New Bug Discovered at Chicago Botanic Garden, Homeowners Warned

Tiddens said the beetle “seems to be on the verge of having a great impact in our area"

A new leaf-eating pest has been found in the Chicago Botanic Garden and officials at the garden warn it could soon have an impact on several homes in the Chicago area.

Tom Tiddens, the supervisor of plant health for the Botanic Garden, said viburnum leaf beetles were found at the garden for the first time Thursday.

Hundreds of larvae were found on arrowwood viburnum, the beetle’s preferred host, at two different locations at the garden. The pest had already done “significant damage” to one of the areas Tiddens said.

“If you live in the area, I suggest you monitor your viburnums for our new foreign friend,” Tiddens wrote on the garden’s website. “The sad thing about this critter is that once he moves in, he will become a perennial pest, just like Japanese beetles.”

Tiddens said the beetle “seems to be on the verge of having a great impact in our area.”

“Nearly everyone’s home landscape has viburnum,” he wrote.

The beetle, which is native to Europe, was first found in the U.S. in 1994 and in Cook County in 2009, according to the Botanic Garden. Its presence has been on the rise in the area since 2012.

The worm-like larvae and adults both feed on foliage and can cause defoliation, which can kill a viburnum plant after a few years. Adult females can lay up to 500 eggs at a time.

Pruning and destroying infested twigs in the fall is the best way to rid a garden of the pest, according to horticulture experts from Cornell University.

Another method is putting adult beetles in a basin of soapy water, though the method could prove time-consuming.

Tiddens said he plans to watch the pest and monitor the problem at the garden. There are about 8,400 viburnum plants at the garden. 

“This is something I’ll probably be dealing with from here on,” he said.

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