Oh my gosh… The viburnum all look dead. Indeed, I wonder if some of them are. I know it’s hard to see in this photo at the right; the shrubs are totally defoliated. There are a few brown skeletons of leaves clinging to the branches.
It’s the result of a non-native insect: the Viburnum Leaf Beetle. Apparently this guy came to North America (Canada) from Europe in 1947 and started spreading, slowly at first. It was first reported in New York State in 1996 at Fair Haven Beach State Park on Lake Ontario. By 1999 it was reported in Chautauqua County. We’ve been seeing it at our nature center for the last few years.
Larvae emerge from eggs in spring, eat like crazy, then pupate. The adult beetle emerges in summer and continues to eat. Females lay eggs in fall which overwinter, and the whole thing starts again in spring…
You can learn more about this pest from Cornell:
We did a display in one of our previous exhibits at Audubon that featured opinion pages from a variety of folks – a couple of biology professors, the director of the Watershed Conservancy, and others. There is no agreement on what to do about non-native invasives. Some folks believe we should do whatever we can to fight them. Others feel we are observing evolution in action and should enjoy the show.
I’m a rather wishy washy person on these big issues. I can often see many sides of the story, and so I don’t take a firm stand on any of it. We have so many invasives at the center now. Garlic Mustard. Frogbit. Water Chestnut. Viburnum Leaf Beetles. Honeysuckle.
What’s your opinion? Fight it? Attempt to control it? Or just watch the show?