Red bugs on lilies

It never fails, every year as your lilies begin to sprout out of the ground those beetles are already feasting on your precious lilies. It is a problem all too common that every gardener woes. Below I will offer some tips on how to get rid of the dreaded red lily beetle and keep it out of your garden.

What is a red lily beetle?

The red lily beetle – also known as lilioceris lilii, scarlet lily beetle and lily leaf beetle are hungry insects that can devour an entire lily plant in just a short time and wreak havoc in your garden.

Recognizing a Red Lily Beetle


  • The adults are a bright red beetle, 6-8 mm long with a rectangular body shape.
  • Black head, legs and underside

(See picture to the right)

  • These beetles can easily be confused with lady bugs as they look similar the only difference is lady bugs have spots on their backs.


  • Appears to have yellow to orange soft bodies with black heads.
  • Small larvae hide on the underside of leaves.

Tips on how to get rid of the Red Lily Beetle

Diatomaceous earth

That is a great natural alternative to get rid of most hard-shelled unwanted critters such as beetles, ants, and more. Sprinkle it at the base of the plants and as the bugs trek through the powder they will die within 24 hrs as the powder suffocates them.

You can get diatomaceous earth at a whole foods store, ensure you are buying the food grade type to keep animals safe.

Pick them off

If you aren’t squeamish about bugs, you can pick them up and put them in a tall pail. You can spray them with soapy water or water mixed with olive oil to kill them.

Spray with Neem oil

Neem oil is a great way to kill the larvae and the bugs, be sure to spray the underside of the leaves. Spray again within 5 – 7 days to ensure there are no new eggs that hatched.

You can find neem oil and diatomaceous earth at various department stores and health food stores. Specifically, Earths General Store may carry both, call to confirm.

Check for infestation

To stay diligent and to make sure your garden is free from these pests all gardens should be vigilant and inspect planted lilies and any bulbs in the soil every year and check often.

So there you have it, a natural alternative to help get rid of red lily beetles. It is important to use natural alternatives so you can protect your plants and of course the bees. Bees are a big fan of lilies and we want to ensure we are not using any harmful chemicals on our plants that would harm them.

Sherwood Nurseries treats all their plants with environmentally friendly pesticides to ensure there is no harm to the bees or the environment. Contact for details.

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Every week, Telegraph gardening expert Helen Yemm gives tips and advice on all your gardening problems whether at home or on the allotment. Here Helen Helen Yemm gives her advice on lily beetles, their grubs and how they can be eliminated by spraying, or crushed by hand If you have a question, see below for how to contact her.

Janet Menzies, a reader from Fordingbridge writes that she assumed she “had got the upper hand with lily beetles ealier this year by using insecticide, but was horrified to discover several adult beetles hiding on the undersides of leaves when I was cutting down the stems of my potted lilies.

Presumably I have caught (and squashed) these in the nick of time, but it got me wondering: where do lily beetles go in winter?”

Lily beetles, the scarlet-coated horrors that (with their equally destructive grubs), do so much damage to lilies and close relations, hibernate in the top inch or two of soil, sometimes but not always close to lilies, and also in other undisturbed garden debris.

Since you grow your lilies in pots, it is a good idea to repot them annually in fresh compost.

This has the added benefit of letting you check the bulbs are in good condition and have not also been infested with vine weevil grubs.

The Red Lily Beetle Summary:

I did try something similar yesterday, but normally I don’t measure anything. 🙂
I filled a spray bottle with water, added some oil, dish liquid soap and shoke it.
When I sprayed the red lily beetle, it did die, but not as quickly.
I will check tomorrow to see if it also killed the larva.
At the moment I am between houses, so I can only check on my science experiments every couple of days. 🙂
I would really like to get rid of the red lily beetles without hurting anything else.
I don’t even want to hurt the red lily beetles, but they show me no mercy. 🙂
I will keep adjusting this recipe until I find the one that works for me.
If you use it and find a happy medium recipe, please share with me. 🙂
July 6, 2013:
Today most of my lilies are in bloom! Checked for red lily beetles and I didn’t find any.
I think the combination of moving my lilies to a sunnier location and being consistent with hand picking of the larva and the beetles; worked for me.
The spray concoction works, but it’s just as easy to hand pick them and drop them in soapy water. I like wearing garden gloves for this job. 🙂
Good luck with yours!

May 2016

The Red lily beetles are back with a vengeance.
They must be attracted to the lily smell, because the red beetles are not picking on anything else.
If it’s the smell that they are attracted to, I’m going to spray my lilies with a garlic or onion spray. Let you know if that works.

June 30, 2016 – garlic spray

Well – the red lily beetles are gone.
So far this works better than anything I’ve tried for the last couple of years.
I didn’t have fresh garlic so, I used garlic powder.
1/4 cup of garlic powder one litre of water.
I let the mixture sit in the sun for a couple of days
and then I just poured the garlic solution in a squirt bottle.
I squirted the whole plant including the soil around the plant and under the leaves.
The left-over garlic residue – I poured more water over it and let it sit in the sun again. Just in case I needed to re-apply the garlic spray.

