Today’s post is mainly going to be about a topic I have had questions about many times, how to tackle Red Lily Beetles. I absolutely adore lilies and can’t get enough of them, and when I moved house earlier this year I lifted as many bulbs I could find and ended up with 164 lilies in pots – the rest I left to the new tenant, probably nearly 100 of various size. Over the years I have tackled a lot of pest and diseases in my garden, some more frustrating than other, but lily beetles are not really a big problem to me despite the fact that I live in London where the problem with lily beetles is very common.
It is part of my garden routine to patrol up and down the lily beds and pots with my reading glasses on, inspect them each carefully, and catch and dispatch any lily beetles found. Now this is where there is a little bit of skill needed. If you come between the adult beetle and the sun, the sudden darkness is a sensory trigger and they will flip off the leaf onto the soil, with their bright red backs to the soil, lying still for 20-30 seconds, playing dead, so they are no longer visible. Also, if you knock the plant, the movement is a trigger for them to flip off the plant onto the soil - again playing dead. I use a white plastic lid which I carefully hold under the plant if I find a lily beetle and then I bend the lily slightly so the beetle can drop straight down onto the white lid. As the beetle is programmed to do, it will land on its back with the feet in the air, being still for a long time – which gives me time to slide it off the lid down on the ground and stamp on it until it is dead. Yeah! Oh....and they make a squeaking noise when under attack! Squeak all you like matey – you are not an invited guest!
All the work picking off the beetles is worth it, as keeping the numbers down means less beetles that can mate and lay eggs. The adult beetle overwinters in the soil or plant debris and emerges in early spring looking for food and a mate. After mating, the female lays eggs in lines on the underside of lily leaves, and the grubs cover themselves with black excrement to disguise themselves as bird droppings! Some damage is done by the adults at this time, but the major damage comes when the eggs hatch into larvae in 7-10 days. The larvae ravenously consume all leaves within reach and then start on the flower buds. This continues for 2 to 3 weeks, when the larvae then drop into the soil and begin to pupate. In another 2 to 3 weeks the adult beetles emerge to start eating again. This process occurs from early spring to late summer. Lily beetles are particularly troublesome because they strip lilies of their flowers and leaves, weakening the structure of the plant and often killing it. They can even affect next year’s bloom, as an attack on the flowers early in the season can affect the bulbs, meaning you could only get leaves with no flowers next year or the bulb can even die.
If you search for treatment for Red Lily Beetles you will probably find either that there is none – or that you can use Provado Bug Killer or something similar. But there is a nature friendly product that works very well against lily beetles and I am amazed it isn’t more known and advertised. I use the organic systemic pesticide from a company called Pireco, it is made of fermented soy and herb extracts. It can be used as a soil application and a foliar spray. I use it on the soil every 4 weeks from March-September and as a top up as a foliage spray when necessary, especially in the spring when foliage is new, root uptake slow and pests like aphids at their worst. It works on all sucking insects including greenfly, scale insects, carrot fly, whitefly, scarlet lily beetles, gall midges, spider mite and thrips, but useful insects like bees and butterflies are not affected. Over time, the amount of lily beetles will go down and picking the few that appears from other gardens before they produces grubs will prevent new ones appearing next year.
I could not do without this pesticide and keep a stock of it as it is also very good against aphids and spider mites. I buy it from a company called Bakker here in UK, they only deliver to UK, not sure if it is available in US – but Bakker is available in 21 European countries and here is a link where you can find Bakker in your own country.
Here is a link to the Pireco producer in Netherland (can’t find an English version of their site so I used Google translate – a bit silly translation here and there....) They produce a range of products, I only use the ‘Foliar for insects’ liquid, the capsules are for people with much less plants than me, it would take ages using capsules and be very costly, but fine if you only want to treat a few pots, the liquid is quite economical in use and much quicker to apply.
Here is an Irish company selling Pierco products, they don’t sell the same ‘Foliar for insects’ liquid, instead they have two different liquids from Pireco, one for herbaceous plants ‘Herfosec’ and one for woody plants, ‘Folisec’ – they are products more for nurseries and the industry I think, worth looking into if you can’t get hold of the one I use as they do international deliveries. I have been meaning to order from them to try out their ‘Herfosec’ as it would be more economical in the long run for me so if I can get around to do that for next spring I will write an update on whether there is a difference.
