Resurrection of the LILY
A new weapon in the war against the lily beetle
PICKING and squishing has become a daily ritual for gardeners who are growing lilies. Locked in a battle with the lily leaf beetle, some gardeners check religiously under a ladder of narrow lily leaves for rows of oblong reddish orange eggs in the quest to save their lilies. The lily leaf beetle, easily identified by its scarlet colouration and black head and antennae, lays more than 300 eggs. To defend itself against predators, the larvae covers itself in its own excrement, a fecal shield, if you will, that by any account is a gross, slimy blob. Hesitate too long to remove the adults and egg masses by hand and the larvae will soon eat the leaves as well as the buds, flowers, and stems. The lily is able to withstand one season’s beetle infestation however multiple annual infestations that strip all or most of the plant’s leaves ultimately interferes with the essential process of photosynthesis. The result is reduced plant vigor. Unless, of course, you first decide to unceremoniously pull the infested lily out of the ground and plant something else. There is no doubt that lilies are worth saving. Asiatic, Trumpet and Oriental lilies produce some of the most sumptuous blooms in the summer garden. Not everyone, though, has the stomach for picking and squishing scores of beetles or wiping off their larvae from the undersides of leaves. Originally from Europe and Asia, the scarlet lily beetle or lily leaf beetle has no natural predator in its new, expanding habitat. As most gardeners will tell you, both non-chemical and registered chemical strategies have proved largely unsuccessful.
The lily leaf beetle above, can render a lily almost unrecognizable. An Oriental x Asiatic hybrid, above right, Kaveri has upfacing, lightly fragrant golden blooms with a bronze-red flame and vivid green throat.