For a squirt bottle; I just used an empty dishwashing liquid soap bottle, salad dressing bottles etc. would also work. That way I didn’t have to strain or filter the mixture before using it. For easy pouring in the squirt bottle; I poured the mixture in a measuring cup with a spout and then in the squirt bottle.
This is a month later and I can’t find any red lily beetles around. I was getting ready to re-spray my lilies after it rained and I didn’t need to.
If you would rather use fresh garlic – just use a whole head of garlic – break apart the cloves.
Smash the garlic with the side of a large knife blade. Don’t need to peel the garlic for this.
In a jar pour a litre of water and the mashed garlic and let it sit for a day or two.
The stronger the garlic infusion, the better it works. Strain the solution, pour in a spray bottle and just spray away.
Hope it works for you as well!
other Non-commercial Pest Sprays .PDF

Lily Leaf Beetle

Lily Leaf Beetle Lilioceris lilii
Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae

If you grow lilies, then be well aware of the lily leaf beetle, its life cycle and how to manage this pest and pass the information along to your customers. Lily leaf beetle (Lilioceris lilii) is known to lay its eggs and develop only on true lilies, Lilium species (Turk’s cap lilies, tiger lilies, Easter lilies, Asiatic and Oriental lilies) (not daylilies), and fritillaria (Fritillaria sp). Although lilies and fritillaria are the primary hosts, lily leaf beetle also feeds, sometimes just lightly, on a number of other plants, including lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), soloman’s seal (Polygonatum sp.), bittersweet (Solanum sp.), potato (Solanum tuberosum), hollyhock (Alcea) and various hosta species. It is however, a devastating pest to true lilies.


The lily leaf beetle (LLB) is native to Europe and was discovered near Montreal, Canada in 1945. Its damage was limited to the Montreal area for decades, until discovered in the United States in 1992 in Cambridge, MA. It is thought that LLB arrived in a shipment of lily bulbs from Europe. Since then, LLB has spread throughout much of Massachusetts and is working its way throughout New England. Lily leaf beetles are strong fliers and are also moved from one area to another on host plants. Both the immature stage and adults cause damage by eating the leaves and buds. Adults and larvae are commonly found together devouring lily foliage. Often, they consume all the leaves leaving only bare stems.

Identification and Life Cycle

As soon as lilies break through the ground, over-wintered, bright red adult lily leaf beetles will begin to actively feed on the foliage. The adult beetles are about ½” long with a very bright red body, and black legs, head, antennae, and undersurface. Over the past two years this emergence has occurred around the middle of April in the warmest parts of the state. The beetles are foraging for food and seeking a mate. The adult beetles will begin to lay eggs on the undersides of leaves, usually in May. The eggs are irregular-shaped and laid in rows that appear as tan-colored lines. Just before the eggs hatch, they will turn orange and then a deep red color. The eggs hatch within 4-8 days into the immature or larval stage. The larvae are slug-like in appearance with soft, plump orange, brown, yellowish or even greenish bodies and black heads. The young larvae initially feed on the undersides of the foliage but eventually will move to the upper surfaces and the buds. While they feed, the larvae pile their own excrement on their backs which makes them objectionable to hand-pick. The larval feeding is the most destructive and lasts for 16-24 days. The larvae then drop to the soil to pupate. The pupae are florescent orange. Adult beetles emerge 16-22 days later and can be seen feeding throughout the rest of the growing season. Adult beetles over-winter in sheltered places, soil or plant debris in the garden or woods, not necessarily near the host plants. Adults prefer areas that are shaded, protected, cool, and moist. The over-wintered adults emerge early in the spring and begin the cycle again with feeding, mating and egg-laying. Each female beetle produces 250-450 eggs.


If your customers only have a few plants in their garden, hand-picking adults and eggs can be effective. For more than a few susceptible plants, pesticide treatments may be needed. Products containing Neem (Bon-Neem, Azatin), a botanical insecticide, have been shown to kill very young larvae but must be applied every five to seven days after egg hatch. Products containing spinosad a microbial insecticide, may also be effective. Spinosad is sold as Conserve and Entrust for commercial growers and Monterey Garden Insect Spray, BULL’S-EYE™ and others. Before recommending a product or applying any pesticide, READ THE LABEL and apply only as directed on the label.

Products containing the systemic imidacloprid have reportedly provided effective control applied either as a foliage spray or soil drench depending on label instructions. Imidacloprid is the active ingredient in Marathon, used in commercial greenhouses. Merit, used by landscapers and home gardeners and one of the active ingredients in Bayer Advanced Rose and Flower Insect Killer for home gardeners. There are also other home gardener formulations containing imidacloprid. Note that it is thought that imidacloprid is one of several causes of bee decline and should never be used when bees are active or on plants in flower. See recent research from UMass: Nest Location in Bumble Bees: Effect of Landscapes and Insecticides

When using pesticides it is important to take precautions to protect pollinating insects such as bees. Apply pesticides in the evening when fewer bees will be foraging and when spray drift due to wind and volatilization due to heat are at a minimum. Do not spray during windy weather to prevent drifting. Avoid spraying when plants or nearby plants (including weeds) are in bloom. See the fact sheet “Protecting Bees from Pesticides” (Purdue University).

