Leaf beetles can be a major nuisance for gardeners and homeowners alike, as they munch away at your precious plants and flowers. These small, but destructive pests come in various sizes and colors, feeding on a wide variety of garden plants. One of the most common pests targeting plants like viburnums, beans, and roses is the viburnum leaf beetle, which requires special attention to prevent and control infestations.
Several methods can be effectively used to get rid of leaf beetles. For example, handpicking and using targeted insecticides can help minimize damage to your garden. Early monitoring, especially for roses and beans, can also make a big difference in stemming the leaf beetle invasion. Now that you’re aware of the issue, let’s explore the various ways you can combat these pesky pests and protect your prized plants.
Identifying Leaf Beetles
Color and Size
Leaf beetles come in various shades and sizes, typically ranging from 1/16 to 1/8 inch long. They are found in diverse colors, including black, bronze, brown, blue, and gray. A helpful tip while identifying leaf beetles is to observe their color and size closely.
Species Commonly Found
There are quite a few species of leaf beetles known to cause damage to plants:
- Viburnum Leaf Beetle: An invasive insect, Pyrrhalta viburni, that targets viburnum plants and causes significant damage to the leaves ( source )
- Elm Leaf Beetle: Xanthogaleruca luteola, a common beetle that infests elm trees, causing skeletonized leaves ( source )
- Flea Beetle: A group of small beetles that feed on various garden plants ( source )
- Rose Chafer: An insect known for damaging fruit and ornamental plants, particularly in sandy soil areas ( source )
Damage Caused by Leaf Beetles
Leaf beetles can cause different types of damage, depending on the species:
- Viburnum Leaf Beetle: Eats holes in the leaves and can defoliate viburnum plants
- Elm Leaf Beetle: Larvae chew on leaf undersides, avoiding large veins, resulting in skeletonized leaves
- Flea Beetle: Feeds on various garden plants, leaving tiny holes and damage throughout
- Rose Chafer: Consumes foliage, buds, and petals, causing injury to plants
Leaf Beetle Life Cycle
Leaf beetles typically lay their eggs on the leaves of host plants. For example, elm leaf beetles lay eggs on the underside of elm tree leaves1. Females usually deposit clusters of eggs, ranging from several to dozens depending on the species.
After hatching, the larval stage begins. During this phase, larvae feed on the leaves of their host plant, causing damage and skeletonization1. Elm leaf beetle larvae, for instance, prefer to chew on the underside of leaves while avoiding larger leaf veins1. Some common characteristics of leaf beetle larvae:
- Grub-like appearance
- Voracious eaters
- Skeletonize leaves
As the larval stage ends, leaf beetles undergo metamorphosis in the pupal stage. This stage is when the insect transforms from a larva into an adult beetle. The pupa doesn’t feed and is usually motionless, found beneath the soil or in protected areas near host plants.
Adult leaf beetles emerge after the pupal stage and continue to feed on the leaves of their host plant2. Males and females mate and reproduce, completing the life cycle and ensuring the survival of the next generation.
Comparing eggs, larvae, pupa, and adults:
|Deposited on host plant leaves
|Underside of leaves
|Grub-like, feed on leaves
|On or near host plants
|Transformative period, no feeding
|Soil or protected areas
|Mature beetles, mate and reproduce
|Feed on host plant
|On or near host plants
Natural Control Methods
Promoting Natural Predators
Attracting natural predators to your garden can help keep leaf beetle populations in check. Some examples of natural predators include:
- Birds: Provide nesting sites, birdhouses, and birdbaths to welcome birds.
- Lady beetles: Plant flowers such as dill, parsley, and coriander to attract them.
- Parasitic wasps: These tiny insects prey on leaf beetle larvae and can be attracted with plants like yarrow and fennel.
Hand-Picking and Soapy Water Solution
Another effective method is hand-picking the beetles off your plants, which is easier during the morning and evening when they are less active. Dispose of the beetles by dropping them into a bucket of soapy water.
