Red Lily beetles plague my Toronto Tiger Lilies

Red Lily beetles plague my Toronto Tiger Lilies

Red lily beetle in toronto garden 4

For the past several years, starting each spring and into the summer months,  I have been pestered by Red Lily Beetles (Lilioceris lilii) on my Tiger Lilies .  It is actually the beetles’ shiny, hard forewings that are red.  These pretty little beetles stand out quite well on green plants, but they are a trick to catch and squash.  I declare that I think they see me coming because, often, as I move in on their position, they drop to the earth below and essentially disappear in the shadows.  It doesn’t help that, this year, I spread red cedar chips in all my gardens, so imagine trying to find a red bug on that red surface.

Red lily beetle in toronto garden 3

I have successfully crushed or beheaded dozens of Scarlet Lily Beetles over the years, and have learned to look for their eggs that they deposit on the backsides of the lily leaves.  When the eggs are ready to hatch, they look like miniscule red spheres that usually are configured in an irregular line.  I must warn you that to squish the eggs or the beetles will leave your fingers stained with red, but I find this technique quite effective since I prefer not to use chemicals in my garden.

Red lily beetle in toronto garden

These colourful red lily beetles are not very large, only about 6-9 millimetres (1/4-3/8 in.) long, but they can sure do a number on the leaves, buds, stems and flowers of a wide variety of lilies and fritillaria.  Even my Easter Lilies that were successfully transplanted and thriving in my garden succumbed to the destruction of these pesky insects.  Try as I might to keep up with the consumption of my Tiger Lilies, I had had no blooms on the plants for at least five years!  I was so disappointed because my mother gave me these heritage blooms over 35 years ago.

tiger lily and bud - toronto 1

You can imagine my thrill and satisfaction when finally, this summer, my Tiger Lilies prevailed, and I was rewarded with some stunning, intricate flowers.  The plants themselves look downright deplorable with the leaves reduced to tattered remains of their earlier selves.

tiger lily flower - toronto

I hesitate to take credit for the perfect blossoms because I often forget to check the plants for the presence of beetles, giving them free reign to feast and propagate.  I wondered if the unusually bitter cold winter had taken a toll on the Beetles seeing as they overwinter in the soil.  Being a non-native species, I had hoped that the prolonged chill of the sub-zero temperatures would have killed them off totally, but alas, they were heartier than I expected.

Red lily beetle in toronto garden

I was naive in thinking that it was only the Red Lily Beetle adults that were eating the leaves of my plants, but have since learned that both they and their newly-hatched offspring, the larvae, are both guilty of devouring any and all parts of the plants.  I have been heartened and will renew my efforts to watch for the first signs of the Beetles come next April.  These pests waste no time and begin feasting on the Lily foliage as soon as it emerges from the soil.  Guess I’ll be down on my hands and knees, and with any luck, I’ll be able to forestall the laying of eggs which generally begins in May.  Wish me luck!

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  • I live in Toronto and spotted these suckers on my lilies and Fritillaria. What a sad day. I kill 20-30 a day with my morning cup of coffee in hand. What an awful way to start the day. Since they live in the soil would it be ill advised to dig up the bulbs when they start to come up and look in the soil.

    • Hi Susan. These beetles are annoying and persistent little devils. I feel the best way of dealing with them is by handpicking as you do. I’ve heard that Neem Oil might deter them, and even though I purchased some, I have not tried it out. Digging up the bulbs might put too much stress on them as they are putting out new growth. Hope this helps.

  • What a riot of wonderful colour.So interesting to read your post.

    • I am glad you enjoyed reading about the challenges I face in my garden. Always a source of enjoyment, my garden amazes me every year when it gradually transforms from the bleak and barren flower beds of winter and early spring into the riot of flowers and shrubs of summer. Nature is truly astounding.