by Connie Oswald Stofko
Here’s a question from a reader:
“My Asiatic lilies were attacked by the lily beetles last year.
“This year they (the red lily leaf beetles) are back in my garden. I literally pulled about 6-8 of my lilies and just tossed them out because they were so bad and distressing me– I even tossed out the soil around them. I still have some beetles and twice daily, I go out and look for them and catch about 14 a day. They also have been attacking my gorgeous dwarf Oriental lilies which I’ve had for 6 years and were reliable good performers, except this year. Am on my wits end. What to do?
“I’ve tried spraying with mixture of water, dish detergent and baking soda; also tried Listerine but nothing works.
“I live in Getzville, town of Amherst. I had given some of the babies to friends a while back — they live in Clarence but they don’t have the infestation. Am really baffled.
“Anybody out there having same problems this year?
“Thanks for any suggestions.”
I’m sorry to hear that. Yes, I’ve talked to gardeners who are having trouble with the red lily leaf beetle.
The red lily leaf beetle is a problem for true lilies that grow from a bulb. They also attack fritillaria, a spring bulb that some gardeners like. These pests aren’t a problem for daylilies, which aren’t true lilies and grow from a tuber.
Since you had trouble in the past, you might have started a preventive pesticide program around May 1 before they appeared. That advice comes from John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County. This factsheet lists pesticides you might use.
However, according to the Cornell factsheet, you can’t use pesticides on plants with open flowers, so it’s too late to use pesticides. (The pesticides might kill pollinators that visit the open flowers.) Farfaglia notes that even organic pesticides, such as neem oil or pyrethrum, can kill pollinators when used on plants with open flowers.
If you wanted to use pesticides, you’ve missed the timing for this year, Farfaglia said.
The factsheet says it’s hard to handpick the adults because they are fast.
It does mention that one alternative is pulling out your lilies and planting something else instead. I know that’s sad to hear, but it’s an alternative that some gardeners may choose.
It appears that the red lily leaf beetle is becoming more widespread, Farfaglia said. He’s hearing from more people who are seeing for the first time this year, and for a few, it’s the third year they’ve been dealing with this pest.
“Until some natural control comes along, I don’t think there’s anything that will make it easier for gardeners” dealing with this pest, Farfaglia said.
However, if you do find something that works for you, he would love to hear about it. You can contact Farfaglia in Niagara County or contact the Cornell Cooperative Extension in your county.
You can also share your experiences with the red lily leaf beetle by leaving a comment below.