Red alert over invading beetles

Before disaster struck: The lilies in full bloom ' a week later, they were sticky sticks; below, the offending beetle; bottom, a fritillary.
Before disaster struck: The lilies in full bloom ' a week later, they were sticky sticks; below, the offending beetle; bottom, a fritillary.

MY poor lilies. First, the indignity of their ceramic pot being stolen and them dumped on to the path, then red lily beetle.

I managed to save what bulbs I could from the first disaster, grow them on and plant them into the long border when I revamped it.

They flowered well until one day, there seemed to be just stems left.

I didn’t think much of it – there was so much else going on around them.

It’s only when I started to clear out the border that I noticed the bright red beetles and the penny dropped. (I really must get my eyes tested.)

Both the adults and larvae can defoliate lilies and fritillaries.

Should you be in any doubt, adults are 8mm long, bright red with a black head and legs.

Eggs are 1mm long and orange-red, found in groups on the underside of leaves.

Larvae have orange bodies with black heads but are normally covered with their own slimy black poo – oh, lovely.

The fully grown larvae are 8-10mm long. The pupal stage is in the soil.

The beetle became established in Surrey in 1939 and stayed in South-East England until the late 1980s.

However, it’s spreading rapidly north, with cases reported in North-East Scotland (I thought I was too far north!)

If you spot them in your garden, report them to www.rhs.org.uk/science/plant-pests/lily-beetle