You can read about how to use those two products on Pireco’s website, translated by Google:
My experience with using Pireco ‘Foliar for insects’ is that over the years the number of lily beetles have gone dramatically down – to almost none. I think the ones I find these days are mostly coming from other gardens and not from mine and as long as I can manage to catch and kill the few I find in time before they lay eggs they do little harm. It is the grubs that really give trouble in the garden, they can ruin a whole lily crop in just 3 weeks if left to it and I haven’t seen any grubs in years. Soil pouring and spraying really helps, the plants take up the liquid by their roots and leaves and the smell deters the beetles, the effect last up to 4 weeks if applied correctly. I treat all the plants in my garden usually affected by aphids, lily beetles and spider mites, probably more than half of the plants I have and with a monthly or so application from March-September my roses are usually free of aphids too, although early in the spring when the leaves emerge the roses need a bit foliar spray with this liquid too as a top-up.
One note of caution though, the liquid smells disgusting!! And because it is an oil-based liquid it will linger in your house for days if you mix it indoors – I am speaking of experience, so mix it with water outdoors just before you apply it and don’t store any leftovers, just mix what you need.
I have to add here that I am in no way connected to Pireco or Bakker and I have not been paid or given products to write this post and I have not been asked by any of the companies to write about their products. I don’t normally endorse products on my blog, but sometimes I like to share my experience about products I find useful and hope that other people will benefit the same way I have. If however Pireco or Bakker should happen to read this post I would have no objections to be sent for example a year’s supply of ‘Foliar for insects’ – that would be a very welcome surprise....hint, hint :-)
It would be nice to hear from readers who have experience with ‘Foliar for insects’ on lily beetles, or perhaps you use it mainly for aphids, would love to hear about that too. If you have any other tips than just picking and discarding lily beetles, please leave a comment too!
OK, enough about those terrible little blighters! Ugh!....they give me the creeps, let’s move on to something nicer, it is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day today and I do have some flowers to show you, but I will try to make it slightly shorter than I usually do since this post is already quite long.
My roses are continuing to flower, I am sure they would all like me to hurry up and finish the main part of the garden so they can get their feet out of the containers and into the ground – but it’s slow work and will take many more months. This is 'The Generous Gardener'.
This is 'Wildeve', surprisingly well flourishing in the small container, now in its 3rd year.
And this is 'Scepter'd Isle', also 3 years old, not yet reached its peak I think, but hopefully when out of the container it will be happier.
‘Rob Roy’ is many years old, but has lived all his life in the same container and would probably be a much better rose in the ground – but I still get lots of roses from this amazing bush every year despite container life. The colour is bright red, a colour very difficult for my camera to capture.
Speaking of red, here are my incredible begonias, they have absolutely HUGE flowers! This is what you get when nurseries breed for show and not for practicalities. Every stalk needs to be staked or they just bend down to the ground, and even then, the flowers tend to face downwards when fully opened because of the weight of them. Amazingly, I just cut these begonias down last December, stuck the pots under my garden bench and left them there over the winter – and they came back this spring looking just as nice as last year. Who needs a greenhouse?! Just kidding, I would REALLY like a greenhouse!
And this is the space where my greenhouse is planned for, hopefully next spring. At the moment it is a bit sparse in the flower department as most of the daylilies are finished and many of the dahlias here haven’t really taken fully off yet.
But some of the dahlias have been flowering for a while, here are some well-known from my previous garden: 'Striped Vulcan', 'Sunshine', and ‘Nuit D'Ete’ – and you can also see Lobelia cardinalis 'Queen Victoria' in the background with its red flowers.
I dug up 'Striped Vulcan' from my previous garden and I should probably have taken a picture of the tubers as they were absolutely humongous! No wonder then the dahlia get so big and tall. Perhaps you remember from previous year I always wondered about its name, being plain orange, and then last year it produced striped flowers for the first time! I am happy to report 'Striped Vulcan' has found its stripes this year too, despite being pulled up, squeezed into a pot and transported into a new garden. This was a free-bee I got many years ago, I don’t think I would have bought it myself. I will try to find a place for it among the hot coloured dahlias and daylilies – it definitely doesn’t go well with pinks....
