The Dogbane Leaf Beetle, with its vibrant and iridescent colors, has long attracted attention from both nature enthusiasts and researchers alike. This fascinating creature, scientifically known as Chrysochus auratus, belongs to the family Chrysomelidae and is best known for the shimmering shades of green, coppery, brassy, and bluish hues on its body. The beetle’s incandescence comes from the play of light on tiny, tilted plates that overlay its pigment layer, with light bouncing off both the plates and the pigment to create a stunning visual effect.
These beetles can be found in habitats where their host plants, commonly the dogbane plants such as Indian hemp and spreading dogbane, are present. As their name suggests, they primarily feed on dogbane plants, which are toxic to many other animals. This feeding behavior is not only crucial for their survival but also serves as a natural defense mechanism against predators, as the toxins ingested can deter potential threats.
Dogbane Leaf Beetle: Overview
Species and Distribution
Dogbane leaf beetles, also known as Chrysochus auratus, are found across the United States, Canada, and other parts of North America. They are predominantly present in the eastern United States and near the Rocky Mountains 1.
- Oval in shape
- Less than half an inch in size
- Bright, iridescent colors
- Unremarkable antennae and short legs
- Domed elytra (wing covers)
The dogbane leaf beetle’s incandescence arises from the play of light on tiny, tilted plates that overlay its pigment layer 2. This characteristic allows them to display various colors, such as shiny green, coppery, brassy, or bluish appearances.
Comparison Table of Dogbane Leaf Beetle
|Dogbane Leaf Beetle
|< 0.5 inch
Life Cycle and Reproduction
Eggs and Larvae
Dogbane leaf beetles deposit their eggs in protective capsules on host plant leaves. After a while, the eggs hatch into larvae. The primary development in this stage is feeding and growing. During this period, larvae usually remain on or near the same host plant.
Adults and Mating
The adult dogbane leaf beetles emerge and mate frequently during their six to eight week flight period. As an example, they can mate up to 50 times. Mating involves chemical signaling, specific to these beetles, to ensure they don’t mate with other species like cobalt milkweed beetles. For example, males initiate courtship and continue to piggyback on the females after mating to prevent other male encounters.
Key lifecycle characteristics of dogbane leaf beetles:
- Eggs are laid in protective capsules on host plant leaves
- Larvae feed and grow on the same plant
- Adults mate frequently during a six to eight week flight period
Comparing Dogbane leaf beetle with Cobalt milkweed beetle:
|Chemical signals (species-specific)
|Six to eight weeks
|Chemical signals (different)
|Different flight period
Feeding Habits and Host Plants
The Dogbane Leaf Beetle is an herbivore that primarily feeds on the leaves of dogbane plants, such as Indian Hemp and Spreading Dogbane. Here are some of its favorite host plants:
- Indian Hemp
- Spreading Dogbane
- Milkweed plants
Special Adaptations for Dogbane Plants
Dogbane plants contain latex, which can be toxic or unpalatable for many herbivores. However, Dogbane Leaf Beetles have developed special adaptations to overcome this issue. For example, they:
- Avoid the latex by feeding on leaf edges where it isn’t present
- Tolerate small amounts of latex in their diet, allowing them to consume more of the host plant’s leaves
Comparison of Dogbane Plants
|Dogbane Leaf Beetle’s favorite host
With these adaptations, the Dogbane Leaf Beetle can successfully feed on dogbane plants and maintain a stable source of nutrition throughout its life cycle.
Natural Predators and Defense Mechanisms
Aposematic Colors and Chemical Defense
The Dogbane Leaf Beetle exhibits striking aposematic colors which:
- Serve as a warning to predators
- Result from light bouncing off small, tilted plates on its pigment layer
These beetles accumulate cardenolides, making them toxic to many predators. Therefore, they rely on aposematic colors and chemical defense to deter predators.
