by Connie Oswald Stofko
I received this message from Tess in Binghamton: “Red lily beetles have arrived early! Picked a dozen of them out of the flower bed today, March 20, 2020, in Binghamton NY area!!”
It’s not too early to start looking for them in Western New York, said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County
“They do show up early, as soon as the foliage breaks ground,” Farfaglia said. In past years, “I’ve gotten calls about them as early as April. If they’re not on your plants yet, it won’t be long.”
The red lily leaf beetle damages true lilies as well as fritillaria, an early spring flower. It doesn’t damage daylilies.
See more background information on the invasive red lily leaf beetle here.
Best way to deal with red lily leaf beetle
“Handpicking the adults is the way to go,” Farfaglia said. “The sooner you can reduce the numbers of adults, the better off you are.”
When the foliage is small, it’s easier to see the adults, he said. It’s better to go out every day rather than just once or twice a week.
“It’s worth doing if you like growing lilies,” he said.
To pick the adults off the leaves, you can wear gardening gloves if you like. Knock the adults off of the leaf into a cup of soapy water. Or you can crush the beetles with your fingers.
Don’t try to use any spray on the adults; sprays are targeted to the larvae, he said. It takes about a week for eggs to hatch, so if you don’t get the adults, you will see larvae soon after.
If you must use a pesticide, neem oil will work on the larvae. However, if you need to treat your plant, do it before the flowers open. Don’t use insecticide on a plant with open flowers.