....which is what I got most of. I got a couple of the bishops last autumn, ‘Bishop of Canterbury’ is the first one to flower, top left - the other bishops will have to wait for a later post. 'Edge of Joy' is top right, 'Darkarin' bottom left and bottom right is 'Mary Eveline' which I have 3 of and have had for many years.
Out in the front garden, or front of front garden to be correct, the lilies are almost finished, only 'Miss Feya' along the fence is still going strong and the late 'Casa Blanca' lilies are still wafting perfume to anyone passing by, including everyone delivering parcels and groceries to me. I have had so many comments about my lilies that I have decided to have some permanent here in my front garden and not move all of them to the flowerbeds in the back garden as I planned.
Out here I also have my two oleanders, which I bought because I love scented plants. They were advertised as sweetly scented and when I Google oleanders I find things like ‘Oleander flowers are showy and highly fragrant and are grown for ornamental purposes.’ But my oleanders don’t smell a thing. Nada! I don’t stick my nose completely into the flowers, as I know they are poisonous, perhaps not as much as the leaves are, but still – but when I lean close over them I should be able to detect a scent if they were ‘highly scented’, shouldn’t I?
Well, if anyone knows of a trick to get them to start smelling nicely, please let me know, as this is second year they are flowering and I am kind of fed up waiting for the sweet scent. The flowers are nice enough, but that’s not really why I bought them....
At the other end of the front garden, the ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies in containers are pumping out perfume making up for the lack of scent everywhere else. These lilies are a good few years old and the bulbs were enormously big when I lifted them in February, I dread digging a hole for them when that time come as they need a good, deep hole.
Back in the main garden I have found time to plant some of the cuttings and plug plants that desperately needed bigger pots. The white ones are Bacopa Abunda ‘Colossal White’, they could have been filling this container by now but almost perished on a shelf while waiting to be potted up.
The pelargoniums have all got a proper pot and have rewarded me with lots of nice flowers.
I especially like this little angel, Pelargonium grandiflorum Aristo 'Black Beauty'.
Final new potted up is this Scaevola aemula 'White Wonder' – usually treated as an annual here in UK, but I will try to keep it over winter. Time will tell if I succeed with that :-)
Over in the temporary vegetable garden, the cherry tomatoes ‘Tumbler’ has been giving me lots of tomatoes for many weeks already and is in the final stage. The next tomato plant has the imaginative name of 'Window Box Red' and is a later variety, just starting to ripen – perfect timing – I will have tomatoes for another two months I think.
And I have peppers for the first time in many years, these are called ‘Marconi’ and will be even bigger and longer before it’s time to harvest them.
The plums are all gone, the last ones went in the freezer yesterday as a trial, not sure how nice they will be after being frozen but I will take them out and make something of them for Christmas and if that’s a success I will do that with more next year instead of giving them away. I used to do a lot of preserving and jam making but I am no longer able to do such things, packing things in plastic bags and put it in the freezer was easy enough. This sweet Siamese twin plum ended up in my mouth though :-)
And finally, a before and after picture for you. This was a corner of my garden on GBBD in June.
And here is the same corner today! I have started to take down the Parthenocissus, and uncovered a lovely brick wall at the bottom of my garden – plus a rather ugly fence to the left of my garden. The fence needs replacing, so that’s another post on a very long list of expenses, but the wall is a rather nice feature I think I am going to appreciate. I like the wall so much that I am now wondering if I should perhaps remove the whole Parthenocissus instead of leaving half of it which was the plan. Up that wall I can grow roses, honeysuckle, clematis, kiwis and apricots and….well, the list is endless. But as long as the Parthenocissus is covering the wall I can’t really grow anything else there, and although it is amazing for a few weeks in the autumn when it is flaming red and orange, Parthenocissus isn’t much of a feature the rest of the year. I’ll let you know when I have made up my mind about the rest!
I better round up this post before it gets way too long, even though I have many more plants in flower, but you can see some of them on my next post at the end of the month, or you can send me a friend request on facebook.com/helene.u.taylor as I regularly post short messages and photos there between posting here.
Until next time, take care.
I am linking this post to Carol at May Dreams Gardens.