Viburnum beetle

Viburnum beetle can cause defoliation of some Viburnum species, especially V. tinus and V. opulus.

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Viburnum beetle damage on guelder rose Viburnum opulus

Quick facts

Common name Viburnum beetle
Scientific name Pyrrhalta viburni
Plants affected Viburnum tinus, V. opulus, V. lantana and other Viburnum spp.
Main symptoms Foliage with many holes eaten by the larvae and adult beetles
Most active Late April-June (larvae) and late July-August (adult beetles)

What is viburnum beetle?

Viburnum beetle is a leaf beetle (family Chrysomelidae) with about 250 species found in Britain. They all feed on plants, most are do not have a noticeable effect on garden plants, many are colourful and many species are  local or rare. 

Viburnum beetle feeds on viburnums. Most of the damage is caused by the larvae in spring but some further defoliation is done by the adult beetles in late summer.

Large numbers of larvae can result in most of the foliage being severely affected by late spring. Damaged leaves are often also discoloured with brown dried up edges to the holes. Affected Viburnum tinus often produces an unpleasant odour particularly when the foliage is wet.

Symptoms

  • Holes eaten in the leaves of viburnums, with the larger leaf veins remaining, giving the foliage a lace like appearance
  • Creamy yellow larvae, with black markings and up to 8mm long, are present on plants from April to June
  • Greyish brown adult beetles, 4.5-6mm long, feed on the leaves from late July to September

Control

Check susceptible plants frequently from spring onwards so action can be taken before a damaging population has developed. When choosing control options you can minimise harm to non-target animals by starting with the methods in the non-pesticide control section. If this is not sufficient to reduce the damage to acceptable levels then you may choose to use pesticides. Within this group the shorter persistence pesticides (that are usually certified for organic growing) are likely to be less damaging to non-target wildlife than those with longer persistence and/or systemic action.

Control for viburnum beetle if necessary, should be targeted at the larvae in spring. Adult beetles occurring later in the season cause less damage, can fly into gardens and are more tolerant of control measures. 

Non-pesticide control

  • Where possible tolerate populations of larvae and adult beetles, viburnums usually recover from defoliation caused by this beetle
  • Remove larvae by hand where practical
  • Encourage wildlife in the garden, such as birds and predatory ground beetles who will eat the larvae and sometimes the adult beetles.

Pesticide control

The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.
  • Organic contact insecticides containing natural pyrethrins (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer). These pesticides although broad spectrum have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep beetle numbers in check.
  • More persistent contact-action insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer, Provanto Sprayday Greenfly Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • A broad spectrum systemic insecticide containing the active ingredient Flupyradifurone (Provanto Smart Bug Killer) is available for use on ornamentals and selected edibles
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available
Follow label instructions when using pesticides.

Plants in flower should not be sprayed due to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects

Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by RHS Gardening Advice. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener

Downloads

Pesticides for gardeners (downloads pdf document outlining pesticides available to home gardeners)
 

Biology

Viburnum beetle overwinters as eggs that are deposited in the bark of the current years growth of viburnums in late summer. These eggs hatch in late April-early May and the larvae begin feeding on the new foliage. When fully fed in late May-June, the larvae go into the soil to pupate. Adult beetles emerge in late summer.

Most of the damage is caused by the larvae during late spring. Adult feeding damage on the foliage is much less extensive than that of the larvae.

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