Gardening: Why you need to beware red lily beetles

Keep your eyes peeled for the red lily beetle.
Keep your eyes peeled for the red lily beetle.

Watch out if you’re a lover of lilies – red lily beetles are out in force this year.

It’s not just the odd nibble here and there – both adults and larvae can defoliate plants in days.

Don’t think they’re a type of ladybird – 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.

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

They only came to this country in the late 1930s and were confined to the South East until the 1980s – now, they’re well into Scotland.

Here’s some ideas on organic control:

Squash them at every opportunity! Bantams like to eat the beetles, unfortunately, they don’t seem to consider the disgusting larvae to be food.

Grow them in pots and change the soil every winter.

If you suspect the beetles may be lurking around your lilies, carefully dig in the top half inch of the soil, as they hide just under the surface, so be ready to get them when they pop out.

The adults are jittery when you try to pick them by hand, and tend to drop to the soil upside down. As they have black bellies, you can’t see them, so put a light-coloured cloth under the plant before you hand-pick in order to see them.

There’s a suggestion that the Chelone (Turtlehead) planted next to lilies may act as a repellent.

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