Using Neem Oil
Neem oil is a natural insecticide that can help control leaf beetles. Here are some pros and cons of using neem oil:
- Biodegradable and safe for the environment.
- Non-toxic to beneficial insects like bees and lady beetles.
- Must be applied regularly for effective control.
- May cause skin irritation in some users.
|No need for chemicals; promotes biodiversity in the garden.
|Takes time to establish predator populations.
|Immediate results; no chemicals required.
|Natural insecticide; biodegradable and safe for beneficial insects.
|Requires regular application; possible skin irritation.
Using these methods in combination can effectively reduce leaf beetle populations and protect your garden from their damage.
Proper Garden Maintenance
One effective way to discourage leaf beetles is by maintaining a clean and healthy garden environment. Gardeners should regularly:
- Remove weeds
- Monitor plant health
- Address pest infestations early
A well-maintained garden promotes the growth of beneficial insects, which can help control leaf beetle populations.
Using Mulch and Plant Debris
Applying a layer of mulch or plant debris on the soil surface can create an unfavorable environment for many pests, including leaf beetles. Some benefits of using mulch or plant debris include:
- Reduces weed growth
- Adds nutrients to the soil
- Helps retain soil moisture
However, be cautious when using plant debris, as it may sometimes harbor pests.
Planting Garlic and Diverse Plant Species
Intercropping garlic with other plants can help repel leaf beetles and other pests. Garlic releases a strong-smelling compound that may deter beetles from infesting the area. Additionally, planting a diverse range of plant species can:
- Attract natural predators of leaf beetles
- Improve overall garden health
- Minimize pest damage if an infestation occurs
|Promotes beneficial insects
|Mulch and Plant Debris
|Provides multiple benefits
|Plant debris may harbor pests
|Repels leaf beetles
|May affect neighboring plants
|Diverse Plant Species
|Attracts natural predators
|Requires careful planning
In conclusion, using cultural control methods such as proper garden maintenance, mulch and plant debris, and planting garlic and diverse plant species, can help manage and prevent leaf beetle infestations.
Insecticides for Leaf Beetle Infestations
Several insecticides can be helpful in controlling leaf beetle infestations. For example, insecticidal soaps, spinosad, and chlorantraniliprole (Acelepryn) can help control the beetles with reduced harm to beneficial insects.
- Insecticidal soaps
- Chlorantraniliprole (Acelepryn)
|Less harmful to beneficial insects
|Less effective on adult beetles
|Effective on larvae and adult beetles
|Effective on larvae and adult beetles
When to Apply Chemical Treatments
Timing is crucial for effective control of leaf beetles. These insecticides work best when applied to larvae early in the life cycle, likely in late April or early May. Keep in mind that cultural, mechanical, and biological control strategies should be considered as well, before resorting to chemical treatments.
Preventing Leaf Beetle Infestations
Inspecting Plants Regularly
Regularly inspecting your plants is an essential step in preventing leaf beetle infestations. Keep an eye out for signs of damage, such as skeletonized leaves and small holes. Early detection allows for quick action against both larvae and adult beetles.
- Early detection
- Prevents infestations from getting out of control
- Requires consistent monitoring
Choosing Resistant Plant Varieties
Some plant species are more resistant to leaf beetle infestations than others. Opting for these varieties can help reduce the likelihood of encountering this issue.
Examples of resistant plants:
- Flowers: Marigolds, Salvia
- Trees: Birch, Oak
- Garden plants: Tomatoes, Peppers
In conclusion, to prevent leaf beetle infestations, regular inspection of your plants and choosing resistant varieties are essential steps to take. These measures help in identifying potential issues early and reducing the risk of damage to your garden.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Mating Orchid Loving Leaf Beetles from Thailand
Subject: Pumpkin Beetle
Location: Thailand, Chiang Mai
March 2, 2015 8:01 pm
thank you and you are right after searching for the name.
Here is something that might interest you:
This is an “orchid lover” … a real pest at orchid nurseries here in Thailand.
People call it “Pumpkin beetle” (Aulacophora abdominalis) but it isn’t one. Look at black legs and antennae.
