I normally do not use pesticides at my place. I’m fairly tolerant of anything Mother Nature invites into my back yard. So, in 2011, when some pretty, bright red, unspotted beetles showed up on my lilies, I welcomed them. There was no question that their intent was to eat the lily leaves, but I had lots of lilies, so I was content to let them graze. I was confident Mother Nature would send in some troops to keep the beetles in check. That was the first year.
The second year, the beetle numbers had multiplied. Their offspring were disgusting, gooey things. By the time my lilies started to bloom, there was not much left of them to bloom. I searched the internet, and discovered unsettling information about this red lily beetle. It is very hardy, isn’t bothered much by chemical warfare, and has no natural enemies in my part of the world.
Many gardeners have apparently torn out their lily beds, rather than try to control the beetle. I decided to embark on a process of elimination, armed with a bucket of soapy water, a pair of forceps, and a stiff sheet of white paper. I started as soon as my lilies poked their heads out of the ground. Every morning I would inspect the leaves carefully. When I found a beetle, I would capture it and throw it in the bucket of soapy water. I’d read that the beetle is a very strong flier, but can’t swim. I have confirmed the swimming part of this information. Not a single one of the beetles survived.
You are probably wondering what I used the forceps and the paper for. The forceps were very handy for plucking the beetle out of hard to reach places. The paper was to foil one of the beetles other skills – invisibility. When the beetle senses danger, it drops off the plant onto the ground. It lands on its back, where it lies quite still. The underside of its body is dirt color… so I would position the sheet of paper under the plant so that the beetle would drop on the paper instead of the dirt. The beetle was no longer invisible!
During the height of the beetle season, before they started to lay eggs, I increased my lily inspection to two or three times a day. Eventually I ran out of bugs to catch, and I did not see a single one of the disgusting larvae. I was cautiously optimistic that there were no more red lily beetles in my yard – for that year, anyway. I had every reason to expect a glorious display of lily blooms that year. And I would have if the hail hadn’t got them…
The Lily Beetles returned. In the spring of 2015 I gave up the fight. I started to remove all my lilies except one – the White Trumpet Lily.
Removing some types of lilies is as difficult a task as removing the Lily Beetle. The orange lilies produce lots of little bulblets that are easy to overlook when the parent bulbs are removed. In other words, the lilies keep coming back, no matter how often I remove them. I’ve given up trying. If the lilies and the lily beetle can reach some sort of détente, who am I to interfere?
Detente – isn’t that what a farmer has with his turkey – until Thanksgiving?
– Ronald Reagan –