Lily beetles

Posted: Friday 14 June 2013
by Pippa Greenwood

I spent a delightful day in Sway last weekend. It was their open gardens day, and I was met by a gaggle of gardeners who had all kinds of gardening questions.

Lily beetle

I spent a delightful day in Sway, in the New Forest, last weekend. It was their open gardens day, and I was met by a gaggle of gardeners who had all kinds of gardening questions.

I love these events, not just because I'm able able to help other gardeners by answering their questions. They also help me mark out my ‘gardening problems calendar’ by highlighting which pests, diseases and weeds are causing most grief throughout the year.

Topping the misery charts this time were scarlet lily beetles. Lily beetles (Lilioceris lilii) are stunning little creatures, measuring around 6mm long. It’s their bright scarlet colour that makes them easy to identify and distinguish from other beetles. Although cardinal beetles have similar looks, they have a more gingery, dull red colour.

Lily beetles are certainly enjoying the conditions this year – I’ve seen the damage on my lilies, even though I haven’t seen the beetles themselves. They start by eating the foliage, then the flowers, followed by the seed pods.

So, what can be done about lily beetles? Here are two tips:

1.     Remove lily beetle larvae.

They have no visible antennae, legs or, in fact, anything to suggest they may be insects. Instead, they look like clumps of squidgy faeces, and that’s what they cover themselves with. If you see them, scrape or pick them off to prevent them from turning into adults and causing further damage to your lilies.

2.     Pick off the adult beetles

Doing this is harder than removing the larvae because they fall to the ground as soon as you touch the plant (usually black underside uppermost, making them much harder to spot). Collect what beetles you can, then I suggest laying old tea towels, or perhaps strips of an old bed sheet, on the soil beneath the plants. Give the remaining lily beetles a few hours to settle back in to your plants, then creep back out gently and whack the plants. In response to the sudden movement, the beetles will fall off the plants and on to the sheet, where you can see them and collect them up easily.

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Talkback: Lily beetles
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rosytoes 20/06/2013 at 19:38

I have grown Lillies for years and love them 2 yrs ago I saw orange beetles had eaten bude and holes in all the leaves ,my young neighbor called around and I showed him He said ''Oh they are on my plant nthey were on them when I bought them'' so I suppose they have fown over my garden wall (is the grass greener on my side of the wall) no because I pick them of and step on them but I cant keep up with them has anyone any tips for me please

Woodgreen wonderboy 20/06/2013 at 20:44

The only way is to destroy them by squashing. I use my fingernails to slice them in half. You need to do this daily I am afraid. 

Rosie31 20/06/2013 at 22:37

Hi Rosytoes - If these really are lily beetle (bright, bright red) you need to get really tough.  The young larvae are even worse than the adults - they strip the leaves and cover themselves in their own dung so they look like disgusting blobs on the plants - vile.  I've tried being organic but the only thing that works on these monsters is chemical spray, ask in your garden centre to give you one that will work on lily beetle.   Spray at dusk (to avoid too much damage other insects) and only spray the lilies (the beetles don't attack other plants).  And don't delay - do it now before they've destroyed the lot.


nodlisab 21/06/2013 at 10:11

This year seems to be really bad I have killed more than any year I can remember.

kaycurtis 22/06/2013 at 21:30

I am not growing Lilies this year, this pest is a veracious feeder, along with every other pest in the garden chomping through everything in sight, just hoping the Lily beetle doesn't take a liking to anything else in the garden.

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