And it’s neither Stethopachys formosa or Lema pectoralis, but close to them.
The bug and its larvae love orchid flowers, especially these of the Aeridinae group (Vanda, Rhynchostylis, Seidenfadenia and all of their hybrids), Dendrobium and Spathoglottis.
Regards … Ricci
In the future, please submit new requests by using our standard submission form. We realize it is easier for you to just attach additional images to a previous response, but it makes our postings so much easier if we are able to use the format of our submission form. Thanks so much for sending us images of two phases of this Leaf Beetle. We haven’t the time to research its identity this morning, but we are posting the images and we will provide additional feedback at a later time. We hope the eggs are not exported with the orchids because the introduction of a major orchid pest can wreak havoc on orchid nurseries around the globe as orchids are such a popular gift item.
Update: March 4, 2015
We did locate this similar search for an identification on the Dokmai Dogma Drama In The Orchid Nursery posting.
the orchid nurseries that export their plants use so much poison (most of it is forbidden in Europe) … no egg or Beetle will survive this.
When I asked a friend who own a nursery about this beetle, she answered:
“For bug (Pumpkin beetle) use Dicrotophos and Sticking Agent spray 5 days per time. And larva use Abamectin and Sticking Agent.”
Abamectin and Dicrotophos are highly toxic and dangerous for the environment.
– In Australia the black and yellow Dendrobium beetle (Stethopachys formosa) is a pest in orchid nurseries.
– Lema pectoralis has been reported from orchid nurseries in Thailand.
Letter 2 – Plantain Leaf Beetle from Spain
Subject: Chrysomelidae in Spain
April 19, 2017 6:29 am
I would like to know the name of this bug I saw in the Cantabrian region (north of Spain) last week. I’ve searched through lots of websites and the only information I got is that it could be from the Chrysomelidae family.
I appreciate your help!
We tried, unsuccessfully, to identify this distinctive looking Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck than we have had.
PS. I love your site
Plantain Leaf Beetle identification thanks to Karl
Hello Daniel and Claudia:
This distinctive beetle is Oedionychus cinctus (Family Chrysomelidae: Subfamily Galerucinae: Tribe Alticini). The common name appears to be Plantain Flee Beetle, and its distribution is Portugal, Spain and southern France. Regards, Karl
Letter 3 – Mating Leaf Beetles: Calligrapha verrucosa
Beige Bug Nookie
Wed, May 27, 2009 at 5:11 PM
I decided to head down to the river today to see what bugs I could dig up and I found this amorous couple having a lovely time on a branch. It was very windy, but they didn’t seem to mind.
The (female?) on the bottom finally got perturbed with me & started to move, but as her lover wasn’t about to take off, it nearly made me giggle – she was going very slow, and it didn’t look like she was slow by choice.
They’re extremely colourful (if not clashing a tad with those red legs!), but they posed nicely for me and I’ve sent 2 clips along to you.
Enjoy! And hopefully, you’ll be able to tell me what they are. 🙂
On the shores of the Oldman River, near Taber. Alberta, Canada.
Your pair is Calligrapha verrucosa, a species of Leaf Beetle without a common name. According to BugGuide, they feed on the leaves of willow. All of the photos posted to BugGuide were from Saskatchewan.
Letter 4 – Mating Lily Leaf Beetles
JUST LOVE your site. And, my little ones do too! My almost-2-year old came across the pair of these little beetles mating and she was just fascinated by them. So, I saw the photo op and thought I’d forward to you for your enjoyment/possible posting. Happy July!
These are mating Lily Leaf Beetles, Lilioceris lilii. It is an invasive introduced species.
Letter 5 – Mating Lily Leaf Beetles
May 20, 2010
Hey i found them in our flower bed mating. Not sure what these are but look harmless.
Prince Edward Island, Canada
These are mating Lily Leaf Beetles, Lilioceris lilii, a species accidentally introduced from Eurasia into Canada where it has become very well established.
