EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Another invasive pest has made its way into Minnesota. 

The culprit this time is the viburnum leaf beetle, an invasive insect that as its name suggests, feeds on viburnum plants.

A resident of Eden Prairie first noticed an unusual-looking insect feeding on arrowwood viburnum leaves and notified the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). Staff inspectors came and collected samples to analyze. The United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) determined the insect was the viburnum leaf beetle.

The viburnum leaf beetle is an invasive insect native to Europe, and is currently found in the northeastern United States and Wisconsin. It feeds exclusively on different types of viburnum and can defoliate the plant like an asian beetle does. Repeated defoliation weakens the plant over time and can eventually kill viburnum.

"The insect was able to somehow hitch a ride from outside Minnesota and find its way to the Twin Cities metro area; however, we may never know exactly how it got here,” said Angie Ambourn, Supervisor of the MDA’s Pest Detection Unit. “Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the ease at which invasive insects, plants, and diseases can quickly spread throughout the U.S. and the world.”

Viburnum leaf beetle larvae are yellow to light brown with black spots and dashes on their bodies. Adult insects lay eggs along the twigs in egg pits that are easily seen with the naked eye.

Leaf beetle egg pods
Adult viburnum leaf beetle insects lay eggs along the twigs in egg pits that are easily seen with the naked eye.

There are several ways to control the spread of the viburnum leaf beetle. Homeowners and landscapers can select viburnum varieties that are resistant to the insect. Pruning and destroying infested twigs can be an effective control method. There are also chemicals available.

“It’s important that we get an understanding of where this insect may be in Minnesota and how big of an issue this is to homeowners,” said Ambourn.

There are several ways residents can report suspected viburnum leaf beetles to the MDA.

  • Send in photos, location, and other info via Arrest the Pest (the.pest@state.mn.us or 1-888-545-6684);
  • Report finds to EddMaps online; or,
  • Use the Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN) app for Android and IOS operating systems.

To learn more about the viburnum leaf beetle, visit the University of Wisconsin’s website.