Lily beetle

Lilies (Lilium species and hybrids), Giant lilies (Cardiocrinum species) and fritillaries (Fritillaria species) can be extensively defoliated by the common and widespread pest known as lily beetle or red lily beetle.

Red lily beetle

Quick facts

Common name Red lily beetle or lily beetle
Scientific name Lilioceris lilii
Plants affected Lilies (Lilium) fritillaries (Fritillaria)
Main symptoms Foliage is eaten by red beetles and their black excrement-coated grubs
Most active Late March-October

What is red lily beetle?

Lily beetle and its larvae are leaf-eating pests of lilies and fritillaries. The adult beetles are very occasionally found on other plants but lilies and fritillaries are the only plants on which eggs are laid and the grubs develop. Apart from spoiling the plants' appearance,  attacks in early summer can result in undersized bulbs developing, which may not flower next year. Lily beetle has become widespread in the UK over the past three decades.


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Most gardeners first become aware of the presence of lily beetle when their plants are stripped of foliage. Look out for;

  • Adult beetles which are 8mm long and have bright red wing cases and thorax. The head and legs are black
  • Clusters of orange-red, sausage-shaped eggs on the undersides of leaves
  • Larvae which reach 6-8mm long and are rotund, reddish brown with black heads. They are usually completely hidden under their own wet black excrement
  • Young grubs graze away the underside of leaves, resulting in white or brown dried up patches. The older grubs eat entire leaves, starting at the tips and working back to the stem, they will also feed on petals, stem and seed pods 
  • Adult beetles make rounded holes in the leaves and will also feed on petals and seed pods

    Adult lily beetles matingLily beetle eggs on the underside of a leafLily beetle larvaeLily beetle UK distribution map


    Non chemical control

    Where only a few lilies and fritillaries are being grown, the plants should be regularly inspected from late March onwards so that adult beetles, larvae and eggs can be removed by hand. One Lilium (Lily 'Defender Pink') is advertised as lily beetle tolerant.

    Chemical control

    For extensive infestations, it may be necessary to use an insecticide, such as thiacloprid (e.g. Bayer Provado Ultimate Bug Killer), acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra), deltamethrin(e.g. Bayer Sprayday Greenfly Killer, Bayer Provado Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer) or lambda- cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer). Organic gardeners can use natural pyrethrum/pyrethrins (e.g. Py Spray Garden Insect Killer, Py Bug Killer spray, Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Pyrol Bug & Larvae Killer or Growing Success Shrub and Flower Bug Killer). These products should control newly hatched larvae but are likely to be less successful against adult beetles.

    Plants in flower should not be sprayed to avoid harming bees and other pollinating insects.


    Pesticides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)


    Red lily beetle overwinters as adult beetles in soil, leaf litter and other sheltered places. This could be anywhere, not necessarily in the vicinity of lilies and fritillaries. Consequently, there is no advantage in attempting to treat the soil below lily plants. The beetles begin emerging on sunny days in late March and April when they seek out the foliage of host plants.

    Eggs are laid in small batches on the underside of leaves during April to mid-summer. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the foliage. When fully fed, the larvae go into the soil to pupate. The next generation of adult beetles emerges from mid-summer onwards. These beetles add to the feeding damage but there is only one generation a year and these late summer adults will not mate and lay eggs until the following year.

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