Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cottonwood Leaf Beetle

This tiny but pretty little beetle is the Cottonwood Leaf Beetle (Chrysomela scripta). Reaching lengths up to 1/2 inch classifies them as a small beetle, but they are stunningly colored. Oval shaped and marked with yellows, black, and red they look like a brightly colored package all gift wrapped for the holidays. Trouble is, these are one gift you may not want to recieve. Their food of choice are Cottonwoods, Willows and Poplars. The adults feed on the midrib and veins of tree leaves. The larvae will feed on the same leaves, but they carry it to an extreme, they completely skeletonize the leaves, eating all the good fleshy parts of the leaves and leaving the veins and midrib. In large numbers these beetles could potentially harm trees, by reducing their seedling growth. Adults hibernate through the winter under bark or leaf litter. In the spring they become active again and begin feeding on the tender leaves and early buds of Cottonwood trees. Several days later the female will begin laying her eggs on the underside of leaves on trees in the Willow or Cottonwood family. The tiny reddish to yellow colored eggs hatch in a few days and the tiny black larvae will begin feeding. You will commonly find adults and larva together feeding on the same leaves. These beetles are plentiful and can be found most anywhere that Cottonwood, Willow, Poplar and sometimes Alder are found. The one pictured here was on some River Willow along the Platte River at Elrod Mill Conservation Area just north of Savannah, MO


  1. Nice post and photos.

    I also really enjoyed the Long-Jawed Orb Weaver also. spiders rock.

    Thanks for the visit. I glad you came by, it reminded me to add you to our Blogroll on the new site.

  2. Thanks Troy, I appreciate the compliments, That long-jawed orb weaver completely creeped me out! I was lying on the ground by the goldenrod he was on trying to snap photos and the damn thing kept coming at me!!!! I'd let go of the plant and he would be flung back and forth like he was on a carnival ride. I'd try once more, and he'd get too close again and once more he was riding the "Flinging goldenrod" How I ever managed to get some decent photos I'll never know.

  3. Hi MObugs! Shelly!

    Thanks for stopping by because your visit led me hear. I love your bugs. Your photos are astounding, jaw droppers. I can learn a lot from you because you see, I like to photograph insects, too, but I don't always know what they are ;o) So, feel free to dash in and offer your expertise, whenever the opportunity arises.



  4. Thanks Mary for stopping by. Anytime I can help with a mystery bug, just pop me an email with a picture and I would be happy to help out, if I don't know what it is, I will do my best to find out.
    BTW Your babies are adorable. I plan to stop by often and see what's going on.

  5. A very colorful little beetle -- and, if it's like most leaf beetles -- very shy and difficult to photograph before it disappears. Really great shot!

  6. Thanks Marvin, it's funny about this little beetle. He wasn't really shy, so much as he was really really fast, and he never stopped moving! I snapped probably 30 pictures of him in the hopes that at least one or two would be good, since he was very cooperative. I lucked out with this image a couple of others. This is certainly one of the prettiest little leaf beetles I've seen.

  7. geoandphylis@msn.comMay 10, 2010 at 7:18 PM

    I found a bug that is black on the bottom, black legs, white on top with black line running down the middle, also black short lines stemming off main line down back the middle line, about inch in length. Broken strips next to solid line down the middle. I am in Bluff Dale Texas. It appears to have just two parts a big body almond shape, roundish head, very short antinas. I can send you a picture via my phone is need be. Can find it in my book

  8. I would love to see a picture of your beetle. Send it to

  9. i have a female cottonwood tree and there are little super tinny bugs on the end of the leaf they have this little circle pocket and its green looks like its part of the leaf.Have any idea what it is?

    1. I'm afraid to say I am uncertain what the bug is that is on your tree. Is there anyway you can photograph them and send me a picture. If I can't ID it that way I can share with some friends who might know what they are. My email is