Viburnum Leaf Beetle Pyrrhalta viburni (Paykull) in the Nursery and Landscape

OMAFRA Nursery - Landscape Series

OMAFRA Nursery - Landscape Series

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Origins and Distribution
  3. Host Plants
  4. Symptoms
  5. Life Cycle
  6. Control
  7. Related Links


Recently, this beetle, closely related to the common elm leaf beetle, Pyrrhalta luteola (Mhller), has become a concern in many urban landscapes and nurseries. It can strip the leaves from viburnums in a relatively short period of time.

Origins and Distribution

Originally from Europe and Asia, established breeding populations were first recorded in 1978 in the Ottawa-Hull area.

Host Plants

Both the adult and larva feed on viburnums.

Table 1. Host Plant Preference of Viburnum Leaf Beetle
Preferred Host Viburnum opulus, European highbush cranberry and its selections
Moderate Damage V. lantana, wayfaringtree viburnum V. rafinesquianum, rafinesque viburnum
Slight Injury V. dentatum, arrowwood viburnum V. trilobum, American highbush cranberry viburnum
Injury from adults under laboratory conditions V. acerifolium, mapleleaf viburnum V. lentago, nannyberry viburnum


Look for skeletonized leaves. Both the adult and the larva feed on the leaves between the midrib and larger veins. This gives the leaves a lace-like or skeleton appearance. Plants which have been defoliated for 2 or 3 consecutive years may be killed. Closely examine the small twigs for egg laying holes and scars.

Life Cycle

Viburnum leaf beetles overwinter as eggs. Eggs hatch in May and the larvae begin feeding on the developing leaves. The larvae are quite small and darkly coloured when they first emerge. First feeding injury appears as small pin pricks or holes. By June the skeletonizing has become quite apparent.

In June, larvae drop or migrate to the ground to pupate in the soil. Adult beetles emerge in late July. They are about 4.5 to 6.5 mm in length and brown in colour. When disturbed, they will fly away or drop to the ground.

Females lay eggs from late summer to the first frost. A hole is chewed in the small twigs. Several eggs are laid in each hole, which is then covered with a mixture of chewed wood and excrement. Egg laying holes can be found in a straight line on the underside of the current season's growth. A single female may lay up to a total of 500 eggs per season.

The beetle's life cycle, from egg hatch to adult takes about 8 to 10 weeks.


In the early spring, closely examine the small twigs from the previous season. Look for the overwintering egg sites. As the temperature increase, these holes appear to swell and the caps of the holes fall off. Prune out and destroy affected wood before egg hatch has occurred.

Once leaves have begun to expand, examine both the surface and the underside for feeding larvae.

If chemical controls are to be used, best control will probably be achieved if applied while larvae are young. Adults may be more difficult to control as they will fly away or drop to the ground if disturbed.

For chemical controls, consult Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Publication 840, Crop Protection Guide for Nursery and Landscape Plants.

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