Beetles devouring our lilly pillies

Over 12 months ago I spotted a bright green beetle on the outside of the window. It was similar in size and shape to a ladybird, but instead of red and black it was bright green.  I took a photo, admired its shiny shell then promptly forgot about it.

The deck in our backyard is bordered by several lilly pillies which have been looking sparse.  I took a clipping to the local nursery and they suggested I spray the trees with EcoPest oil, an insecticide which uses paraffin oil as an active ingredient.  I did this, and repeated the process several weeks later in order to eliminate any pests which might have hatched since the initial spray. Hoping I’d eliminated the pest, a month or so later new growth appeared on the trees and they were starting to look healthy.  A few days after spotting the new growth, I noticed the leaves were being eaten again.  The pest oil hadn’t solved my problem. Then, one morning while enjoying breakfast in the sun I spot the culprit – one of the bright green beetles I’d been admiring a year earlier!

As you can see in the video above, these little guys love to munch on lilly pilly leaves and can get through them pretty quickly!  Having caught them in action, it was time to identify the beetle and work out how to get them under control.

There’s quite a lot of content on the internet identifying these beetles as the green striped beetle, however as I read on the Coffs Harbour Garden Club website it was recently identified as paropsides calypso, an Australian native beetle originally from northern New South Wales which has spread to most of the east coast of Australia. In addition to the article on the Coffs Harbour Garden Club site, there’s an interesting podcast from Real World Gardener which is available on the Garden Drum blog.

According to both these sources, the the beetle generally hides in the soil during the day and feeds at night.  From my own experience, the beetles are more active of an evening when the plants are shaded but it is still light outside.  I’ve also seen them active on some warmer mornings. Both the beetles and their larvae, pictured below, feed on the leaves of the lilly pilly.  The larvae are a paler green than the beetle, and appear glossy as they are sticky to touch.

Paropsides calypso larva

Searching online I haven’t found many options for controlling this pest.  Over the past few weeks I’ve gone outside every couple of days to catch the beetles myself. They can be tricky to spot, but don’t move very fast so they’re not hard to catch.  Occasionally they’ll fly away, and sometimes drop from the tree if you knock the branch so it’s worth having one hand under the leaf as you reach for the beetle to catch it if it falls. Dropping it into soapy water is an effective way of drowning the beetles as the detergent breaks the surface tension preventing them from floating on top.  Over the past few weeks I’ve caught 134 beetles and 12 larvae.  Initially the numbers were around 20-30 in one hunt, but now are down around 10 at a time, so I’m hoping this is impacting the population and they’re starting to decline.

I’ve also been watering the plants regularly with Seasol and new growth is starting to develop. I’m hoping the plants will be more resilient if they’re well fed, and regular hunts will maintain the beetle population. The Coffs Harbour Garden Club also suggested diatomaceous earth as a possible way of preventing the beetles so I might head to the nursery and buy some of this to sprinkle over the soil.

If you’ve come across these beetles in your own garden, post a comment below to share your experience. Have you found an effective method of controlling them? I’m really keen to hear how anyone else has dealt with these beetles.

On a slightly more positive note, I was quite excited this morning to find what appeared to be a spider feasting on one of the beetles. It’s good to know I have an ally in this battle!

Spotted – this spider was feasting on a beetle!

 

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Ben

How have you gone since posting? I have just found these guys to be the culprit of my sparse looking lillipillys.
Any better remedies?

Karen Steele

Thank you for posting this! I have just spotted these bright green beetles on my Resilience lillipillies also. My husband and I figured something was having a munch since they are looking very sparse. They are only babies, too, planted about 6 months ago and were starting to really thicken up.
I’m very disappointed that there isn’t a chemical solution. However, I will be doing a beetle hunt every evening now to catch the little buggers! I also found a large grasshopper who now doesn’t have the guts to chew on my plants again!! Haha

Ben Huppert

Prior to winter i did a few sprays using a mix of eco-neem and eco-oil which seemed to kill them off. I did 4 sprays total over 4 weeks at different times of the day / night as I wasn’t sure when they were most active.
My lillipillies are now going nuts due to the spring weather and i haven’t seen a single new chewed leaf for the past 2-3 months.
Will keep a close eye but the solution seemed to do the trick. …either that or they don’t eat much of anything in winter.

Emily Mascord

Hi, im wondering if the neem oil will kill spiders too that are predators for these beetles and larvae?

Poppy

I have also had a problem with these horrid bugs. I did find nem eco oil effective a few months ago. Unfortunately they are back and I am about to spray them again. I got great success with spraying once a week for three weeks effective. It is also safe for my native bees i have.

