Meet the red lily bug (Lilioceris lilii), which is currently one of my biggest garden challenges. As far as I know it is not widespread in my area, so I’ve been careful to not give away any lilies or lily bulbs. The University of Rhode Island seems to be the leading center for working on this bug. Here is the website and what they say about insecticides:
“To date, our material of choice for treating flowers is neem, an insecticide based upon extracts from the neem tree. Neem can be purchased at garden centers under the trade names Turplcx, Azatin EC, Margosan-0, Align and BioNeem. Neem kills larvae and repels adults. Neem is most effective on first instar larvae; it must be applied every five to seven days after egg hatch.”
I successfully dealt with Japanese Beetles by patiently plucking them every morning. I’ve never used any herbicide or insecticide in my garden. I’ve been picking lily bugs and larvea for years and it is much harder than grabbing Japanese beetles. The red adults are bright but nimble and hard to grab. The larvae and eggs are on the underside of leaves, so you have to kneel down and laboriously check every leaf. Not how I want to spend hours every day.
I have hundreds of lilies scattered all over the gardens, but I’ve been downsizing for the last two years because of these bugs. This year I decided that it’s just not worth the time and effort to save my lilies. I’m going to remove and destroy all but a dozen or so (of my favorites–the fragrant orientals).
The only worry I have is that the bugs might then move on to attack and decimate our “wild” patch of tiger lilies. The bugs seem to prefer the other varieties, but they do nibble on tiger lilies, and I hope that by removing the others I don’t doom the tigers.
I bought 450 lilies about six years ago, from Scheeper’s. It was a collection with gigantic, gaudy orienpets, lovely, fragrant orientals, and the tall, stately asiatics. The asiatics don’t have any smell. They bloom first and mine had gorgeous saturated colors–and also a pure white variety.
The Asiatics are good for bouquets that I take to the local cafe, because of that lack of overwhelming fragrance. All the lilies are excellent cut flowers. Some of my favorites are the so-called “heirloom” varieties. They have a very slight fragrance, and are like “turk’s cap” in shape.
The first Asiatic I ever got was a deep red rather short lily called “Negros” (photo above). It reminds me of my friend Kathleen who inspired me with her lilies, and urged me to try them. I still remember the June morning I spent waiting for the fat, red bud to finally open.
One of my favorites from the Scheeper’s mix is this orange–it just glows in the garden and made stop-in-your-tracks bouquets mixed with blue delphinium and golden yarrow.
My garden will be different without these showy lilies. But on Saturday the first hour of my gardening day was spent cricking my neck and shredding my knees searching for tiny red beetles and even tinier red eggs. An hour — and I didn’t even make it through a third of my lilies. Some of them are already badly damaged. So, I’ll save out a few of my favorites, and protect these few fiercely from this bug, and hope that the tigers make it through.