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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - August 06, 2007

From: E Dummerston, VT
Region: Northeast
Topic: Pests, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Defenses against imported red leaf beetles on lilies
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I've recently discovered small red beetles of some kind on my lilies, which they are happily devouring. I've been picking them off with my fingers and squashing them, but I'd like a better alternative. I'd prefer not to use chemicals. Is there a homemade recipe I can try that will kill them? Can you tell me what they are? I've never seen them before this summer. Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

Indeed, you are the victim of the red leaf beetle. The reason you are just now seeing it is that it only recently migrated into New England, probably from Europe with a shipment of lily bulbs. There are no known predators of this pest in the Western Hemisphere, and the little monsters can destroy a lily in a very short time. It attacks only the true lily, not daylilies. There are three stages in which the beetle is visible on your plant: the eggs, small black spots on the underside of the leaves, the larvae, nasty slug-like creatures, and the beetle itself. Hand-picking is about the best suggested method, and if you have only a few plants, this might suffice. Actually, the larval stage is the most destructive, actively chewing up everything it can get to, but to destroy the eggs and the beetles is to destroy future larvae. When you are hand picking them (a nasty job, you must really love your lilies!) make very sure they're dead, whatever stage you're after. One suggestion was to drop them in a container of soapy water or water with vegetable oil on the top. Don't just knock the beetles off.

 

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