Monday, May 9, 2016

Gardening Tips: Getting Rid of Lily Beetles

Gardeners rejoice! The snow is gone, the sun is shining and it's time to get back into the dirt! Perennials of all kinds are starting to pop up, and the lovely lily is among them. However, along with the lily comes the much dreaded lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii).

These nasty, though beautifully red coloured, bugs are voracious eaters. Both the adults and the larvae have hungry appetites and think nothing of devouring your lovely plants, leaving nothing for you to enjoy.

Now is the time to get down to business in controlling these pests. Ideally you will want to treat your plants when they start coming up to prevent the beetles from doing any damage. Realistically few of us remember to do something about it until we are visibly reminded of the problem.

The lily beetle is easily identifiable. It's brilliant red. Not the best camouflage. Unfortunately, as they are not native to North America, they also have no natural predators.

Photo by Andrea Davis of

To get rid of these beetles you must first start by picking them off your plants. Gross I know, I'm the type of person who seriously will trap a moving thing in my house under a jar on the floor until my husband gets home to kill it. (Yes, I see you rolling your eyes). But sometimes a gardener has to do what a gardener has to do.

The best way to do this is fill a little jar part way with hot soapy water (dish soap is best). The soap changes the viscosity of the water so the beetle will not float on top or get out again. This way you can just hold the jar underneath and flick the little guys straight in and be done with it. Be quick though! I've read that these guys drop onto the ground when they sense something coming and only show their black undersides as a defense mechanism--however I did not experience this. For me, when they did drop, they bury themselves into the ground quick! I was able to quickly find one such run away, but another got away.

Once your plant is clear of the adults, it's time to get rid of the eggs and larvae.

Photo by Andrea Davis of

The eggs on my plants were easy to spot, as they too were brilliantly reddish coloured. However they may also be brown in colour. Look for them on the undersides of your leaves. Check each and every one! You will need to scrap these off. As you can see in the photo I use latex gloves for this whole bug thing. This particular leaf had a lot of eggs, so I just picked the whole leaf off and added it to my soapy jar, but if you did this for every leaf your lily plant would be quite bare.

Much to my relief, there was of yet no larvae on my plants. In 1 -2 weeks the eggs would have hatched. The larvae apparently do the most damage to the plants as they feed for up to 24 days. They also cover themselves with their own feces for protection, so although they may be yellow, orange or brown, if you wait too long, they will be clumps of brown grossness. You will definitely want to wear gloves for removing these guys.

Photo by Andrea Davis of

Next, I take the natural approach and rub each leaf and stem of the plant with neam oil. This is great to do on lilies that do not already have the bugs on them as a preventative measure. Neam is a natural oil, often used in soaps and lotions. It also stinks and has many properties that bugs don't like. I have used it successfully on my houseplants, diluted with soapy water, to treat aphids and trips. For this reason I always have some on hand. I used it full strength on these plants. Be sure to reapply after a good rain or especially if more bugs have returned to your plant and once again made it a nursery. In my experience, neam is fairly resistant to being washed off, but to be sure, water at the base of the plant rather than shower over the plant.

Be sure to keep monitoring your plants, at least weekly throughout the season to make sure the adults have not returned. Since these lilies are in my front yard, I just check them out of curiosity whenever I go out. So far so good! I treated these last week and so far I have found two beetles on two separate days, yet both were on the ground and not on the plant. Both were quickly disposed of. The first one was a few inches away and the other was a good half a foot away perched on a dead leaf, facing away from the plant, dreaming of a new home.

Post by Andrea of We Are Bound Together

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