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Lilies (Lilium species and hybrids), Giant lilies (Cardiocrinum species) and fritillaries (Fritillaria species) can be extensively defoliated by the common and widespread insect known as lily beetle or red lily beetle.
Red lily beetle
Lily beetle and its larvae are leaf-eating insects 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.
Seen the lily beetle? We would like to know.
As part of RHS research we would like to know where the lily beetle has been seen.
Please submit your records via our lily beetle survey (expected time to complete survey = two minutes).
The RHS confirms that your information will be stored in compliance with the Data Protection Act and personal data will not be shared with third parties. If you prefer not to have your information used in this way, please indicate when submitting your record.
Thank you to everyone who has submitted records – read a blog about the surveys
Watch an animated map of the results from the lily beetle survey (links to YouTube)
Gardeners should look out for;
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. The lily 'Defender Pink' is advertised as lily beetle tolerant.
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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