Common Beneficial Insects
There are several beneficial insects that help control the population of Dogbane Leaf Beetles. Examples include:
- Pale Green Assassin Bugs
- Ambush Bugs
- Green Leafhoppers
- Sweat Bees
- Zelus luridus (Hemiptera)
These insects, including Zelus luridus, hunt and feed on harmful pests, like the Dogbane Leaf Beetle, in various ecosystems. Some of the predators can be found in sandy habitats, offering an additional layer of biological control.
|Pale Green Assassin Bugs
|Insects, flower-feeding pests
|Zelus luridus (Hemiptera)
The combination of aposematic colors, chemical defense, and the presence of beneficial insects helps to protect the Dogbane Leaf Beetle from various threats while maintaining a balanced ecosystem.
Dogbane Leaf Beetle Infestations and Management
Dogbane leaf beetles (DLB) feed on plants like spreading dogbane. Their feeding can cause reduced plant growth and decreased crop yield.
Features of DLB impact on agriculture:
- Damage to spreading dogbane plants
- Potential decrease in crop yield
Regular monitoring and timely intervention can help manage dogbane leaf beetle infestations in agricultural settings.
Methods to control DLB in agriculture:
- Routine mowing during the growing season
- Fall herbicide application such as 2,4-D + Clarity/dicamba or Crossbow
Chemical and Biological Control
Insecticides may be used to control DLB infestations in severe cases. However, biological control measures can be more environmentally friendly.
Pros and Cons of Chemical Control
|Potential harm to environment
|Effective control of DLB
|Can affect non-target species
Biological Control Examples
Natural predators: Ladybugs and lacewings, which feed on DLB larvae, can be introduced to control their population.
Fostering invertebrate diversity: Encouraging a diverse invertebrate population in the affected area can help promote a balanced ecosystem and contain the DLB population.
Dogbane leaf beetles can affect the growth of plants like spreading dogbane. This may lead to a loss of plant biodiversity or even change the composition of plant communities in the affected area.
Ecological consequences of DLB infestations:
- Loss of plant biodiversity
- Altered plant community composition
Identification and Observation
The Dogbane Leaf Beetle (Chrysomelidae family) is a visually stunning insect, predominantly known for its bright, iridescent colors. They typically measure less than a half-inch and have oval-shaped bodies with small heads, often shielded by a large prothorax. Their legs are short and elytra (wing covers) are domed, exhibiting beautiful hues of shiny green, coppery, brassy, or bluish tones1. Their incandescence is the result of the play of light on exceedingly small, tilted plates that overlay their pigment layer2.
Additional Resources for Photos and Guides
If you are curious to observe and identify Dogbane Leaf Beetles, consider exploring the following resources:
- Missouri Department of Conservation’s Dogbane Beetle page offers images and descriptions.
- The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Field Station has articles on the Dogbane Leaf Beetle and its incandescence, providing pictures with detailed explanation.
- Online forums, such as insectidentification.org, where you can find a clickable guide to Wisconsin’s insect species.
Comparison of Dogbane Leaf Beetle with other insects
|Dogbane Leaf Beetle
|Long, like Long-horned
|Orange, Green (varies)
|Long, like Green Tiger Beetles
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com 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 – Leaf Beetle from Brazil
Subject: Green Beetle
Location: Juiz de Fora – Minas Gerais
November 15, 2015 4:48 am
Good morning Bugman. I found this beautiful green beetle in a forest in my town. I would like to share this beauty of nature with you on site. Do you know what this species?
Thanks from Brazil.
Signature: Marcelo Brito de Avellar
This is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae, but we have not had any luck identifying the species. Perhaps Cesar Crash of Insetologia will recognize it. Fortuitously, when we went to the site to create a link, we found a recent posting on Insetologia identifying this Leaf Beetle as Iphimeis dives, submitted by you, and we verified that on the Science Photo Library site.
Letter 2 – Leaf Beetle from the Philippines
November 26, 2011 9:11 am
hi. your site really sure help people who are interested with all forms of insects that’s why i will try my luck for posting here.
we have this project in school where we are going to identify and classify the insects we see on our surroundings and take a photo of it. so that’s it… i found this cute little aphid in our backyard and i don’t have any clue on what is it. so there i hope you can help me with this. thank you and stay good. =)
This is not an Aphid, but rather, it is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. Though we were unable to identify the species, we did locate a similar photo from the Philippines on Project Noah.
