Return of the red peril: Lily beetle

Two springs ago I bought a large number of lilies – a daft idea since the garden was nowhere near ready for them. But I planted them in pots and they brought moments of joy while we were trying to fix skirting boards to curved walls and stick tiles to walls. Then, last spring the pots were popped in the soil as the borders were defined and up they came again. But this time the lily beetles tracked them down and I caught a few. Some of the lilies gave up the ghost over winter, probably because of poor soil drainage. But they are up again and somehow the lily beetle are back. I have no idea where they come from because none were allowed to breed in this garden. They are not native to Ireland and only feed on lilies and fritillarias so it is hard to think they have made a reservoir of individuals in the wild.

For the past week I have been checking the lilies and have found one or two a day. They seem to prefer the Asiatic lilies and they hide down in the leaves of the shoot tips. Nibbled leaves, either around the edge or even the centre of the leaves, are a sign that they are around. And it is vital to catch them immediately, before they find a lover and lay eggs that will hatch into grubs and then devastate your plants. The grubs pupate in the soil under your plants but the adults can fly so you are not safe – well your lilies aren’t.

Carefully pick off the red beetles (they drop to the ground when disturbed) and dance on them – preferably the Mexican hat dance

It is such a shame about lily beetle because lilies are otherwise easy to grow these days with improved and remarkable hybrids. I have more on order – I am slightly concerned that they have not arrived yet!

New growth has also revealed that I have another lily problem. The other curse of lilies is virus. There are many viruses that affect lilies and if just one is present the plants may not show signs. But if viruses accumulate plants show streaked leaves and flowers and finally stunting and maybe flower buds do not develop. There is no cure and plants must be destroyed. These will have to be dug up.





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11 Comments on “Return of the red peril: Lily beetle”

  1. Jackie Knight
    April 28, 2020 at 9:04 am #

    These things are such a nuisance! Thanks for the info, on the virus, and a clear photo too.

    • thebikinggardener
      April 28, 2020 at 9:49 am #

      I hate the things! Lilies are so rewarding otherwise but lily beetle and, to a lesser extent, virus, really put me off them!

  2. Meriel
    April 28, 2020 at 9:47 am #

    I too have had the red lily beetle in numbers in the past couple of years – I wonder if milder winters are helping. I notice they particularly like sun and are usually found near the top of the plant sunning themselves. They start with my fritillaries and if I can eliminate those not so many move on to the Lilies! Yet!

    • thebikinggardener
      April 28, 2020 at 9:53 am #

      I am sure that milder winters are helping them spread. They are native to southern Europe. I am not 100% convinced that sometimes the pupae are not present in bulbs when they are bought. Don’t want to start a conspiracy but it is possible that they could be in between the bulb scales. I am not sure how far they can fly but I am in the middle of nowhere and doubt that my few neighbours have lilies or frits. I will just have to be vigilant. At least the adults are bright red and easy to spot – thank goodness they are not green!

  3. Paddy Tobin
    April 28, 2020 at 2:11 pm #

    We have been pinching the beetles here also but I’m sure some will escape our attention and we will have them again next year. An ongoing battle.

  4. tonytomeo
    April 29, 2020 at 9:19 pm #

    This seems so late for more lilies to be planted. They must be refrigerated to prolong the season. So much seed and plant deliveries are delayed because of the very sudden popularity of gardening now.

    • thebikinggardener
      April 30, 2020 at 8:48 am #

      It is late but yes, they are cold stored. Not ideal though. I also ordered alstroemerias from them which may be the hold up but I have a nasty feeling the order is lost.

      • tonytomeo
        May 1, 2020 at 6:21 am #

        Not ideal? It is probably better than limiting bloom to the natural season, like I would do. I mean, I would plant them early, and let them figure out what to do. They would finish at the same time, and be done with it.
        A lost order is worse than one that is delayed at the source. If it just left late, it should not be in the mail for too long. With the way it is all tracked nowadays, it is not easy to lose something.

        • thebikinggardener
          May 1, 2020 at 9:40 am #

          Lilies are such a commercial cut flower crop that the bulbs are cold stored and planted to produce flowers all year. But I would prefer March planting. Time will tell.

          • tonytomeo
            May 3, 2020 at 10:37 pm #

            Soil gets too cold for them to be planted in winter? I plant summer bulbs in autumn or winter, not long after spring bulbs. However, they are available in nurseries for a long time for those who want to prolong bloom. Maybe they really are available longer than I remember. I do not pay much attention to them because I am not often in nurseries. (I grow everything I want, rather than purchase it.)

            • thebikinggardener
              May 4, 2020 at 7:55 am #

              No, lilies are hardy here and they can be planted in autumn but suppliers tend to send lilies out in spring except Martagons. Most other summer bulbs, such as dahlias and glads, are planted in spring and lifted for winter though microclimates and different parts of the country allow the main rules to be bent.

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