Marianne CannonWhat’s eating my lilly pilly?

All down the east coast of Australia, gardeners with lilly pilly hedges have been noticing lots of chewed and damaged foliage. While it used to be pimple psyllid that most affected lilly pillies, causing those ugly pimply bumps all over the leaves followed by lots of sooty mould, there’s now a relatively new insect pest that’s doing as much, if not more, damage on Syzygium australe and its cultivars – a native green leaf-eating beetle called Paropsides calypso**.

Green leaf-eating beetle, Paropsides calypso, on lilly pilly

Green leaf-eating beetle, Paropsides calypso, on lilly pilly

 

An infestation of Paropsides calypso leaf-eating beetles can give a healthy, dense-foliaged lilly pilly a sparse, lacy thread-bare look in the space of just a few weeks.

Larvae of the green leaf-eating beetle that eats lilly pilly leaves

 

I talk with Steve Falcioni of OCP about how to recognise Paropsides calypso beetle damage on your lilly pilly, about the beetle’s life cycle (both the larvae and the adult beetle eat lilly pilly leaves), and get some advice on how you could control it.

 

**Note that this leaf beetle been incorrectly identified elsewhere as Calomela pallida, the green strip leaf beetle.

 

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Marianne Cannon

About Marianne Cannon

Marianne Cannon has been broadcasting as Real World Gardener on radio 2RRR 88.5fm in Sydney, since September 2009, and the program is now syndicated to radio stations around Australia. It's about growing your own, the abc of plants, and how to create sustainable gardens to fit into today's environment. Not just a show about plants; it has a strong green and ecological bent, with co-presenters addressing issues such as native animals and plants, water conservation, composting, reducing waste, protecting native species and more.

43 thoughts on “What’s eating my lilly pilly?

  1. I have 12 small (1-1.5m) lilly pilly as a hedge. 3 years ago all new growth was stripped off by something, I could not find any sign of beetles, grubs etc. The following season I sprayed (?), infestation damage minimal. Next season no action. Last year good new growth, then the monsters hit very hard and stripped most of the new foliage within a couple of weeks. the current damage of thread bare stems of 100 to 150 mm. A month ago I spotted a green ladybird beetle (1 only). The Falcioni description fits like a glove. It appears that the Paropsides calypso beetle has been in SA (Adelaide) for some time.

    • thank you what did you spray with ,,, i live in newcastle NSW. can not find beetle… but many of the little larvae .richard

      • Hello Richard,
        There is no chemical registered for control of Paropsides calypso and because of that we cannot recommend anything.
        However, as the larvae and adult green leaf-eating beetle are chewing insects you may wish to try an organic alternative.
        Neem Oil has been proven to control and is registered for, various chewing insects although not this one.
        As yet there have been no trials carried out to test the effectiveness of Neem Oil on the green leaf-eating beetle. A post from 2016, has said that Neem Oil has eradicated the pest problem on their Lilly Pilly hedge.

        regards
        Marianne

    • Hello Barry I hope this helps you, it certainly helped me. For about a year I have been battling with the dreaded Calypso Beetle but at last I may have beaten them. It was suggested by my nurseryman that I try Searls “Conguard” insecticide.
      I have sprayed twice, and from the first spray there has been on sign of the beetle or larvae. My Lilly Pilly trees are now looking great with lots of young growth. So hopefully that is the end of the Calypso Beetle, fingers crossed.

  2. Hello Barry,

    yes I suppose they do look like a green lady beetle. It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve been around for some time but perhaps not in so great a number.
    The popularity of planting lilly pilly hedges seem to have given the beetles more food to chew on.

    Glad to be of help.

    regards
    Marianne

  3. We have had the same problem. It is the green strip beetle causing the damage. They come out at night to feast. They live and breed in the soil. Usually they die off in winter but because we only had a mild winter they are in the war path. We used Confidor spay on the hedge and put confidor tablets in the soil. Within 4 weeks we have new growth and it’s nearly back to normal. I have been taking progress photos and it’s amazing to look back at the damage they have done.

    • Hi Suzanne – as I need to keep this webpage accurate I will correct you here, it’s the green leaf-eating beetle Paropsides calypso that’s been eating your lilly pilly, not the green strip leaf beetle, which is Calomela pallida. It’s a common misidentification because so many people have called it that online before but important to get it right as they have different life cycles and habits.
      Confidor is not registered for controlling leaf-eating beetle and contains imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid poison implicated in bee colony collapse disorder. As many lilly pillies are flowering now, it’s a very dangerous time to be spraying this insecticide about.

  4. Further to Catherine’s reply, there is no chemical registered for control of Paropsides calypso and because of that we cannot recommend anything.
    However, as the larvae and adult green leaf-eating beetle are chewing insects you may wish to try an organic alternative.
    Neem Oil has been proven to control and is registered for, various chewing insects although not this one.
    As yet there have been no trials carried out to test the effectiveness of Neem Oil on thr green leaf-eating beetle.

    • Hi I understand your concerns and we have investigated Neem Oil. We decided on our treatment and it has worked. We have been growing this hedge for 15 years and we were devistated when we were slowly loosing 8 meters of our glorious hedge. I believe they only attack one variety, The Australis.

