Lilioceris cheni
[Air Potato Leaf Beetle]
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P6190128 (21)
P6190126 (21)
P6190115 (21)
P6190112 (21)
P7150145 (23)
P7150138 (23)

Classification: | Kingdom: Animalia | Phylum: Arthropoda | Class: Insecta | Order: Coleoptera | Family: Chrysomelidae | Genus: Lilioceris |

The beetle feeding on the leaf and bulbil of Air Potato Vine (Dioscorea bulbifera).

P6190110 (21)
P6190103 (21)
DSC04875 (11)
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My Notes

Last updated: July 2023 |

The first time that I came across this red leaf beetle was in September 2011. It was standing alone on a leaf of the Rubber Tree (Hevea brasiliensis). At that point, it was to me just another interesting beetle encountered by chance on a field trip. A month later, I saw the beetle again for the second time. This time round, it seemed to be feeding on an Air Potato bulbil. I was thrilled because the sighting linked the beetle to a host plant. With this clue, I launched a search to look for beetle that feed on Air Potato vine.

It turned out that this beetle had been investigated in the United States (USA) as a potential biological agent to control the spread of the invasive Air Potato Vine in the state of Florida. After scanning through the available documents, I was quite certain that this leaf beetle with a black body and an orange to red wing cases (elytra) was Lilioceris cheni. That was a time when information on this beetle was relatively scarce.

As the story went, there was a leaf beetle found in Nepal that seemed to feed specifically on Air Potato Vine. This finding had created quite a bit of excitement for the biological control folks in the USA where Air Potato Vine was classified as an invasive plant that was spreading fast. Apparently, the colony collected from Nepal did not survive. Subsequently, another collection was done in southern China. The quest to identify this beetle resulted in a publication in 2011 that concluded its identity [1]. However, no picture of the beetle was shown in that article. Finally in November 2012, the mystery was unveiled by the University of Florida website with pictures and description of the life cycle of the beetle. So far, it had been a success story for biological control.

There was a report on this beetle in Thailand published in 2018 [2]. Currently, there were many pictures of this beetle online as well as dedicated publications on this beetle [3-7]. On 16 July 2023, iNaturalist website listed 33 observations from Singapore with the earliest observation noted in May 2017. Since Air Potato Vine continued to thrive in the wild here, it was not uncommon to spot them these days. The last time I spotted one was in July 2023.


[1] Tishechkin A, Konstantinov A, Bista S, Pemberton R, Center T. Review of the continental Oriental species of Lilioceris Reitter (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae, Criocerinae) closely related to Lilioceris impressa (F.) ZooKeys 2011;103:63-83. | Read article |

[2] Hawkeswood TJ, Sommung B, Sommung A. First record of the leaf beetle, Lilioceris cheni Gressitt & Kimoto, 1961 (Insecta: Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) from Ubon Ratchathani, Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand. Calodema 2018;636:1-4. | Read article |

[3] Kraus EC, Murray R, Kelm C, Poffenberger R, Rohrig E, Fairbanks K. Advancements in mass rearing the air potato beetle Lilioceris cheni. Insects 2022;13(1):65. | Read article |

[4] Kariuki EM, Lovo EE, Price T, Parikh V, Duren EB, Avery PB, Minteer CR. The consumption and survival rate of Lilioceris cheni (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) on air potato leaves exposed to Cordyceps javanica (Hypocreales: Cordycipitaceae). Florida Entomologist 2022;105(3):258-261. | Read article |

[5] Griesheimer JL, Gaffke AM, Minteer C, Mass JL, Hight S, Martini X. Attraction of the air potato leaf beetle, Lilioceris Cheni, (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) to leaf volatiles of the air potato, Dioscorea bulbifera. J Chem Ecol 2023. | Read abstract |

[6] Madeira PT, Diaz R, Dray FA, Rayamajhi MB, Lake E, Smith M. Population genetics comparison of Lilioceris cheni (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) colonies released onto Dioscorea bulbifera in Southeastern U.S.A. | Read abstract |

[7] Rayamajhi MB, Rohrig E, Leidi J, Kerr C, Salcedo E, Poffenberger R, Smith M, Lake E, Dray FA, Pratt P, Tipping P, Center T. Herbivory by the biocontrol agent Lilioceris cheni suppresses propagule production and smothering ability of the invasive vine Dioscorea bulbifera. Biological Control 2019;130:1-8. | Read abstract |