Letter 6 – Mating Red Turnip Beetles from Canada
Subject: Beetles Matting
Geographic location of the bug:peter Laugheed Park, Alberta, Canada
Time: 12:48 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Found these bettles matting on Foxtail Barley along lake shore. Currious as to what they are.
How you want your letter signed: Larry Halverson
Because we quickly recognized these as Leaf Beetles in the family Chrysomelidae, we were able to identify them as mating Red Turnip Beetles, Entomoscelis americana, on BugGuide. According to BugGuide: “occasional pest of canola, rapeseed and mustard in the northern Great Plains; may also damage other crucifer crops (turnips, cabbage). Larvae and adults feed on plants at night.”
Letter 7 – Mating Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle
swamp milkweed leaf beetle
This large ladybug looking beetle is feeding on my butterfly plant (Asciepias) here in south central Wisconsin (Dodge County). I included a ruler (using metric) for reference in size in the picture. Actually got 2–mating I imagine. From your page and other websites it would certainly appear to be Labidomera clivicollis or swamp milkweed leaf beetle. Feel free to use the image if it is useful to you.
Sew Happy in Wisconsin
Your identification is correct, and we are thrilled to post your photo of a Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle.
Letter 8 – Mating Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetles
Subject: I’d beetle
Location: St. Paul MN
June 3, 2017 4:45 pm
Weeding my wild flowers. Veggie garden nearby. Saw these in the dirt. I am not having luck on my own. Thanks!
Do you have any milkweed growing in your garden? That is the preferred food plant of these mating Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetles, Labidomera clivicollis, and you can verify our identification by comparing to this BugGuide image. According to BugGuide: “Often overwinter as adults among leaves, e.g. on mullein (Verbascum). Adults mate on or around milkweed. Eggs are cemented to the underside of leaves. Larvae feed on leaves, and drop to ground to pupate.” According to Bug of the Week: “Adult beetles are voracious feeders and they quickly removed large slices of the leaves. Leaf protein is translated into batches of eggs within the female beetle. About a week after eggs are laid, rotund orange beetle larvae hatched from these eggs and grazed mightily on my milkweed. Larvae move to the soil to pupate and by September a fresh batch of adult beetles had emerged and colonized the milkweed. Adults of this generation fatten up on milkweed leaves before finding a protected refuge somewhere in my garden to spend the winter.” We are post-dating your submission to go live to our site later in the month while our editorial staff is away on holiday.
Letter 9 – Nicaraguan Leaf Beetle
I took picture of this in Nicaragua while on vacation, but cannot ID it. I’m an amateur photographer and science educator, and would like to be able to identify this before putting it up on my website. Any clue? Thanks,
All we can say with any certainty is that this is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae, and possibly a Flea Beetle in the tribe Alticini.
Letter 10 – Northern Corn Rootworm
Nasty lime green beetle turning a bit yellow now. They do fly and they don’t like it when I water.
September 12, 2009
Moved in, on the leaves of the pumpkin plants, now starting on the blossoms. Then some went to the sunflowers, too.
These are the BIG pumpkins, and don’t want them going to the pumpkins themselves.
Extreme north central Iowa, close to the Minnesota border.
We believe these are Northern Corn Rootworms, Diabrotica barberi, a species of Skeletonizing Leaf Beetle, based on images posted to BugGuide.
Letter 11 – Opulent Lema Leaf Beetle
Unknown leaf beetle on tomatoes in Austin, TX
May 15, 2010
I work at the Natural Gardener in Austin, Texas. We have had a handful of customers come in with these guys in plastic bags, wanting us to identify them. We have not been able to find anything exactly right. Can you id them? They have been on tomatoes, for the most part, en masse.
We did a web search of “tomato leaf beetle” and quickly identified your Opulent Lema Leaf Beetles, Lema opulenta, on BugGuide. All reports on BugGuide are from Texas, though it is indicated the range is from Texas south into Central America.
Letter 12 – Possibly Elm Leaf Beetle
Subject: what kind of bug is this?
