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Red lily beetles

Lilies’ worst nightmare

Adult red lily beetle

Red lily beetle adults and larvae can defoliate lilies and fritillaries in a day.

Should you be in any doubt, adults are 8mm long, bright red with a black head and legs. If you think it’s a ladybird without spots, it isn’t, I’m afraid.

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

Larvae are absolutely despicable, with orange bodies and black heads but are normally covered with their own slimy black poo. 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 SE England until the late 1980s. It has now spread to the NE of Scotland and is an annual nuisance in my garden.

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


Organic controls

Red lily beetle
These lilies planted in the border are a target

Bantams like to eat the adults, but not the disgusting larvae.

Grow lilies in pots and change the soil every winter – then spread it out thinly and let the birds exact your revenge (thanks to Harriet Rycroft for that one).

Carefully dig in the top half inch of the soil, as they hide just under the surface – be ready to get them when they pop out.

The adults are jittery when you try to pick them by hand and 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.