Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Gardener's Corner - A Red Jewel of Destruction

From my weekly published newspaper column The Gardener's Corner:

Naomi Cappuccino from the Department of Biology at Carleton University is requesting the help of Ontario gardeners to track the dreaded red lily beetle.
Web Source
The red lily beetle likes any lily species, lily of the valley, Solomon’s seal and fritillaria and when an infestation is heavy, they will also eat the flowers, seed capsules and stems.
The beetle overwinters as a pupa in soil and debris to emerge in early spring as an adult to mate.  The female lays 200-300 eggs on the underside of leaves in rows which incubate over a period of 5-10 days.
 Newly hatched larvae feed on the underside of the leaf while mature ones have moved to feed on the upper surface of the leaves.  This larval stage lasts 16-24 days and they are hard to distinguish as they are covered with a shielding case of their own slimy black excrement and resemble bird droppings to us, and any predators.
 The larvae bury into the soil to pupate in a protective cocoon and emerge as adults after about three weeks and in Ontario there can be two to three generations a year.
The adult is easy to see and identify; the bright red wing covers are candy apple red with contrasting black antennae, eyes, head, legs and underside. It is 6-8 mm long and can escape swiftly or will drop quickly to the ground when it senses movement.
Cappuccino has created a new website that is easy to maneuver and has lots of great photos of the stages of this beetle.  The Lily Leaf Beetle Tracker can be found here . The primary goal of the site is to map the North American distribution of the lily leaf beetle.  The site has a Google map that the biology department hopes to populate with input from gardeners growing lilies everywhere.  There’s a form for uploading both the location of beetle sightings and photos.  In addition, the site will provide news about the biological control effort based in Ottawa, as well as occasional musings on biological control in general.
In a previous article I wrote about the red lily beetle, my research found that they don't like the scent of citrus.  Last year I had a problem with them on my snake's head fritillaria and so have sprinkled orange zest on the soil around the stems.  I'll let you know if it works.


  1. WOW, as far as insects go, that sure is a purdy one, huh?

    I will keep a watchful eye out. Neither hugs nor myself have seen them - but we don't have much by way of lilies - but my daughter has a ton so will share.

    Thanks for the info and heads-up, Judith!!

  2. Thanks for the heads, I will be keeping an eye out! Have a happy day!

  3. I haven't seen them down here and hope it's not a new one that decides to visit me.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  4. I've not heard of them. Hope the citrus works -- I'm more in favor of natural repellants rather than insecticides!

  5. Nasty bugs, they wiped out my gorgeous collection of asiatic and oriental lilies. Have never seen them near my Solomon seal though ... will keep my eyes out. Good info about the citrus, I'll keep that in mind if I should come across them again.

  6. I don't think I've seen these beetles here Judith but will check on my one day lily that I have. I also have lily of the valley. Thanks for this informative post. I hope this bug can be eradicated but with all those eggs every year it seems impossible.

  7. And I thought I had it bad with Japanese beetles...how sad to lose lovely lilies.

  8. Interesting and you can't get much more colorful than that!

  9. I had to go look at the map because I have never seen anything like these. Sure enough, no infestations yet reported from my corner. Phew. I have enough troubles with Japanese beetles to keep me busy. Hope the orange zest works, though I'm always more inclined to make a Paska with my orange zest. : )

  10. It's funny how once I'm introduced to something new, it pops up all over the place and makes me wonder how unobservant I've been for so long. Like the Fritillary. I'm catching up on blogs little by little since I've been working all week. The orange zest trick is very interesting - hope you let us know how it turns out.

  11. What an awful pest! I hope I never have to deal with them. I would really miss my lilies. Good luck with the orange zest.
    Hugs, Beth

  12. Hi,again!
    Good to see your weekly published newspaper column, Judith.

  13. Why do naughty bugs have to be so cute?

  14. How interesting! I have Solomon's seal in my garden, and its main predator seems to be the deer, but I'll check it for insects too!


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