[…] Beetles devouring our lilly pillies […]

Rachel

About a year ago I had this problem with my very large, mature hedge of lili pillies. I tried my regular stand-by treatmenets like Rogor but to no avail. I did a lot of research in to various insecticides but the pest was quite new then so opinions were divided. So I took matters in to my own hands. Since the beetles had devastated my plants, a lot of other pests had moved in. I had tiny white moths, black mildew, tiny black bugs and some kind of tiny flying insect etc. So I cut the plants back from front… Read more »

Cathy

Hi Derek, (I sent a comment earlier but it’s not showing so I hope I’m not doubling up). I also have this problem, I live in Melbourne and they the height of my fence. I sprayed them with a measured mix of Eco oil and neem oil. The neem oil is new here in Australia but from what I have read, the neem oil will stop them from feeling hungry and starve to death. I have noticed the larvae still there but not feeding and there are 2 types of wasps feedin off them. Then I spoke to a nurseryman… Read more »

Cathy

I spoke to my neighbour and she really isn’t fussed about it.😩 She’s not a gardener and has her dad do what he can in the garden. We both bought our new properties (townhouses side by side) with the new gardens about 18months ago and unfortunately the garden designer used Lilly pilly everywhere. We have little bushes that are the same family but a smaller leaf and I noticed a beetle and larvae on them too now🙀. Your blog was my first read about these beetles and that’s what got me interested in ridding of them on mine. It looks… Read more »

Kev

They started eating my syzygium australe hedge down here in victoria. I sprayed the foliage with confidor. No more beetles or larvae. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Fo1siFRcqw

Cathy

But “confidor” kills the bees as well. We don’t want that, do we.?

Kev

That’s an great point to bring up Cathy. Confidor should never be sprayed onto plants in flower. But it says that in the instructions 👍🏻

Cathy

I have given up on spraying for the moment. I watched a European wasp kill a Beetle and they also feed off the larvae and eggs which is good but now I can’t enjoy the outdoors due to the wasps chancing me or my dog. My dog caught one the other week and we had to rush her to the vet hospital for antihistamine as her tongue started to swell. My neighbor has the beetle and is not bothered, so I find it pointless for me to be spending time and money on mine.

Peter V

Is there any research Into birds that may eat the bug

Bryce

I have seen the kurrawongs feeding on something on my Lilly pilliys. Not sure if they are after the bug or lave or something else.

Reagan

We only found one

Reagan

By the way we only found one but as far as I can tell there are no Lilly pilly trees in the area can someone please explain this.

John

The beetles can in some some instances eat callistemon species but rare!

Ifthy

Hi everyone, has anyone tried coffee ground around the base of the trees with any success for this problem?

cathy

yes Derek. I have seen little tiny brown birds jumping around inside as well. I have also seen large birds too.

I got fed up with this problem and used a can of mortein. I used a very light spray over the tip of the bushes. They all fell off instantly and I actually heard them fall. I repeated this after 3 weeks and again, they fell off. now they are all gone and so far I haven’t seen any.

Ifthy

That’s interesting any damage to the plant with the mortien spray? Your answer is much appreciated. Thanks

Cathy

No. No damage at all. I only sprayed it lightly from about 50cm above the plants. I actually said to my husband that if the plants die after spraying, I was prepared to replace them all (I have 9 to form a hedge.) with magnolias. But I didn’t need to. And now that spring is apron us again, I was expecting to see some activity again, but I haven’t as yet. I sprayed before flowering last year so that I wouldn’t hurt the bees. I was getting European wasps feeding off the larvae and that was a problem as well.… Read more »

Ifthy

That’s very reassuring as I also took the risk and sprayed them today with Mortein, and you were correct as the beetles and larvae dropped like flies👏👏👏👏. Hopefully the plant will survive 🤞🤞🤞🤞

Cathy

👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 You will have to spray again in about 2 weeks when the other baby bugs emerge from the soil. You will see less activity as time passes and new leaves look healthy again.

Ifthy

Will certainly do. Thanks a lot for the suggestion.

Pierre Fabre

Hi Derek, I have been blaming the possum for this until now, I have seen the culprit it’s the green beetle .So I was researching on google, when I found your post. I have eco-oil and Yates mavrik in my cupboard which I will try thanks.

Pierre Fabre

It ‘s been a couple of days now Derek, I can see the beetle are affected but not dead, I am afraid that they might shake their head and start again. So I will try the Eco neem and Eco oil mixture.

