Classification: | Kingdom: Animalia | Phylum: Arthropoda | Class: Insecta | Order: Coleoptera | Family: Chrysomelidae | Genus: Lilioceris |
The beetle feeding on the tuber of Air Potato Vine (Dioscorea bulbifera).
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 particular 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 is 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. 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. As I read from the news, the beetle had been released into the wild in Florida in September 2012 to combat the spread of the Air Potato Vine. The information was subsequently updated in June 2015. The most detailed document on this topic is the Air Potato Management Plan updated in February 2014 from Florida. So far, it had been a success story for biological control.
By the time I updated this note in September 2016, there were already plenty of pictures of this beetle in the Internet, mostly from the USA due to the high expectation of the beetle in solving the Air Potato Vine invasion. The last time was in July 2014. Though the Air Potato Vine was still thriving in the wild, I did not came across the beetle since 2014.
 Overholt WA, Rayamajhi M, Rohrig E, Hight S, Dray FA, Lake E, Smith M, Hibbard K, Bhattarai GP, Bowers K, Poffenberger R, Clark M, Curry B, Stange B, Calise E, Wasylik T, Martinez C, Leidi J. Release and distribution of Lilioceris cheni (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), a biological control agent of air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera: Dioscoreaceae), in Florida. Biocontrol Science and Technology 2016;26(8):1087-1099.
 Rao K, Manrique V, Overholt WA. The effect of food source on survival and development of Lilioceris cheni (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), a biological control agent of Air Potato (Dioscoreales: Dioscoreaceae). Florida Entomologist 2016;99(1):154-155. | Read article |
 Lake EC, Smith MC, Dray Jr. FA, Pratt PD. Ecological host-range of Lilioceris cheni (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), a biological control agent of Dioscorea bulbifera. Biological Control 2015;85:18-24. | Read article |
 Center TD, Rayamajhi M, Dray FA, Madeira PM, Witkus G, Rohrig E, Mattison E, Lake E, Smith M, Zhang J, Purcell M, Konstantinov A, Schmitz D. Host range validation, molecular identification and release and establishment of a Chinese biotype of the Asian leaf beetle Lilioceris cheni (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Criocer inae) for control of Dioscorea bulbifera L. in the southern United States. Biocontrol Science and Technology 2013;23:735-755.
 Tishechkin A, Konstantinov A, Bista S, Pemberton R, Center T. 2011. Review of the continental Oriental species of Lilioceris Reitter (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae, Criocerinae) closely related to Lilioceris impressa (F.) ZooKeys 103: 63-83. | Read article |
 Warchałowski, A. An attempt on a review of Lilioceris Reitter, 1913 - species from continental part of south-eastern Asia (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Criocerinae). Genus 2011;22(1):95-122.
 Pemberton RW, Witkus GL. Laboratory host range testing of Lilioceris sp. near impressa (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) - a potential biological control agent of air potato, Dioscorea bulbifera (Dioscoreaceae). Biocontrol Science and Technology 2010;20(6):567-587. | Read article |
 Kimoto S, Gressitt JL. Chrysomelidae (Coleoptera) of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietman. I. Sagrinae, Donaciinae, Zeugophorinae, Melapodinae and Criocerinae. Pacific Insects 1979;20:191-256. | Read article |