Location: reno, nv
December 8, 2014 12:18 pm
I just recently moved in to a new apartment and since the first day I’ve been finding these little bugs. I have no idea what they are. I find them mainly in the living room and by the kitchen and upstairs window. Usually they are dead, or playing dead. I think they can fly by I haven’t seen them do it. But I am really tired of finding them. Is there any way to get rid of them naturally?
Signature: bugged out
Dear bugged out,
This is some species of Leaf Beetle, and we believe the Elm Leaf Beetle, Xanthogaleruca luteola, which is pictured on BugGuide is a close match and distinct possibility. According to BugGuide: “Native to w. Palaearctic(4), adventive and now widespread in N. America (more common in sw US).”
Letter 13 – Possibly Leaf Beetle
Subject: Beautiful beetle
February 21, 2015 3:04 pm
Hello again! I found this lovely iridescent beetle this morning, sitting on a leaf near one of our tiny seasonal creeks. It looks something like Chrysochus auratus, but the references I see for that species say it is found in Northeastern US, and I am in the Sierra Foothills of California (oak savannah terrain). Can you help me identify this one?
Signature: Megan Ralph
This is not a Dogbane Leaf Beetle, but we believe your metallic beetle is also a member of the Leaf Beetle family Chrysomelidae. At this time, our research has not produced a visual match.
Letter 14 – Possibly Leaf Beetle from South Africa
Subject: South African Ladybug ID please
Location: Kruger National Park, South Africa
November 9, 2012 12:16 pm
I took this photo in Kruger Nat’l Park, South Africa in September (20-23), 2012. I can’t find it in my field guide nor in the 11 pages here. Thanks so much, should you be able to help me.
P.S. I have more photos if needed.
We have not had any success with a species identification for you just yet. We believe this is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae.
Thanks so much for your time spent on this one, as I know it is a precious commodity with all the requests you receive. Most appreciated, Elaine
Letter 15 – Possibly Leaf Beetle Larva
Subject: 8mm Thornbush-Bug
Location: Limpopo, South Africa
February 13, 2014 12:25 pm
I photographed this bug at Mabula Lodge, Limpopo.
It’s about 8mm long.
It carries it’s tail, which looks like dry twigs, above it’s back.
When relaxed and no movement about the tail relaxes and gets let down behind it.
Subject: 8mm Thing
Location: Limpopo, South Africa
February 15, 2014 12:40 pm
Photographed this thingy at Mabula Lodge, Limpopo, South Africa.
It’s about 8mm long and carries it’s, dry twigs type tail above it’s back.
Signature: Johann Clements
Thank you for resending your request. Though we have not been able to identify your insect, we can provide you with some information. Due to the absence of pro-legs, we believe this is a beetle larva and not a caterpillar. What you believe to be dry twigs is actually the cast off skin that occurs during the molting process. There are many species of Leaf Beetle Larvae that exhibit this behavior, so we believe this might be the larva of a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. Is the thorn bush an acacia? Knowing the food plant should aid in the identification process.
Thanks for the feedback, greatly appreciated.
Sorry, the “thorn bush” was only a name I gave the photo.
I did not identify the plant that it was on.
Thanks a lot!
Letter 16 – Possibly Ragweed Leaf Beetle
Subject: Beetle on Coreopsis grandiflora in late May, Ontario
Location: Ottawa, Ontario
May 26, 2013 12:28 pm
I returned from a week away to find my garden in full bloom, and these bugs, beetles I think , covering the flower buds and in the leaf axils of 2 Coreopsis grandiflora that I planted in my garden about a month ago , obtained from a local nursery, that gets them from elsewhere I am sure.
I would like to know what they are, I think they seem intent on eating the foliage.
I have also notesd that where they were planted is too moist, the plants have powdery mildew which may be predisposing them to attack by bugs.
My garden is in Ottawa, Ontario, season late spring.
Here are some photos. Shall I pick and destroy. Or leave them be?
