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Kent case first in UK for almost 50 years Warning after Colorado potato larvae found

Kent case first  in UK for almost 50 years

Potato growers are urged to remain vigilant after Colorado beetle larvae was found in the UK for the first time in 46 years.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency confirmed on 11 July that Colorado beetle larvae had been identified in a Kent field. It followed laboratory diagnosis of samples taken by APHA’s Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate.

APHA said it was working closely with the affected grower to eradicate the larvae from the site, including a 1km survey to determine whether there are further cases beyond the immediately infested area.

It is believed the larvae may have been  accidentally transported to the UK on a lorry carrying fresh produce via one of the French ports. No fully formed beetles have been found.

Unless eradicated, Colorado beetles are a significant threat to potato crops. 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: “We are responding swiftly through our eradication programme, involving ground surveillance to look for beetles and larvae at the site and surrounding area.

She added: “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 not endemic to the UK and is currently regulated as a Great Britain quarantine pest, with import and movement restrictions in place for susceptible host material.

APHA is obligated to act upon the findings and eradicate this pest to support our efforts to maintain this status. Statutory Notices will be issued to ensure the containment and eradication of this pest is undertaken.

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

Defra has produced a Colorado potato beetle plant pest factsheet with more information about the beetle’s life cycle and provides information on how to differentiate it from some of our native and introduced species.

The beetles are occasionally imported into the UK from continental Europe as ‘hitchhikers’ on non-host plant material, such as leafy vegetables, salad leaves, fresh herbs and grain and are reported to the UK Plant Health Service who act on the findings.

Although distinctive in appearance, several insects are frequently mistaken for Colorado beetle. There have only been two outbreaks of Colorado potato beetles in the UK in the past 70 years, one in 1976 and one in 1977.