Colorado beetle outbreak confirmed in Kent potato field

The devastating Colorado beetle pest has been found in a Kent potato field, making it the first UK appearance of the beetle since 1977.

Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) have confirmed the presence of Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) larvae in a crop of potatoes.

The agency is working closely with the affected grower to eradicate the pest from the field, including performing a 1km survey to determine whether there are further cases beyond the immediately infested area.

See also: Will the beet moth strike again in crops this summer?

If not eradicated, Colorado potato beetles are a significant threat to potato crops.

The adult beetles and larvae feed on the foliage of potato and other plants in the nightshade family, and can completely strip them of their leaves if they are left uncontrolled.

UK chief plant health officer Nicola Spence said: “While this pest does not pose a threat to human health, we encourage all growers, farmers, processors and the public to remain vigilant and report any sightings, especially in Kent.”


The beetle is bright yellow or orange with black stripes and is usually 8.5-11.5mm in length and 3mm wide. Its larvae are a reddish brown in colour, round and globular, up to 15mm in length.

Although distinctive in appearance, there are several beetles that are frequently mistaken for them. A Defra factsheet (PDF) is available to help with identification.

Apha said that the beetles were occasionally imported into the UK from continental Europe as “hitchhikers” on non-host plant material, such as leafy vegetables, salad leaves, fresh herbs and grains.

In the past 70 years, there have been two UK outbreaks of the pest, one in 1976 and one in 1977. Both outbreaks were eradicated shortly after detection.

Need a contractor?

Find one now