These are Leaf Beetles in the family Chrysomelidae. We believe them to be in the genus Zygogramma, and we believe they might be Ragweed Leaf Beetles, Zygogramma suturalis. According to bugGuide: “Food host: ragweed (Ambrosia, Asteraceae).” Coreopsis is in the family Asteraceae. We will be leaving town in early June and we are postdating your submission to go live next week.
Letter 17 – Probably Beetle Larva
Subject: We found a bug mystery
Location: San Diego
April 6, 2017 5:29 pm
And by we I mean me and my cute 6 year old bug scientist daughter.
While we would very much like to provide you with a definitive identification for your 6 year old bug scientist daughter, the best we are able to provide is that this appears to be a Beetle larva. There do not appear to be any visible wings present. We are curious why it is just a guess that it is eating leaves, and if so, what kind of leaves? That might help with the identification.
Letter 18 – Ragweed Leaf Beetle
Hi, I checked out your site and found pictures of a Striped Ladybird Beetle and thought the ones I snapped of this bug were very similar, but the head seems to be different. The colors are the same even if the stripe pattern is a little different. Is this the same bug?
What a wonderful image of a Ragweed Leaf Beetle, Zygogramma suturalis.
Letter 19 – Red Bycid from UK: Pyrrhidium sanguinium
Subject: Red bug UK
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
March 27, 2016 6:22 am
This was found this week in my house in the north east of the UK. Newcastle upon Tyne. It was about a centimetre in length.
I’d love to know what it is 🙂
Your request has us stumped. Our initial impression remains that this is a Longhorned Borer Beetle in the family Cerambycidae, however we could not locate any matching images on the sites Nature Spot, the Website of the Watford Coleoptera Group or Eakring Birds. Longhorned Borer Beetles and Leaf Beetles are grouped together taxonomically into the superfamily Chrysomeloidea, which means they share some physical similarities, and there is a red Lily Leaf Beetle that looks similar to your individual, however, the antennae in your images look more like the antennae of a member of the family Cerambycidae than of a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae. Information on the Lily Leaf Beetle can be found on The Telegraph. We really don’t believe you have submitted an image of a Lily Leaf Beetle, but that is a possibility. We are leaning toward this being a Longhorned Borer Beetle or Bycid, and we hope to have a conclusive ID for you soon. Perhaps our readership will be able to assist us.
Update: March 27, 2016
Upon receiving a comment that this is a rare Cerambycid, Pyrrhidium sanguinium, we located an Encyclopedia of Life posting indicating the common name is the Welsh Oak Longhorn Beetle. The description on Forest Pests is: “7-12 mm. Holomediterranean, common in broad-leaved forests. The main foodplant is oak. Larvae develop under the bark, and pupate in the heartwood, where the pupae overwinter. Adults fly in April and May.” According to iNaturalist: “larva of Pyrrhidium sanguineum feeds within dead surface sapwood (stump) of Quercus.” The most information we located quickly is on the Worcestershire Record where it states: “LITERALLY COMING OUT OF THE WOODWORK Roger Umpelby
This small (6-15mm long) bright red species seems to be establishing itself across the county with the latest record coming from the south-eastern corner of the county in Ashton-under-Hill in April 2009. As with several previous records the beetles emerged from cut logs both inside and outside. The original source of the logs is not known, but the timber had been stored in the wood yard in the village for well over a year, and since the beetle has a one-year life cycle, it must be established and breeding here. Previous county records are from March 2006 at Defford, Wyre Forest in 2008 and Drakes Broughton in May 2008.
This species is distributed throughout Europe and North Africa and into the Middle East. In central Europe it is one of the commonest longhorn beetles, but in the UK it is rare (RDB2). The larvae feed under bark of dead branches and trunks but, unlike some other longhorn species, eggs are readily laid in newly cut timber. Although oak is the favoured host, other deciduous trees are also hosts.
Sadly like other red beetles in the UK it frequently suffers from ‘mistaken identity’, as most gardeners assume any all-red beetle is a lily beetle Lilioceris lilii and kill them.”
How interesting! It could have come from the cut timber we bought for firewood I guess! I’ll keep an eye out for more. Thank you for letting me know 🙂