Letter 3 – Leaf Beetle from Alaska
Subject: lady beetle?
Location: Southcentral Alaska
June 1, 2017 12:01 am
I looked through your lady beetle archives until I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight, trying to identify this beetle in Southcentral Alaska. Same size as the famous ladybugs we all know, but an entirely different pattern.
This is not a Lady Beetle. It is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. We do not receive many identification requests from Alaska, and we always enjoy trying to identify insects from the far north. We identified your Leaf Beetle as Chrysomela falsa thanks to this BugGuide image, but alas, other than providing data that there are sightings in Alaska and the Northwest Territories, BugGuide does not provide any information. Of the subgenus, BugGuide does note: “hosts: willows, poplars (Salicaceae), alder (Betulaceae).” We hope we have restored your ability to sleep.
Letter 4 – Leaf Beetle from Barbados: Anisostena cyanoptera
Subject: is this a kind of False Blister Beetle?
December 26, 2013 6:57 pm
I was out doing some macro work today and saw a couple of these black and red beetles. The closest match i found on Google was a red and black false blister beetle, but none of the images had the exact dimple pattern on back. They were about 1cm in length and were found on some grass.
Your photos are of an excellent quality, and they greatly aided our ability to provide you with an identification. We did need to crop your images to maximize the size of the beetle, which meant we needed to move your trademark logo within the image. This is not a Blister Beetle. It is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. We located a very close match on BugGuide, Anisostena ariadne. Once we had a genus name, we were able to try to search for relatives in Barbados, and though there is no photograph, Anisostena cyanoptera is listed on the Coleoptera Neotropical page for the Antilles. Though we could not locate any images of Anisostena cyanoptera, we believe that is the correct identification for your Leaf Beetle.
Thanks for the information and effort, it is greatly appreciated. Don’t worry about relocating the logo that’s fine. I’m actually in a bit of a dilemma, on one hand would like to contribute images to your amazing website but on the other I don’t want to give you any extra work lol.
I have a macro album on Facebook if you want to see more images. Just look me up Niaz Dokrat .
Regards and best wishes for the new year,
It wasn’t much trouble. Feel free to send any images you would like to have identified or any that you think would be a good addition to our site. I don’t believe we have many images from Barbados in our archives. We will identify and post what we have the time to devote to, and when we are especially busy, many submissions go unanswered. This is a slower time of the year for us.
Letter 5 – Leaf Beetle from Cyprus
Subject: Found it! “Crioceris bicruciata” shining leaf (asparagus) beetle from Cyprus
Location: Nicosia (Lefkoşa), Cyprus
February 24, 2014 11:54 am
Well, it took a while but I kept searching and stumbled upon the Crioceris family (?) which has 9 members which all seem to have the wing netting, and one by one I eliminated them including the common Asparagus Beetle which has the same markings but different coloring, till I finally came to one that looks just like the one I photographed last February in Cyprus (the timing is part of why I am sending it so others might find it too).
It seems to be Crioceris bicruciata, which by all I can tell is not that common, but it has the pattern, coloring (including leg color) that the one I photographed does. For once, I did not stumble upon a bug everyone else in the world has (insert a “smiley” without it being an obnoxious yellow thing here).
I am feeling pretty proud at the moment (another “smiley”).
Signature: Curious Girl
Dear Curious Girl,
Thank you so much for informing us of the identity of this Leaf Beetle from Cyprus. We are sorry we did not have the time to identify it when you first sent the photo several days ago. Both the image on BioLib as well as the image on the Wroclaw University of Poland website are good matches to your individual.
Letter 6 – Leaf Beetle from Europe
Subject: Whats that bug?
June 8, 2017 12:25 am
Please, help me what’s that bug on my cherry tree?!
Tnx a lot!
Letter 7 – Leaf Beetle from Australia
Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 7:56 PM
I came across a couple of these elusive leaf beetles in my yard. To the naked eye they are just a very tiny plain black beetle. They are only about 2mm long. I did a google search on them and only found a few entries and no photos so thought you might like to be the first site with a picture. I love their spiky wing case.