Mia

I noticed our Syzygiums have been sparse at the start of the year; hence I looked closely and realized “something” indeed was munching on the leaves. I sprayed it with Pyrethrum however these munchers came back this spring season. I never knew what was the culprit until like you, Derek came to admire this cute little green beetle. Who would have thought it was these cute creatures? Bunnings have recommended to use Eco Neem and so i got a concentrated bottle. I have sprayed 2x in a week I noticed new growth however I still found these pests today eating… Read more »

Claudio Mancini

I planted about 150m of these Lilly pillies about 6years ago in Melbourne, they were thriving for a while but I became very disappointed when I noticed the devastation these green bugs caused last year.
I’m seriously thinking of chopping them all as there’s too much work involved in killing these green bugs… very disappointed 🙁

Rob

Please read my last post before you chop them down.

Rob

Hi folks I too have these nasty little green bugs from Mars, they have devastated my Lilly pillys, So after reading all your reply’s & suggestions, (Thank you very much) I have decided my plan is going to be a full on blitzkrieg attack. 1. buy some mortien type spray & in the evening spray 5 liters onto Lilly 2. 12 hours later hose off with water 3. spray with seasol 4. spray with Eco-Neem & Eco oil. 5. clear all dead leaves from under Lilly & place some diatomaceous earth around base of trees. “How does diatomaceous earth kill… Read more »

Rob

I was going to go full tilt boogie with these little green monsters, But I had a change of plan, after a huge storm & downpour I noticed the rain washed off the beetle poo, that’s the only way I knew as to what was eating Lilly so I hosed an area 1 panel of colourbond fence, no poo on leaves right. Then I sprayed Aldi’s Atlas fast knockdown insect spray over that area. Now the plant was dying because of these beetles, so nothing to lose. Well sorry to all the little spiders & other bugs , but they’ll… Read more »

Rob

Still no sign of these little green monsters from Mars,
New growth is beautiful

Rob McCarthy

The green bastards are back, I hope I have caught them early.
I have just sprayed two cans of insecticide on the trees & they are jumping off & dying on the ground.
Sorry to all the other insects.
Collateral damage, but they’ll be back

Tim

Hi Derek, I had no luck with Eco Oil but lately I’ve been using Yates Mavrik, which certainly knocks the green beetles out of the trees and kills them. You have to do it once a week to control them but seems to work. Always hard to tell if they’re back, I actually thought that by purchasing the ‘resilience’ version that they were impervious to any bug attack, but that was a newbie mistake. Tim

Mark La Brooy

I am in Melbourne . Moved to a new house 3 years ago and planted 17 X Backyard Bliss to form a hedge. Last summer, when the plants were approx 1.5 metres tall I noticed that about 1/3 of the foliage had been eaten and there were loads of green beetles and larvae on the leaves. I googled lilly pilly beetle and was able to identify the insect. There were so many of them that I used a knock-down insecticide spray and followed this up with a drenching of Yates Success. This year (mid November) I noticed a few beetles… Read more »

John

One spray with yates baythroid with weed sprayer will solve the issue within 1 night. Read my review

https://www.productreview.com.au/reviews/3be5edfc-4849-42de-93dc-e729f42ba251

John Marsh

I too have been fighting the beatles. Thought I’d beaten them last year using tarps to cover the hedge and a good blasting of raid initially, followed up with eco neem / eco oil mix. But a few are bact again this year , so the fight is back on. Takes a couple of spays to take effect as it has to soak into the leaves and then poisons them slowly according to the spruck . I use a fish pond net to tap underneath branches to monitor any presents

Arczie

These bugs are pretty but a real pest, I have tried everything for two years and the only solution that actually works well is Imidacloprid, make up a concentrated mixture with water and apply to the roots. Make sure the roots are water well prior. Don’t waste your money on other products. I have also sprayed the trees with fly spray which kills them instantly but only works briefly as they their larvae is embedded nearby. Make certain they are not flowering as you don’t want to harm bees or other friendlies.

Jim Gardiner

I have found Eco Neem and Eco Oil mixed equally works well. I will also try your suggestions, thank you

john

Happy to report. This is the third year facing this problem in Melbourne. All the new growth gone within a few weeks. Eco Neem and Eco Oil mixed equally works to a certain extent and has been my go-to in years prior. Last week I sprayed the trees with Baythroid Advanced from Bunnings. Spectacular results within hours. The beetles and their grubs fell to the ground by the end of the day in large numbers. Our resident noisy minors, our magpies and our resident ravens were having a feast day. My initial concern was not warranted as 3 days later,… Read more »

Lachlan Maple

Initiator Tablets by Bayer will fix this problem. They are available from Specialist Sales in Toowomba. Put the tablets directly into the root ball about 5-10 cm below the surface. You need 1 tablet per metre of plant height. They take a few weeks to be taken up into the plants vascular system to begin work. They also have a fertiliser in the tablet which improves the plant health.

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