Revisited: Dogbane Leaf Beetle (Chrysochus auratus)

19 07 2011

Originally posted July 11, 2010

I stalked this beetle at the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area this morning for at least 20 minutes—it wasn’t hard; he moved up and down the same sunflower leaf the entire time. I was just mesmerized by his rainbow coloring! In researching what type of beetle it was, I came across this site here, which describes this insect’s beautiful coloring:

The dogbane leaf beetle has a special type of color that shines and changes as the insect changes position or we change position looking at it. This changing color is called iridescence. The beetles’ iridescence is produced by special body structures and light. The surface of the body parts of this beetle is made up of stacks of tiny, slanting plates, under which is a pigment (substance that produces color). Some light rays reflect from the surface of the plates, and other light rays reflect from the pigment underneath. At different angles, the light reflects at different speeds, causing interference and resulting in our seeing different colors that shine.

Adult beetles feed on Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum)—hence its name—and milkweed. I’m glad I didn’t touch the little guy—apparently they avoid some predators by giving off a foul-smelling secretion when they are touched!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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3 responses

26 07 2011
Lisa

Your photos are truly lovely

I grew up in Bethesda, but don’t recall ever seeing this beautiful creature. .

5 08 2011
cindydyer

Hi Lisa, Thanks for your comment on my photos. I appreciate them! I went to your blog and got caught up on your family and your husband Rob (the title of your blog intrigued me). After seeing all the things you two are interested in, if Michael and I lived near you, we’d be friends! Michael wants to keep bees, but I told him that a townhouse backyard isn’t exactly the place to do it. That’s for a future place with a tiny bit of acreage, I think.

1 03 2012
Maggie

Hi there! Beautiful picture 🙂 I know it’s been a a while since you’ve posted this but I thought I would put in my two cents. If you come across them again, feel free to pick them up. They’re pretty ‘friendly’, I’ve used them in a display for kids, and the kids loves them, even some of the ones that said they were afraid of bugs. I’m actually doing research on the beetle, and have handled a lot of them, and have never observed them giving off a smell. They can secrete a compound to deter predators, but it must just have a nasty taste. So next time you can have more fun 😉

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