Last summer, I found a beautiful beetle on the back porch, took a picture and tried to identify it. Without success, I filed it away for another time.
Then last week, that time came around. You see, Master Gardeners always show and brag on their observations. We were all together at our monthly meeting and I took out my pictures. My friend, and a wonderful researcher, found it!
It is a calligrapha beetle (Calligrapha philadelphica).
When it comes to bugs, I am a kid at heart. But my inquisitive side makes me want to know what the insect is, if it really belongs here and what role it plays in our ecosystem. I just want to know.
Depending on the region of the United States you are in, this little insect ranges from common to uncommon to rare. In Ohio, it seems to be fairly common, as I found when I sent my pictures to an Ohio State University entomologist for verification.
There are 38 species of calligrapha in the 49 states (not Hawaii), and 12 in Wisconsin alone. No information was found for Ohio.
These beetles are difficult to identify due to variations, colors, designs and distinctions of the lower edges of the elytra (the “shell-like” coverings of the wings). Also, many only eat one species of plant.
The highly stylized patterns, looking like calligraphy, lend itself to the name.
Calligrapha beetle (Calligrapha spp.) has distinctive symmetrical black markings on the elytra. Many colors of white, yellow, orange, red, green and more further add to the identification issue.
This flying insect resembles the ladybug beetle (.35 to .47 of an inch), round to oval-domed, head tucked under the pronotum (black color).
BUT, these beetles feed on plants, leaf and plant tissue, whereas ladybugs are voracious predators of other insects — mainly bad ones that can be pests on many of our native plants and garden plants.
At least seven species of this insect are all females and undergo parthenogenesis, called virgin birth, a form of asexual reproduction. The offspring are all female copies of the females and there are no males.
They graze on elm, dogwood, basswood and other shade trees, favoring the tender new growth. They are found in parks, forests, woods, properties and yards.
They are to be picked off plants, as this beautiful little creature is not considered an important pest.
I am so grateful that I can extend my “brain power” to the other astute Master Gardeners as we conquer questions brought to us in the Plant and Pest Clinic at the OSU Mahoning County Extension Office, 490 S. Broad St., Canfield,.
To learn more about these and related beetles, go to http://go.osu.edu/calligrapha.
Hughes is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.
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