green with copper-colored shine
  • Dark blue legs and antennae

Habitat and Distribution

These beetles are commonly found in North American regions, feeding on dogbanes, including milkweeds. They play a crucial role as pollinators and help maintain the ecosystem.


  • North America
  • Found on dogbanes and milkweeds

In conclusion, the Dogbane Leaf Beetle is a fascinating, colorful species of leaf beetle found in North America. Its distinctive physical appearance and habitat make it an interesting subject for those interested in entomology and ecology.

Life Cycle and Behavior

Eggs and Larvae

Dogbane leaf beetles lay their eggs in protective capsules on host plant leaves or nearby. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae begin to feed on the host plants, such as dogbanes and milkweeds1.


After the larval stage, the beetle then enters the pupal stage2, undergoing metamorphosis to transform into the adult beetle.

Adult Beetles

Adult dogbane leaf beetles are known for their beautiful iridescence and often feed on dogbanes, including milkweeds2. They have a fairly short lifespan of 6 to 8 weeks1. Males initiate courtship and may mate as many as 50 times during their lifespan1.


  • Beautiful iridescent appearance
  • Contributes to natural ecosystem


  • Can be a pest for certain plant species
Feature Dogbane Leaf Beetle
Egg Laid in protective capsules on host plant leaves
Larva Feeds on host plants, such as dogbanes and milkweeds
Pupa Undergoes metamorphosis
Adult lifespan 6 to 8 weeks
Mating May mate up to 50 times during lifespan

Diet and Feeding Habits

Favorite Plants

Dogbane leaf beetles are known for their preference to feed on certain plants, particularly those in the dogbane and milkweed families. Some examples of their favorite plants include:

  • Dogbane (Apocynum species)
  • Milkweed (Asclepias species)

Feeding on Dogbane and Milkweed


The dogbane plant is a staple in the diet of dogbane leaf beetles. They are attracted to these plants due to the presence of certain compounds. They primarily feed on the leaves of the dogbane plant, but also the flowers, roots, and sap. The beetle’s feeding habits can be quite damaging to these plants and may cause serious harm.


Similarly, dogbane leaf beetles are also attracted to the milkweed family of plants, often feeding on the leaves and other parts of the plant. While they do not solely rely on these plants, milkweed serves as an alternate host plant for these beetles.

Comparison Table

Feature Dogbane Plant Milkweed Plant
Role in Dogbane Beetle Diet Primary Host Plant Alternate Host Plant
Plant Parts Consumed Leaves, flowers, roots, sap Leaves, and other parts


In summary, dogbane leaf beetles are particularly fond of feeding on plants from the dogbane and milkweed families. Dogbane is their primary host plant, while milkweed serves as an alternate option. They feed on various parts of these plants, including leaves, flowers, roots, and sap, and can cause damage to their host plants in the process.

Toxicity and Defenses

Cardenolides in Dogbane Leaf Beetles

Dogbane leaf beetles are known for their bright metallic colors, which serve as a warning to predators of their toxic nature. These beetles accumulate toxic substances called cardenolides from their host plants, such as milkweed and dogbane. The larvae of these beetles also feed on these plants, thereby accumulating cardenolides in their body tissues.

For example:

  • Milkweed: Cardenolides present
  • Dogbane: Cardenolides present

Toxicity to Predators and Pests

Due to the presence of cardenolides in their body, dogbane leaf beetles are toxic to potential predators and pests. These toxins deter a variety of predators, such as spiders and birds, from attempting to consume the beetles.

Examples of affected predators:

  • Spiders: Avoid consuming dogbane leaf beetles
  • Birds: Avoid consuming dogbane leaf beetles

Comparison of cardenolides’ effects:

Predator/pest Consequence of consuming dogbane leaf beetles
Spiders Potential toxicity from cardenolides
Birds Potential toxicity from cardenolides

In conclusion, dogbane leaf beetles employ cardenolides from their host plants as a chemical defense against predators and pests. Their striking appearance serves as a warning signal, which is backed up by their toxic nature, providing them with an effective defense mechanism.

Interaction with Humans and Pets

Do Dogbane Leaf Beetles Bite Humans?

Dogbane leaf beetles are small insects that are not known to bite humans. They have green legs and antennae, but their primary focus is on feeding on dogbane plants. Generally, humans do not experience any harm when coming into contact with these beetles. However, some people might experience an allergic reaction if they have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies.

Are They Harmful to Pets?

Dogbane leaf beetles are also not known to be harmful to pets. They are small insects that typically do not interact with animals such as dogs or cats. It is possible for a pet to accidentally ingest a beetle, but this is unlikely to cause any issues or adverse reactions.

Handling Dogbane Leaf Beetles

When handling dogbane leaf beetles, it is essential to be gentle and cautious. These small insects can be easily crushed if you hold them too tightly. To avoid injury to the beetle or any potential reactions, use the following method to handle them properly:

  • Carefully scoop up the beetle without touching its legs or antennae.
  • Gently place the beetle onto a surface to observe or relocate.

Remember, keeping interactions with dogbane leaf beetles brief and minimal can help prevent any potential concerns or risks.