Thanks so much for giving us the honor of posting your landmark photo of Hispellinus australicus, a Leaf Beetle. It surely is a distinctive looking specimen.
Letter 8 – Leaf Beetle from Australia
Small Australian Beetle?
Location: Melbourne, Australia.
December 31, 2010 10:32 pm
I found this rather cute looking beetle on my loungeroom window and was wondering if someone could help me identify him. He is only small, about 2-3cms (approx an inch), can fly, and has very well gripping feet.
This is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. This is a large family and many species look similar. We tried to find a match on the Brisbane Insect Website, and the closest we could come was that this might be a member of the genus Paropsis, sometimes called the Eucalypt Tortoise Beetles.
Letter 9 – Leaf Beetle from Malaysia
Subject: Red Beetle
Location: Ulu Belum, Perak, Malaysia
January 3, 2013 8:13 am
Found this beetle, beetle I think, at Ulu Belum, Perak, Malaysia.
Can you identify it
This appears to us to be a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. We are not certain of the species.
Letter 10 – Leaf Beetle from New Zealand
1cm likes fruit not grass or strawberry leaves
March 26, 2010
End of March (so we’re in autumn), and it’s been 5 degrees (c) warmer than usual here (25C or so).
My son noticed the brown / red 1cm long bug in our local icecream shop and brought it home.
Gave it a piece of plum and it seemed interested in it. It has biting mouth parts.
We’ve seen black feathery ends to wings under the back cover but haven’t seen it fly.
It can move quite quickly but not so quickly that it is easy to loose when on your finger.
Walks around the container we have it in constantly during the day. Not sure what happens at night.
It got out of it’s container yesterday evening but was found 1m away this morning so it’s not travelling too far.
We live in a commercial port town with lots of container work so know people who have seen non-native species before.
The local folks we’ve shown the bug to, including ourselves, have never noticed a buglike this in New Zealand.
Would love to know what you think it might be.
Lyttelton, New Zealand
We are certain that this is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae, and it is probably in the subfamily Chrysomelinae. It most closely resembles the Eucalyptus Leaf Beetles in the genus Chrysophtharta or possibly Paropsisterna, though we have not had success with a perfect visual match on the Brisbane Insect website which indicates the two genera have been combined by stating: “The genus Paropsisterna has been recently expanded to include Chrysophtharta. They are native to Australia and New Guinea. There are more than a hundred species in this genus in Australia.” The closest match is the Marble Leaf Beetle, Paropsisterna semifumata, but it is not exact.
Update: November 11, 2012
We just approved a comment identifying this as the Eucalyptus Tortoise Beetle, Paropsis charybdis, and we found a nice page devoted to the species on the NZ Farm Forestry website.
Letter 11 – Leaf Beetle from India
Subject: Metallic Blue Bug
Location: Kabini, India
April 18, 2014 11:12 pm
I have an AP Bio project to do, and in it, we must take pictures of and identify various organisms. I encountered this one on my summer vacation and was desperately hoping for some help as no website has sufficed so far. Thanks!
Your photo is of a very low resolution, and it will most likely be impossible to identify this Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae to the species level unless you have a larger file. It does look very much like this unidentified Leaf Beetle from India that is represented on TrekNature.
Thank you so much for trying, but unfortunately, i don’t have a larger file.
Letter 12 – Leaf Beetle from Madagascar
Subject: Madagascar Beetle
Location: Montagne d’Ambre, Madagascar
April 28, 2016 2:52 pm
This is a beetle from Amber Mountain (Montagne d’Ambre) National Park in Madagascar. I would appreciate any help with identification. It was a diurnal species.
Signature: Glenn McCrea
We believe this is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. When we tried searching for orange Leaf Beetles from Madagascar and we found this unidentified stock image number 18955051 on Stock Photo that looks like a good match.
Hi, Daniel –
Thanks so much for the prompt reply about this beautiful beetle. The stock image you sent does indeed look to be the same beetle.
Letter 13 – Leaf Beetle from Peru
Subject: Purple beetle found at Machu Picchu
Location: Machu Picchu, Peru
March 3, 2016 6:59 pm
One of my friend encountered this beetle at Machu Picchu.
