Tuesday 26 April 2011

26.04. Red lily beetles

The heat wave is over, for now, and we are back to normal temperatures for the time of year. It’s quite a difference in just two days; from 28 degrees on Sunday to 17 degrees today...it was chilly out there today! I did, however, brave the chill, put my usual garden-cardigan on and spent a couple of hours in my gardens.

 The last few days I have laid weed liner on what’s going to be the gravel path in the next door garden; this is now finished and ready for the gravel delivery.

I have made a small path through to my garden, effectively in the bed at the moment, but sometime in the future I will replace the border in my garden with logrolls, and I might make an opening here to allow for a wider and better path through to my garden.

And here is what my garden looks like right now. Rather lush and enclosed, compared to just a month ago! The roses are just a few weeks away from full flowering, and when they do, I plan to make another video from my garden. Watch this space :-)

And now to the main topic of this post; the most difficult pest in my garden, the red lily beetle, or the Asian lily beetle, as it is also called. They are easy to spot especially when the sun is on their bright red backs, as they graze on leaves and stems, mate and lay eggs. The adults and young grubs eat the leaves, making holes in them. The adults lay eggs on the undersides of the leaves, and the grubs cover themselves with black excrement to disguise themselves as bird droppings! The grubs and the adults will attack the foliage of the lily plants, weakening them and making them very unsightly.

It is part of my daily garden routine to patrol up and down the lily beds 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 painted plastic lid which I carefully hold under the plant where I have found 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; it's war from now on!

The lily beetles turned up on Saturday last week in my garden, and so far I have killed 12....I couldn't believe how quickly they discovered my lilies, though maybe the aphids on my roses sent them a text msg filling them in with the news! After all, I have around 150 lilies...that’s a lot of dinner for beetles that only have lilies on the menu! And a lot of lilies to patrol and inspect...but it is worth it, as keeping the number 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. 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. With most garden pests we have around here there are lots of different pest controls, chemical, biological and environmental ones. With lily beetles there are no good ones, although there are different types of repellent being experimented with as I have read on the Internet so in a few years time we might get something....but until then, handpicking and stamping on them is the recommended way!

OK, enough about those terrible little blighters! Ugh! ...they give me the creeps, they can ruin a whole garden in just 3 weeks, if I don’t keep on top of the search and destroy routine...Wanna see something else that has just started flowering in my garden? These gorgeous puffy balls are called Allium aflatunense ‘purple sensation’. They are bulbs and I started out with only 3 bulbs some 6 years ago. Since then some of them have divided and spread and this year I got 10 flowers, 10 puffy purple balls. They last quite a long time, and even when the flowers have faded, the dried spiky seed heads are still quite decorative so I usually leave them for a while.

Here is one of the flowers close up, as you can see, the flower is actually hundreds of small flowers tightly put together. Allium aflatunense is a plant in the garlic family, and a close relative to ordinary cooking onion (Allium cepa) and chives (Allium schoenoprasum), and if you compare this picture to the flower of an ordinary yellow onion, the similarities are instantly recognisable. As I don’t have room for a kitchen garden in my garden, a photo of a cooking onion is unfortunately not in my collection, but here is a link to Wikipedia for you with A PHOTO OF AN ONION FLOWER.
And lastly, another photo of the Lily of the Valleys, they are still going strong with yet more flowers emerging. I have dug up some plants today and replanted in pots, ready to go in the ground in the next door garden. That garden will of course also have a sunny bed and a shady bed; all the woodland plants I have are perfect for the shady bed. I ran out of compost today so I will have to get some more before I can make more plants, but I don’t think it will be possible to notice even if I take 10 Lily of the Valleys out of vast amount I have by now. I started out with 6 plants in 2004, taken from another garden just like I am doing now. In the first few years nothing much happened, they didn’t even flower although the leaves came up every year on those 6 plants. Then, after 3-4 years they started to multiply, then a few of them got a few flowers, then berries, and last year I had a bumper crop. This year it’s been fantastic, so much so that when the flowering is finished I will try to move some of them to areas where there are none, as it’s a bit crowded where they originally started! As with most things in my garden, doing gardening on a shoestring budget, with patience and time, most things turn out pretty well :-)

OK, that was 8 photos for you; I think that was a record for a single post! But there are things happening every day in my garden, and as you might have noticed, my cat hasn’t appeared here for ages....he is still around, it’s just that there are so many other photos to show you! I think I will have to wait with more cat photos until things are calming down a bit in my garden...when there is nothing else to show from my garden I will take some more photos of my cat again :-) Well, I think this is a perfect opportunity to round up for tonight, until next time; take care.


  1. Read your article with interest. Those darned red lily beetles have eaten all my lilies and have started on my beautiful rose that is flowering now - planted it in memory of my daughter. I'm on the war path now!

  2. Hi, they might very well have eaten your lilies, but whatever is eating your rose it won't be lily beetles, they only eat lilies!

    Lily beetles can sometimes be mistaken for ladybirds, be sure you know the difference! Liliy beetles eat lilies, but ladybirds eat greenflies, so you want ladybirds on your rose, to keep the greenflies off your rose!


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