Curious Facts and Iridescence

Color Changing Abilities

Dogbane leaf beetles are known for their striking and colorful appearance. Their metallic colors, such as copper and gold, are attributed to the microscopic tilted plates that overlay the insect’s pigment layer. When light bounces off these plates, it creates a stunning iridescent effect.

These beetles not only exhibit bright colors on their elytra but also possess a color-changing ability. The color changes are due to the physics of light interacting with the elytra’s structure, leaving spectators in awe of mother nature’s handiwork.

Iridescence in Nature

Iridescence is a common and fascinating phenomenon in the animal kingdom, not exclusive to dogbane leaf beetles. This visual effect is caused by the interaction of light with structures found in animals, such as feathers, scales, or plates.

Below is a table comparing the iridescence of dogbane leaf beetles to that of two other well-known examples – peacock feathers and butterfly wings:

Feature Dogbane Leaf Beetle Peacock Feather Butterfly Wings
Iridescent Material Microscopic Plates on Elytra Feathers Scales on Wing Membrane
Colors Displayed Copper, Gold, Blue-Green Blue, Green, Gold Varies, often Blue or Green
Latin Roots Aureus (shiny, metallic, gold)
Function Camouflage and/or Mate Attraction Mate Attraction Camouflage and/or Mate Attraction

In conclusion, dogbane leaf beetles are remarkable insects due to their iridescent appearance and color-changing abilities. These characteristics not only make them visually stunning but also an intriguing example of the role that physics plays in the beauty of nature.


  1. – Dogbane Leaf Beetle Revisited 2 3

  2. Missouri Department of Conservation – Dogbane Beetle 2

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Dogbane Beetle


Unknown beetle
Dear Sir,
My mom says this is a Japanese beetle, which would be a bad thing. The Japanese Beetles I have seen on the internet seem to have brown wings, and mine was more green all over, but with iridescent wings. Can you tell me what this is? Thank you! Sincerely,
Melora Campbell

Hi Melora,
You are correct. This is not a Japanese Beetle. It is a Dogbane Beetle, Chrysochus auratus. Unlike the Japanese Beetle which will eat leaves and blossoms from countless 1000s of plants, the Dogbane Beetle feeds exclusively on the leaves of plants in the Dogbane family Apocynaceae.

Letter 2 – Dogbane Beetle


irridescent beetle
Sun, Oct 12, 2008 at 11:57 AM
can you help me identify what type of beetle this is?
margie obrien
central ny

Dogband Beetle
Dogband Beetle

Hi Again Margie,
This is a Dogbane Beetle, Chrysochus auratus.  They eat the leaves of plants in the Dogbane family.

Letter 3 – Dogbane Beetle


New bug for me!
Location: southern New Brunswick, Canada
July 17, 2011 9:39 am
I found this little guy on my watering can today. I’ve never seen one before. It’s about the size of a ladybug but I’ve never seen this metallic green on a bug before. Do you know what it is? I live just outside Fredericton, New Brunswick in Eastern Canada.
Signature: Cheryl Jones

Dogbane Beetle

Hi Cheryl,
This beautifully metallic Leaf Beetle is a Dogbane Beetle,
Chrysochus auratus.

Thank you very much for your reply.  I can’t believe I’ve never seen one before!  I’ve lived here all my life (and I’m 62).  You’d think I’d have noticed them before.  lol

Letter 4 – Dogbane Beetle


Subject: Bug ID help, please
Location: Albuquerque, NM
July 1, 2016 12:08 pm
Dear Bug People,
I’m assuming these are some kind of leaf beetle judging by the damage to that plant. These beetles were in the riparian area near the Rio Grande. I have a field guide specific to this area, but I don’t see this shape with this color. Thanks for your help!
Signature: Kathy

Dogbane Beetles
Dogbane Beetles

Dear Kathy,
You are correct that these are Leaf Beetles in the family Chrysomelidae, and more specifically they are Dogbane Beetles,
Chrysochus auratus, which you may verify by comparing your individuals to this Dogbane Beetle posted to BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “They mate and lay eggs through the summer. They lay eggs on leaves and stems of host plants and nearby vegetation in masses of egg capsules.”

Dogbane Beetles
Dogbane Beetles

Letter 5 – Dogbane Leaf Beetle


My daughter is thrilled to find these "shiny beetles" every summer on some plants we have in our field. They seem to prefer the milky plants and flock there for the summer months. If you could identify it for us it would be great. We live in central Maine. Thanks for your help.
Tamara Hatt

Hi Tamara,
This is the Dogbane Leaf Beetle, Chrysochus auratus. It feeds on dogbane and members of the milkweed family. They are very metallic in shades of blue, green, copper and brass. When disturbed the beetles will drop to the ground to hide and when caught will exude a foul-smelling secretion.

Letter 6 – Dogbane Leaf Beetle


Red rover, red rover
You have a wonderful site. Can you tell me if this iridescent red beetle is a rove beetle and if it can fly? I’m writing a kids book and want to be sure to ID it correctly. Many thanks!
Claire Miller

Hi Claire,
In the interest of properly informing children, who are often the victems of gross misinformation, this is a Dogbane Leaf Beetle, Chrysochus auratus.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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