She would like to identify the insect.
The first picture is the one she took.
By googling extensively, I found only one picture of the beetle.
The second picture is the one I found. It was also taken at Machu Picchu. And, the photographer wrote it is scarab. Looking at the shape, I doubt is is a scarab.
Could you identify the beetle?
This is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae, not a Scarab Beetle. We located a matching image on Project Noah, but it is not identified beyond the family. Perhaps Cesar Crash of Insetologia will have additional information.
Thank you very much for your answer. I was surprised that you found this so soon. I was searching internet for hours and found just the scarab information.
Thank you, again.
Letter 14 – Leaf Beetle from Brazil: Coraliomela tetramaculata
October 28, 2009
As we live in the southern hemisphere, we are currently in the midst of spring with summer close at hand. For us, this means we will be seeing more and more bugs (woo-hoo). That being said, my kids and I found this beautiful beetle early this morning on the sidewalk outside their school. We immediately rescued it so that it would not get stepped on by the students. I let it walk around the palm of my hand so that we could let my children’s classmates admire it as well. It is a beautiful shiny hard-shelled beetle. When walking, it does so quite quickly, but remains fairly still for the most part. It is about an inch and a half from the tip of it’s nose to the tip of its rear, and the antennas add about another half an inch to its overall length, with a thickness of abo ut a quarter of an inch. I have searched and searched but I cannot identify what type of beetle it is. Any ideas? Another interesting note: Shortly after I returned home and placed it on a branch to retrieve my camera, it slowly and deliberately excreted something onto the branch from the tip of it’s rear. It would slowly move forward bit by bit as it attached the excretion to the branch. The beetle then ‘patted’ it to be certain it was firmly attached to the branch. The excretion is tan in color, about a quarter by an eighth of an inch, and has an oval-rounded shape to it. It resembles a very flattened rolly polly with a clearish tan coating over it. Could this be a single larvae? Thanks for anything you might be able to tell us about this wonderful creature.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
We are requesting assistance with your beetle. Our initial impression is that it is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. We hope Eric Eaton can verify that.
Right on! Yes, it is indeed a leaf beetle in the family Chrysomelidae, subfamily Hispinae. Many are leaf miners, but I can’t imagine this large species being one of them:-)
Karl locates some images online
Everyone is right! Following Eric’s lead, the genus is Coraliomela (Hispinae: Alurnini). But there are several species in that genus in Brazil and there is very little information to be found, so that is likely as close as we are going to get. Chances are that at least some look quite similar (e.g., C. tetramaculata). Regarding the behavior described by Todd, I would guess the beetle was laying eggs – I can’t think what else it may have been doing. From what I could gather, some and perhaps all Coraliomela species feed on palms; the larvae of C. brunnea (an entirely red species), for example, are considered one of Brazil’s most important pests on coconut seedlings. I can’t tell if the plant in Todd’s photo is a palm. Regards.
Letter 15 – Leaf Beetle from Peru might be Platyphora princeps
Subject: Zig-zag beetle from tropical Peru
Geographic location of the bug: Tambopata reserve, Peru
Time: 09:40 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Dear Bugman,
I found this beautiful beetle in the rainforest of the Tambopata reserve in Peru. On the web I found similar ones named Pleasing fungus beetle. But I did not find this specific one. Can you help to identify it?
How you want your letter signed: Gerhard Hüdepohl
Though we have not had any luck with a species identification, we can tell you this stunning beetle is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. We are confident we (or one of our readers) will be able to provide a more specific identification soon.
thank you very much, lets see, if someone has additional information.
All the best and thanks for your help again.
Update: July 1, 2019
Thanks to a comment from Cesar Crash, we are confident this is Platyphora princeps. The images on PicClick are of dead specimens and they lack the bright colors, but they appear to be the correct species.
