Dogwood Calligrapha Beetle

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Dogwood Calligrapha or the dogwood leaf beetle (Calligrapha philadelphica) is a beautiful and ornate little beetle native to North America. It is a leaf beetle in the family chrysomelidae which contains some of our most decorative beetles, caligrapher (Callligrapha spp.) beetles being among them.


dogwood caligrapha beetle



This beetle has a silvery-white elytra (front pair of wings) ornamented with black flecks, curves and lines reminiscent of - you guessed it- calligraphy, which actually means "beautiful-writing"!  The rear flight wings are a rich red color.



flight wings exposed to show red coloring


Adult are 8-10mm in length but they do have robust oval bodies. They overwinter as adults in soil or under bark emerging to mate and lay eggs in Spring. Larva pupate and new adults emerge around July.  Their color and pattern make them an easier insect to identify, along with being closely associated with their dogwood host plant. Small colonies of dogwood calligrapha can form in areas where dogwood is dense. 

They are leaf feeders and, while some species of leaf beetles can be serious pests, this species does not appear to be of serious consequence on dogwoods. Just an exciting little find visiting our local native dogwoods. 



showing relative size of dogwood leaf beetle compared to a hand

dogwood leaf beetle head shot



Another Calligrapher beetle very similar to the dogwood leaf beetle, is the Common Willow Calligrapher Beetle (Calligrapha multipunctata) below.


a very similar calligrapher beetle, the willow calligrapher




There are elm and alder calligrapher beetles, the beautiful ninebark calligrapha, and even a ragweed calligrapher beetle.  Keep an eye out for some "beautifully written" beetles in your favorite parks, gardens and wild areas!