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Last Updated: Monday, 17 April 2006, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Beetle enters top of pest charts
Rosemary beetles (Royal Horticultural Society)
Rosemary beetles have become widespread in the Southeast
A beetle which is spreading rapidly across Southeast England and beyond makes it into the top 10 garden pests.

The rosemary beetle was the fourth most asked about pest last year, says the Royal Horticultural Society.

It came to Britain from Southern Europe in the mid 1990s and has since become widespread in London and East Surrey.

Slugs and snails took the top spot in the RHS list, followed by the lily beetle and vine weevil in second and third place respectively.

The rosemary beetle is fond of rosemary and lavender, but is also partial to thyme and sage.

Both adults and larvae eat the foliage of plants between August and June, while the adults cease feeding during the summer months.

Climate change

Outside of the London area, the insect has become established in Norwich and a few adult specimens have been found in Leicestershire and South Yorkshire.

It is thought warmer temperatures caused by climate change are to blame for the insect's northward spread.

"Rosemary beetles can be controlled either with insecticides or hand picking of the adults and larvae," said Andrew Halstead, principal entomologist for the RHS.

"Unfortunately, there are no recommended insecticides that can be used on rosemary and other herbs if they are to be used for culinary purposes," he said.

Gardeners can identify rosemary beetles by the metallic green and purple stripes on their wing cases and thorax.

Slug, BBC
Slugs, along with snails, were the No 1 garden pests

The grubs are greyish-white with five darker lines.

Fully-grown larvae can reach 8mm (a third of an inch), around the same size as the adult beetles.

Problems in store

The other new entries on the RHS top 10 of garden pests were leatherjackets in sixth place and glasshouse mealybugs in ninth place.

"It appears that this year's newcomers are going to cause problems for gardeners for a while to come," Mr Halstead said.

The RHS based its pest chart on the number of inquiries to its advisory service.

The RHS top 10 pests, by number of inquiries in 2005, were: slugs and snails; lily beetle; vine weevil; rosemary beetle; grey squirrel; leatherjackets; chafer grubs; soft scale; cushion scale; glasshouse mealybugs.

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