Letter 16 – Leaf Beetle from Australia
ID of beetle
May 19, 2010
The young girl next door bought me this beetle for identification. It has a body length of 7 mm. Can anyone help? We live in Townsville, Queensland, Australia
Roseneath, Townsville 19°21’S 146°50’E
This is a Leaf Beetle, and we thought it resembled the genus Calligrapha which is well represented on BugGuide, a site devoted to North American species. BugGuide pictures a green species, Calligrapha serpentina, and it looks strikingly like your beetle, though the markings are slightly different, possibly within the variation found in the species. We found a single Australian Calligrapha on the Backyard Arthropod Project website, but it does not appear to be the same species as your individual. No Leaf Beetles pictured on the Brisbane Insect Website look like your specimen.
Karl supplies an answer
May 25, 2010
Hi Daniel and Rick:
It looks like Calligrapha pantherina (Chrysomelidae), a species of leaf beetle that is native to Mexico and Central America. It was introduced to Australia’s Northern Territory in 1989 as a biocontrol agent to help in the fight against the invasive Spinyhead Sida (Sida acuta), also a native of the tropical Americas. It is host specific and apparently has been a successful introduction that has become established in the wetter areas of north Australia from Brisbane to parts of Western Australia. Regards.
Letter 17 – Leaf Beetle from Thailand
Subject: Spotted Bug Thailand – Koh Lanta
Location: Thailand, Koh Lanta – Southern part of Thailand
May 25, 2013 8:45 am
I spotted this scarab pin my bath room at around 9 pm Thai time. It is bit as my nail, maybe 1 and a half cm. has cream colour shell and black spots and yellow legs.
I have tried to identify it but cannot find anything on the web.
Thank you for your time.
Signature: Aruna Singh
We believe this is some species of Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae, but like you, we have not had any luck matching any photos on the internet. Leaf Beetles will not pose any threats to you, your structure or your guests.
Thank you Daniel for your quick response. I was actually nor scared of it, was only very curious as I had never seen a beetle like that. Thank you for your time and welcome to Baan Rao anytime.
Karl provides an identification
Hi Daniel and Aruna:
I believe it is a species in the genus Podontia (Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini), probably P. quatuordecimpunctata. The submitted photo is a bit fuzzy but I think the match is pretty close. This link provides quite a lot of good life cycle information, including: “Podontia quatuordecimpunctata is the best-known Podontia species because both adults and larvae defoliate the tree Spondias dulcis. This tree, commonly known as the mak-ok, hog plum, or golden apple tree, is cultivated for its edible fruits in Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Thailand, and the Caribbean…”. Regards. Karl
Letter 18 – Leaf Beetle from South Africa
Subject: whats this Bug south africa
October 29, 2012 3:18 pm
found in forests of Phinda Game reserve in Zululand south africa.Has feathered feelers that fold under body.Can u identify ?
Signature: not important
This appears to be a Scarab Beetle, but we have not had any luck with a species identification. Your description of the antennae is consistent with Scarabs.
Correction Courtesy of Karl
I don’t think this is a scarab beetle. I believe it is actually a variety of leaf beetle (Chrysomelidae), more specifically a flea beetle in the genus Polyclada that appears to have the common name African Leaf Beetle. I found online references placing this genus in three different subfamilies (Halticinae, Alticinae and Galerucinae) but the most common appears to be Alticinae. Polyclada beetles, along with beetles in the related genus Diamphidia, are noteworthy because their larvae bioaccumulate toxins derived from the plants on which they feed. The paralyzing toxins are apparently slow acting but effective enough that the San people of the Kalahari use the fluids squeezed from the larvae to poison the tips of their hunting arrows. Several species inhabit southern Africa but I was not able to find any useful photos taken in South Africa. The best I could find was a photo identified as Polyclada sp. from Ethiopia that looks very close, an image on a postage stamp from Botswana that apparently depicts P. flexuosa (coincidentally, one of the species given as a source for arrow poison), and a fuzzy illustration of P. bohemani. I can’t be sure, but I believe this is getting close to a correct identification. Regards Karl
Thanks so much for the corrections Karl. We actually entertained the thought that this might be a Leaf Beetle, but the description of the antennae convinced us it must be a Scarab. Seeing the plumose antennae on the photo from Ethiopia and the stamp from Botswana is awesome. The information about the poison darts is also quite intriguing. Thanks again.