BioKIDS home

Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species

Calligrapha philadelphica

What do they look like?

Calligrapha philadelphica has an oval, round body. It is usually 8 to 9 mm in length. It has shiny white elytra, which cover its wings, with dark markings arranged in a pattern of long lines, small curving lines, and dots. These markings are described in its Latin name meaning "beautiful + writing." The eggs of C. philadelphica are many different colors, from creamy white to coral. (Arnett, 1960; Blatchley, 1910; Jaques, 1971)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    8 to 9 mm
    0.31 to 0.35 in

Where do they live?

Calligrapha philadelphica can be found in the eastern half of North America. In Canada, beetles have occasionally been spotted as far west as British Columbia. (Robertson, 1966)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Calligrapha philadelphica is found on dogwood plants in temperate forests. In areas where there are many dogwood plants, C. philadelphica can be found forming small colonies. This chrysomelid beetle has also been found on willow plants in areas where dogwood and willow are present together. (Robertson, 1966)

How do they grow?

Calligrapha philadelphica goes through complete metamorphosis. The stages of its life cycle are egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Adults hibernate during the winter (called overwintering) in the ground or sheltered within the bark of trees. When spring arrives, these beetles mate and lay eggs. Single or multiple eggs can be laid. About a week after egg laying in May or June, larvae emerge, eat, and then pupate in the soil. Adults come out of pupation around early July and feed until late September. They then overwinter until the following spring. (Robertson, 1966)

How do they reproduce?

As a chrysomelid beetle, Calligrapha philadelphica can likely find host plants to feed on due to chemical senses. This suggests that C. philadelphica probably uses these same chemicals or scents to find mates. Both males and females have been observed to mate with other species, C. rowena and C. vicina. (Mitchell, 1988; Robertson, 1966)

Calligrapha philadelphica lays eggs either singly or in masses of up to 32 eggs. Over the course of a season, a female can lay between 100 and 450 eggs. Most eggs are usually laid before June. Some similar species of Calligrapha produce far more females than males, with the females developing from an unfertilized egg. This is called female-producing parthenogenesis. In observed groups of C. philadelphica, females have made up 50% to 100% of the population, suggesting this species may also be parthenogenic. (Robertson, 1966)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    There is a single generation of Calligrapha philadelphica each year.
  • Breeding season
    Oviposition occurs in the middle of May and continues through June.
  • Range eggs per season
    100 to 450

After laying eggs which have nutrients for their offspring to grow and develop, parents leave and do not provide any more care for their offspring.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female

How long do they live?

It takes about 2 to 3 months for C. philadelphica to develop from an egg to an adult. After coming out of pupation, adults feed for another 2 to 3 months until winter, when they go into hiding. The adults emerge again the following spring. (Robertson, 1966)

How do they behave?

Calligrapha philadelphica will group together in small colonies in areas where there are large numbers of dogwood plants. Otherwise, these beetles are found alone, rather than in groups. C. philadelphica can fly, but it does not fly far from the patches of dogwood where it lives. (Robertson, 1966)

Home Range

Dogwood, the host plant of Calligrapha philadelphica, has an large range in North America. Since C. philadelphica lives and feeds on dogwood, it is also found throughout the eastern half of the United States. These beetles stay mainly within a patch of dogwood plant. (Jaques, 1971; Robertson, 1966)

How do they communicate with each other?

Calligrapha philadelphica can most likely recognize host dogwood plants by sight and by chemical cues. It uses sight and chemicals to also identify other beetles, as well as its environment. (Mitchell, 1988)

What do they eat?

Calligrapha philadelphica feeds on the leaves of dogwood plants, Cornus stolonifera and Cornus obliqua. (Robertson, 1966)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

No information is available on this topic.

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Calligrapha philadelphica is a herbivore that can modify its environment due to its effect on its host plants. Since it devours the leaves of its dogwood host plants, C. philadelphica has the potential to effect the population of dogwood plants, Cornus stolonifera and Cornus obliqua. (Robertson, 1966)

Species (or larger taxonomic groups) used as hosts by this species
  • Cornus stolonifera
  • Cornus obliqua

Do they cause problems?

There are no known negative affects of Calligrapha philadelphica on humans.

How do they interact with us?

There are no known positive effects of Calligrapha philadelphica on humans.

Are they endangered?

Calligrapha philadelphica is not an endangered species.


Rachael Gingerich (author), University of Michigan Biological Station, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Brian Scholtens (editor), University of Michigan Biological Station.


Arnett, R. 1960. The beetles of the United States. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press.

Blatchley, W. 1910. Catalogue of the Coleoptera of Indiana. Indianapolis, Indiana: WM. B. Burford, Contractor for State Publishing and Printing.

Dickinson, J. 1997. Multiple mating, sperm competition, and cryptic female choice in the leaf beetles. Pp. 164-183 in J Choe, B Crespi, eds. The Evolution of mating systems in insects and arachnids. Cambridge, United Kingdom: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.

Jaques, H. 1971. How to know the beetles. United States of America: WM. C. Brown Company Publishers.

Mitchell, B. 1988. Adult leaf beetles as models for exploring the chemical basis of host-plant recognition. Insect Physiology, 34: 213-225.

Robertson, J. 1966. The chromosomes of bisexual and parthenogenetic species of Calligrapha (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) with notes on sex ratio, abundance and egg number. Canadian Journal of Genetics and Cytology, 8: 695-732.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

BioKIDS home  |  Questions?  |  Animal Diversity Web  |  Cybertracker Tools

Gingerich, R. 2013. "Calligrapha philadelphica" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 29, 2024 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
Copyright © 2002-2024, The Regents of the University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

University of Michigan