Leaf beetle

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Leaf beetles
Scarlet lily beetle lilioceris lilii.jpg
Scarlet lily beetle Lilioceris lilii in Oxfordshire, UK
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Suborder: Polyphaga
Superfamily: Chrysomeloidea
Family: Chrysomelidae
Latreille, 1802 [1]

See text.

The family Chrysomelidae, commonly known as leaf beetles, includes over 37,000 (and probably at least 50,000) species in more than 2,500 genera, making it one of the largest and most commonly encountered of all beetle families. Numerous subfamilies are recognized, but only some of them are listed below and the precise taxonomy and systematics are likely to change with ongoing research.

Leaf beetles are partially recognizable by their tarsal formula, which appears to be 4-4-4, but is actually 5-5-5 as the 4th tarsal segment is very small and hidden by the 3rd.[2] As with many taxa, there is no single character that defines the Chrysomelidae; instead it is delineated by a set of characters.[3] Some lineages are only distinguished with difficulty from longhorn beetles (family Cerambycidae), namely by the antennae not arising from frontal tubercles.

Adult and larval leaf beetles feed on all sorts of plant tissue, and all species are fully herbivorous. Many are serious pests of cultivated plants, for example the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), the asparagus beetle (Crioceris asparagi), the cereal leaf beetle (Oulema melanopus), and various flea beetles, and a few act as vectors of plant diseases. Others are beneficial due to their use in biocontrol of invasive weeds. Some Chrysomelidae are conspicuously colored, typically in glossy yellow to red or metallic blue-green hues, and some (especially Cassidinae) have spectacularly bizarre shapes. Thus, they are highly popular among insect collectors.


The imagos of leaf beetles are small to medium-sized, i.e. most species range from 1 to 18 mm in length, excluding appendages, with just a few larger species such as Alurnus humeralis which reaches 35 mm. The bodies of most species are domed, and oval in dorsal view (though some are round or elongate), and they often possess a metallic luster or multiple colors. In most specimens the antennae are notably shorter than head, thorax and abdomen, i.e. not more than half their combined length. The second antennal segment is of normal size (which differentiates leaf beatles from the closely related longhorn beetles). In most species, the antennal segments are of a more or less equal shape, at most they gradually widen towards the tip, although some Galerucinae in particular have modified segments, mainly in males. The first segment of the antenna in most cases is larger than the following ones. The pronotum of leaf beetles varies between species. In most it is slightly to highly domed and trapezoidal to rounded-squarish in dorsal view. In some subfamilies such as the Cassidinae and to a lesser extent the Cryptocephalinae, the head is covered by the pronotum and thus not visible from above. The first three sternites are not fused, instead being linked by mobile sutures. Most species possess wings, although the level of development and thus flight ability varies widely, including within a single species, and some are flightless with fused elytra.[4]


  • Subfamily Bruchinae Latreille, 1802 – includes the bean weevils or seed beetles
  • Subfamily Cassidinae Gyllenhal, 1813 – includes the tortoise beetles and prickly leaf beetles
  • Subfamily Chrysomelinae Latreille, 1802 – includes the broad-bodied leaf beetles
  • Subfamily Criocerinae Latreille, 1804 – includes the asparagus beetles and lily beetles
  • Subfamily Cryptocephalinae Gyllenhal, 1813 – includes cylindrical leaf beetles and warty leaf beetle
  • Subfamily Donaciinae Kirby, 1837 – includes the longhorned leaf beetles
  • Subfamily Eumolpinae Hope, 1840 – includes the oval leaf beetles
  • Subfamily Galerucinae Latreille, 1802 – includes the flea beetles
  • Subfamily Lamprosomatinae Lacordaire, 1848
  • Subfamily Sagrinae Leach, 1815 – frog-legged beetles or kangaroo beetles
  • Subfamily Spilopyrinae Chapuis, 1874
  • Subfamily Synetinae LeConte & Horn, 1883

Until recently, the Bruchinae subfamily was considered a separate family, while two former subfamilies are presently considered families (Orsodacnidae and Megalopodidae). Other commonly recognized subfamilies have recently been grouped with other subfamilies, usually reducing them to tribal rank (e.g., the former Alticinae, Chlamisinae, Clytrinae, and Hispinae).


Some species of wasps, such as Polistes carolina, have been known to prey upon Chrysomelidae larvae after the eggs are laid in flowers.[5]


  1. ^ "Chrysomelidae". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 
  2. ^ "Family Identification – Chrysomeloidea". University of Florida. Retrieved 2006-11-29. 
  3. ^ Jolivet, Pierre; Verma, Krishna K. (2002). Biology of Leaf Beetles. Andover: Intercept. pp. 5–9. ISBN 1-898298-86-6. 
  4. ^ Stresemann, Erwin (1994). Exkursionsfauna von Deutschland. Wirbellose Insekten. Erster Teil (8th ed.). Jena: Gustav Fischer Verlag. ISBN 3-334-60823-9. 
  5. ^ "Polistes carolina (Linnaeus, 1767)". Biology. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification. doi:10.3752/cjai.2008.05. Retrieved 2014-09-17. 

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