  5. I live in the Lake Macquarie area and this is the first year I have had this pest I’m my garden. One plus has been that I haven’t needed to clip my hedge since winter as these bugs have done it for me.

  6. Thanks for the information on this pages it has helped to identify the culprit in my Lilly pillys. I am located on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne Victoria. Now how to eradicate them?

  7. Hello Dennis,

    a couple of previous posts allude to Neem Oil.
    Not being registered as a control for this beetle I am not permitted to recommend it.
    However Suzanne has mentioned it her post above, that’s it worked for her.

  8. I have sprayed with Pyrethrum (Defender) at the end of November, beginning of the year and mid February, the time when most damage occurred previously.
    To date it has been most successful. At present there is no real damage, a few leaves (less than 1%) with a few nibbles, but none anywhere being stripped back to the stem as has occurred previously.
    I will give another spray in about 2 weeks time.

  9. Also in the Lake Macquarie region (similar to one of the comments above) and had a Lilly Pilly hedge devastated by Paropsides calypso. I could spot plenty of the grubs still on the bush throughout the day and even some of the beetles in the morning.
    After trying different things spraying the bushes with a strong mix of Confidor / Imidacloprid (ie the same concentration as used for Hibiscus flower beetle) appears to have quickly killed all of the grubs & beetles and I am again getting new growth.

  10. I live in Cranbourne, south east of Melbourne and planted several Lilly Pillys less than two years ago. They were growing great, up to almost two metres, then I noticed severe die back on the very top of one, I thought maybe it was the frost but looking closer I saw all the leaves were chewed on the edges. I now have all the Lilly Pillys and a couple of other shrubs, badly affected, I may lose a couple of them. I have sprayed with lime sulphur, I may try white oil, if that doesn’t work.My Photinia Robusta and Pittosporum are not affected.

  11. Hello David,

    lime sulphur and white oil have no proven record of affecting the green leaf beetle. At this time there is no registered product to control this beetle.
    However, a couple of previous posts allude to Neem Oil.
    Not being registered as a control for this beetle I am not permitted to recommend it.
    However Suzanne has mentioned it her post above, that’s it worked for her.

    Reply ↓

    • Hi David We actually didn’t use Neem Oil. We decided on Confidor spray and confidor pellets in the soil. It literally grew back before our very eyes. We now have our hedge lush, green, with new growth and very healthy. Hope this helps.

      • Unfortunately, that product contains imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide found in much scientific research (published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals) to be associated with declines in honey bee colonies world-wide. The research is contested by the companies that manufacture it, but it has been enough to have it currently banned in the EU and many US states, although not in Australia. There’s more info here on GardenDrum: http://gardendrum.com/?s=imidacloprid&submit=Search

  12. Use Bifenthrin sprayed on the ground around the affected trees. I use Zeus but there are many products. The beetle and larvae feed at night, so foliar spraying during the day is not very efficient although I do use both Zeus for the ground and Eco-oil on the foliage on my own Lilly Pilly hedge and some customers whose gardens I maintain, with great results.
    Cheers,
    Kev
    Mantis Garden Magic

    • Hi Kevin,
      I’m going to try your method of spraying the ground around my hedge. The trees are mulched with hay. Should we remove the hay mulch before spaying the ground? I’m worried if we do remove it then replace after, some lavae and beetles may be in the mulch?

      Thanks
      Janelle

  13. Thanks. My new lilly pilly hedge is being attacked and I knew it was coming out at night but couldn’t find it. Now I know. I even caught one of the beetles this morning.

  14. I sprayed my affected lilly pilly today with Searls Trifend as I could not find what was devouring the leaves and found several small green beetles.that had dropped to the deck,. I am hoping this will rid them of the infestation.

    • Hi Jillean, Searles Trifend isn’t registered for control of lilly pilly beetle. It is a product containing tau-fluvalinate (a synthetic contact pyrethroid that kills mites and sap-sucking pests like aphids) and myclobutanil which is a fungicide. I can’t find any evidence that it has any effect on beetles.

    • Hi. Have tried all sprays with limited success. 26 plants fence high. Currently September in Geelong. The beetles are dying off only catch a few now. I cannot understand the cycle as now, there are recently hatched very minute larva ( half a mm) which cannot possibly crawl up to the top green leaves. I suggest they must also have eggs laid back on the inner top older leaves. Have placed some diotomaceous earth at base. They all live under the leaf which is hard to spray and catch them. No real answer !!! Chris

      • Hello Chris,

        it’s the mature larvae that crawl down to the ground and pupate in the soil.
        They then emerge as beetles to attack the leaves of your lilly pillyand as well as laying eggs.
        Neem oil has been effective for some gardeners in controlling the beetle, however, they seem to do the most damage at night.
        Using one of those pump sprayers should help with getting the chemical under the leaves.

        Marianne

  15. Finally discovered the nasty little green beetle this afternoon! It’s causing havoc on my Lilly pillys! They look awful! Nursery suggested spraying with Carbaryl….but haven’t done it yet as I’m worried this might harm bees? Does anybody have any advice or suggestions? Thanks!

