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Red Lily Beetles

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Published on May 10, 2009

Red Lily Beetles

Plants affected

They're highly destructive to lilies (Lilium), and fritillaries (Fritillaria).

Red lily beetle adults feed on leaves, flowers and stems.
Infestations can prevent flowering, destroy bulbs or kill plants depending on the level of infestation.

About scarlet lily beetle

These bright red beetles, with distinctive black legs and antennae, are an invasive species which was first recorded in the UK during the 1940s.

They're also known as red lily beetles and are now commonly found across the south-east of England, and have recently been reported in parts of Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

When disturbed, adults emit a high pitch squeak, perhaps as a warning to other beetles.

Adults overwinter in the soil and emerge in late-March to early April.

Adults will continue to mate and feed from spring until autumn.

After mating, females will lay small groups of bright orange eggs on the underside of leaves.

Larvae hatch a few days later as red or orange-coloured grubs with black heads and three pairs of legs on their upper body.

As they feed, the larvae cover themselves in their own sticky black excrement.

Red lily beetle larvae are usually found on the underside of leaves where they feed from the tip and work back to the stem.

Any larvae which survive to become adults will drop to the soil in late autumn to overwinter, and emerge again the next spring.

Organic Treatment

Inspect plants carefully in early spring and remove any adults and larvae by hand to prevent infestations becoming established.
Use netting and fleece to contain the pests and stop adults moving between plants.
Replant pot-grown lilies and fritillarias using fresh compost in early spring before the overwintering adult beetles emerge from the soil.

There are no natural enemies commercially available, although a range of native parasites and predators will feed on both adult and larval stages. So encourage these by establishing a natural balance of wildlife in your garden and avoid using chemicals.

Prevention
Check plants regularly for signs of infestation and deal with them as soon as they appear.

Encourage insect-eating birds by putting up feeders in winter and provide nesting boxes in spring.

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