Lily beetles, veggies, mulch volcanoes: update & tips in WNY

red lily leaf beetles mating
The red lily leaf beetle is spreading in Western New York, causing damage to lilies and fritillaria. Photo courtesy Gordon Ballard

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Here is one update and two reminders for the beginning of the growing season in Western New York.

  • Some gardeners say they have seen fewer red lily leaf beetles in past years.
  • Get tips on growing vegetables in gardens and in containers.
  • Mulch volcanoes are popular, but bad for your trees.

Are there fewer red lily leaf beetles in WNY?

A few gardeners mentioned to me that they saw fewer red lily leaf beetles in Western New York in the last couple years. They had sprayed with pesticides and the following year saw fewer or no lily leaf beetles.

Sharon Bachman, Agriculture and Natural Resource Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County, has colleagues from around the state who have also heard murmurings that there may be fewer of these insects that damage lilies. No one knows whether there are actually fewer red lily leaf beetles in the state.

Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County had conducted a biocontrol project in Buffalo to see whether parasitoid wasps would be effective in reducing the population of the lily leaf beetles. These tiny wasps (as small as a no-see-um) were released in 2017. Bachman would like to investigate more to see if these biocontrols might be playing a role in observed decreases in the lily leaf beetle population. She is looking to see if the researcher she worked with in the past is willing to dissect samples from our area to determine if lily leaf beetle larva have been parasitized.

I’ll update you when I get more information.

If you have lilies (true lilies, not daylilies) look now for red lily leaf beetles. Find out more about red lily leaf beetles here.

herbs and tomato plants in pot
This 14-inch pot contains a ‘Beefstake’ tomato, curly parsley, basil, silver thyme and three red onion starts. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Tips for growing vegetables

Whether you want to start a vegetable garden for the first time this year or want to make your current vegetable garden better, try these 15 tips for vegetable gardens from Jen Weber, vice president and manager of Mike Weber Greenhouses, 42 French Rd., West Seneca. 

And don’t worry if you don’t have a large yard– you can plant vegetables in containers. You can mix vegetables, herbs and even flowers in the same container. And even if you have a good-sized yard, you may find it easier to grow vegetables in containers than in the ground. Find out more about planting vegetables in containers here.

volcano mulch illustration muffin and donut
Volcano mulch looks like a muffin. The mulch around your tree should look like a donut— a circle around the tree with a hole in the middle where no mulch touches the trunk. The tree shouldn’t look like a telephone pole sticking out of the mulch; you should see it flare out at the bottom. Illustration by Connie Oswald Stofko

Mulch volcanoes are bad for trees

Mulch volcanoes are created when mulch gets piled high against a tree, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). This traps moisture against the trunk and can lead to decay, pest damage or even tree death.

Proper mulching is easy, and it doesn’t just lead to healthier trees, it also leads to more money in your pocket because you’ll be buying less mulch. You’ll also save money on future tree care costs by preventing pest damage and rot.

Follow these tips to keep your new tree healthy when mulching:

  • Use mulch to cover the ground as far out as the tree’s branches reach.
  • Keep the mulch depth to just 2-4 inches.
  • Don’t let the mulch touch the trunk of the tree.

See more in this previous article on mulch volcanoes.

Find information on selecting and planting trees here.

5 Comments on “Lily beetles, veggies, mulch volcanoes: update & tips in WNY

  1. I grow lots of garlic, and there is always some that spoils as we get close to summer. I let this not so good stuff air dry and grind it into a powder and sprinkle it on my lilies. The red lily beetles do NOT like it and leave the lilies alone. I also pick and kill as many as I can.

  2. I’m in Angola and have picked dozens off my lilies, so I debunk the theory that there are less. I will not use pesticides either so I use the same method as I do for Japanese beetles, pluck and drown in bowl of soapy water.

  3. I have also already found three lily beetles this season. Most of my lilies are in pots so it is easier to inspect them. In the past when I found larva on the stems, I used a q-tip with rubbing alcohol to remove them.

  4. I have seen some red beetles on my lily plants already. In order to keep them from overtaking the plants, I inspect daily and crush the beetles whenever I see them and am able to catch them before they drop to the ground. Last year, they decimated several of my plants — only stalks were left. .

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