    • Carbaryl is not registered for control of lilly pilly leaf-eating beetles. It also has a significant environmental impact (including on bees), leading many companies such as Yates to no longer make or sell it. Another insecticide product called Confidor which has been recommended elsewhere for control of this beetle contains imidacloprid which is implicated in decline of bee populations throughout the world. As many lilly pillies are flowering now, spraying any insecticide will harm bees. You can consider spraying with neem oil mixed with horticultural oil, as is suggested by Eco Organic Garden.

  16. Same little green bug here on Mornington Peninsula. Devastating the new Lilly pillies. Spent so much time trying to find psyllid resistance variety and now have this problem.
    We tried Multicrop 3L EcoPest Oil – that appears to have worked for 4 weeks but they starting come back now as neighbour has same Lilly Pilly bug and doesn’t act. $40 per month of product is likely during the spring-autumn period when this green beetle is active.

  17. Hello Boris,
    There is no chemical registered for control of Paropsides calypso and because of that we cannot recommend anything.
    However, as the larvae and adult green leaf-eating beetle are chewing insects you may wish to try an organic alternative.
    Neem Oil has been proven to control and is registered for, various chewing insects although not this one.
    As yet there have been no trials carried out to test the effectiveness of Neem Oil on the green leaf-eating beetle. A post from 2016, has said that Neem Oil has eradicated the pest problem on their Lilly Pilly hedge.

  18. Hi there, after trying the Neem option and a home made concoction of onion, garlic, chilli and soap powder I am back to hand harvesting these little pests. I have a few of questions.
    Firstly, I find many tiny whitish eggs under a mm long throughout the leaves of all of my Lilly Phillies either singly or sometimes in multiples of 2 or 3. Iit looks to me that these are laid by the beetles and develop into the grubs, the next stage being a creamy coloured tiny grub with a blackish head, which then develops into the bigger shiny grub. My question is has anyone else seen these little eggs and knows if they are laid by the beetle?

    Second question is, if my first hypothesis is right then aren’t the mature grubs going down into the soil to mature into beetles who then emerge back up into the tree as opposed to the grubs coming up from the soil as I’ve seen in a diagram on another site?

    My third question is, it sounds like something in the soil is working for a number of people but has anyone tried anything less harmful such as a collar of some sort around the base of the tree that inhibits both upward and downward travel? I was thinking of trying flypaper or a fabric drenched with something and cone shaped so that it extends out to a distance around the base to foil the beetles if they fly upwards.

  19. Dear Carolyn,
    the larvae you describe doesn’t sound like Paropsides calypso ( native leaf eating beetle as per this article) because these are pale green and glossy, about 2 cm long with a similar shape to curl grubs.
    There is no information available regarding the colour of their eggs, however, Paropsides calypso does pupate in the soil as mentioned in the audio. The beetle itself is green coloured, 9 mm long and similar in shape but larger than a ladybeetle .

    regards
    Marianne

  20. We have the backyard bliss variety and they devastated 20 mature plants. I literally hand squashed over 1500 beetles at twilight (as this seems to be the preferred time). I checked every leaf. They are quite fast if not caught immediately and burrow back in the ground to escape. I made this into a Game with my kids and it took about 3 weeks to get rid of them. You have to be on this every day to reduce the numbers. Did thus until there were no more signs of beetles
    After that I sprayed with eco Neen in the leaves and soil. I’m keeping on top of it with regular neem treatment every few months.
    If I have to hand squash again – I will. I’m always looking for them.

  21. i do lawnmowing and garden maintenance for a living and i can tell you put confidor tablets in the soil about 100mm away from plant base and spray entire shrub with confidor and the next morning you will see hundred of these green ladybugs dead on the ground

  22. Hello all,
    Thanks to this site “Garden Drum” I found the culprit “Paropsides calypso”. Had been out at night with a torch and mistakenly thought the assassin bug was the cause, as there were quite a few…googled it and realised it was a carnivore and therefore no doubt an ally in this case!
    I don’t use chemicals (except Weed and Feed on my lawns), I have pruned heavily, on top especially, to open the canopy, and then hosed the Lilly Pilly hedges that are lining the concrete driveway and stomped on the beetles and larvae that drop off. Amazing the range of insects that come off with the spray…
    Interestingly I have 3 Bantum Chickens that work an area under a long section of Lilly Pillies in the back yard…no damage to the foliage of these plants!!!! As soon as the chooks run stops, the plants beyond are getting smashed.
    Once Ive pruned all the hedges I will Eco-Neem and see if that knocks them on the head…hopefully will not damage any other insects in the process.

  23. We have quite a diverse garden, but unfortunately it includes a lot of screening lilly pillies, including some hedgy bits and three quite tall trees (6+ metres). One of the trees has now completely died, apparently stripped to bare twigs by those wretched beetles. So I will be watching with great interest to see if any solution emerges. We are very worried about the beetles moving to the other big trees – we can see the leaf damage quite high up. I’m not sure what would be practical on a tree that size.

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