Calligrapha Leaf Beetle

2008 June 28

Sam found this one under her crib on May 27. It’s a rather striking gold-colored beetle with intricate tracery on the wing covers.


This is certainly one of the Calligrapha leaf beetles[1]. Based on the dark green pronotum (the plate between the head and the wing covers), it looks like it is related to Calligrapha alni, the Russet Alder Leaf Beetle. I’m not so sure it is that exact species, though. While the pattern on the wing covers is very close, the examples in Bug Guide show more of a rusty coloration, and a bit less gold.


If it is the Russet Alder Leaf Beetle, then it eats (Surprise!) Alders. Most likely, they are eating the shrubby alders that grow around here in boggy areas, and specifically in the boggy area just north of our house. These beetles are not particularly common, and the plant they eat has negligible economic value, so as you might guess, this is not a particularly well-studied beetle.



I’m not seeing any specific description of what their larvae eat, or for that matter a lot of information about them in general[2]. It looks like lot of other leaf beetle larvae eat roots of the host plant, and the adults then come topside to eat the leaves, so there is a good chance that the larva of this one live underground and eat alder roots.

[1] I expect that they are named this because the patterns on their wing covers look like fancy calligraphy.

[2] If you are a professional entomologist trying to make a living, you have to spend most of your time studying things that someone will pay to know something about. That means that things like crop pests, or insects that prey on crop pests, or insects that have direct economic value (like honeybees or mealworms) get studied a lot; insects that have no particular economic value, but are either visually striking or very common, get studied a bit; and insects that are neither economically significant, common, nor otherwise striking basically barely get studied at all. And even when an entomologist has the wherewithal to study the more obscure bugs just for the sake of it, entomologists are pretty thin on the ground, so they can’t be everywhere and will naturally miss a lot. As a result, entomology is one of those fields where an enthusiastic amateur can actually make a real contribution. The big issue is for all the amateurs to be able to compare notes and compile their information in accessible locations, like BugGuide. Or, for that matter, to publish in journals like The Great Lakes Entomologist. As long as the observations are carefully made and the information is presented clearly, they don’t care whether you are a “professional” entomologist or not.

9 Responses
  1. Bob W permalink
    June 28, 2008

    It does look like someone used gold leaf on a beetle. Is it really as gold as it looks in the picture?

    (Maybe it is processing the trace copper in the area for that shiny metallic look?

    Very cool looking beetle!

  2. June 28, 2008

    Yep, that picture is pretty much as gold as it actually looked. They’re really noticeable for such a small beetle.

  3. June 28, 2008

    Here’s another photo labelled as Calligrapha Alni:

    note that it’s a lot redder and less gold; hard to know if that’s the light, or a different variety – the markings are strikingly similar.

  4. June 29, 2008

    It might be partly the light, but I think mine really did look more gold than the one in the link you posted. It probably is just a regional variation, though.

  5. July 1, 2008

    Great photos and research, but I’m commenting to applaud you on your footnote. It’s awesome to see amateur entomologists contributing to The Science. You’re an inspiration to me and my wife!

  6. July 3, 2008

    G’day – that’s a neat beetle you have there. We have one Calligrapha sp. here in Australia, Deliberately introduced (from Mexico) for weed control.

    I enjoyed looking through your blog – particularly your Moths and caterpillars


  7. July 4, 2008

    I love the idea for this website!!! Its great.

  8. Rob permalink
    October 1, 2016

    I just found one of these bugs in my backyard near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Neither my wife or I had ever seen one before. It is a brilliant gold and black just like the picture, the colour is not distorted at all. Very impressive looking.

  9. David Rehel Asselin permalink
    June 17, 2019

    I just found of these inside my house. I’m located in Gaspesie, Quebec… this beetle is very gold… i’ve necer seen that kind of beetle before.

Comments are closed.