Lily Leaf Beetle Biological Control Research Update

Recent research efforts to control the lily leaf beetle have concentrated on classical biological control which acquaints natural enemies with their host. LLB came from Europe so European parasitoids were released with the intent of establishing and distributing the themselves to provide long term control rather than needing to provide regular releases each year. Areas within a few miles of the research release sites of the parasitic wasps are benefiting already. Here is an update on biological control research for LLB.

The following information is reprinted from: Lily Leaf Beetle Biological Control Update, March 31, 2006. Northeastern IPM News, Dept. of Plant Sciences, University of Rhode Island

The University of Rhode Island Biological Control Laboratory, in collaboration with CABI-Bioscience and colleagues in France, identified a complex of four larval parasitoids, which causes a high level of parasitism throughout Europe. On the basis of parasitoid surveys in Europe and laboratory experiments conducted in the USA and Europe, it was determined that T. setifer, L. errabundus, and D. jucunda were safe and likely candidates to control L. lilii.

Tetrastichus setifer is likely the best candidate for controlling the LLB in the Northeast. It is widespread throughout Europe and it has been relatively easy to establish in RI, MA, NH, and ME. Lily leaf beetle populations have declined substantially at the two oldest release sites. They last released T. setifer in Wellesley, MA in 2001 where it has heavily parasitized LLB larvae ever since (100% parasitism at peak larval density in 2005). We found similar results in Cumberland, RI where we last released T. setifer in 2002, with 100% parasitism at peak larval density in 2005. From the parasitoids released in surrounding states, they found T. setifer establised in Bridgton, ME in 2004. Tetrastichus setifer has also spread several miles from release sites.

Lemophagus errabundus was found in a lily garden 3/4 mile from their Plainville, MA release site in 2005, indicating that it is not only established from releases in 2003 and 2004, but it has spread a considerable distance. They also released this species in the Kingston, RI plot where they found good parasitism in the weeks following release. Diaparsis jucunda has proven to be more difficult to establish against the LLB. It is found at higher elevations in Europe, and appears well-suited for northern New England, but they have not yet recovered overwintered parasitoids at any of their 2004 and 2005 release sites in RI, MA, NH, or ME. In 2005 they also released LLB larvae parasitized by D. jucunda into their lily plots to determine if this is a better way to establish this species.

  • Photos
    • Adult
    • Eggs
    • Larvae
  • Resources from University of Rhode Island Bio Control Lab: Lily Leaf Beetle Bio control project

Tina Smith
Extension Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture Program
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
07, updated 2013

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Lilies (“true lilies”, plants of the genus Lilium) are an important source of color in summer and early fall perennial gardens. However, in recent years, home and commercial gardeners have been plagued by a bright red beetle whose feeding causes extensive damage to many susceptible lily species and hybrids. This very serious pest is the lily leaf beetle (LLB), Lilioceris lilii. LLB, a native insect of Europe, has become a widespread pest of native and exotic lilies throughout New England, where it was first reported in 1997. This beetle threatens the use of garden lilies in our region.

In addition to Maine’s native lilies, Canada lily and wood lily, a myriad of hardy hybrids are commercially available. They range in height from 1 to 5 feet and produce flowers of most colors except blue. Most garden hybrids belong to one of two groups: Asiatic hybrid lilies are earliest to flower and have small, narrow leaves, while Oriental hybrids are taller, with wider, more succulent leaves. All have mild to heavy fragrance and most have a long bloom period.

LLB lays eggs and completes its life cycle only on true lilies and fritillarias, LLB adults may feed on and cause minor damage to a few other herbaceous plants such as Solomon’s seal and flowering tobacco, but they do not reproduce on these plants. LLB adults and larvae feed on leaves, stems, flower buds, and flowers. The defoliation reduces plant vigor and flowering, greatly diminishing the aesthetic quality of plants. These insects do not feed on daylilies.

Lilies are susceptible to various other pests. Slugs and snails feed on lily leaves and flowers and are especially damaging in rainy years. Gray mold (Botrytis) is a plant disease that infects flowers and leaves and is best controlled by providing good air circulation among plants. Damage by LLB is proving more difficult to manage than these other occasional pest problems.

Biology of Lily Leaf Beetles

LLB adults overwinter in plant debris or soil either near host plants or some distance away. They prefer hibernation sites that are cool, shaded, and moist. Adults emerge from very early spring through June. They feed and mate throughout this period. They are strong fliers and disperse over long distances. There is one generation per year.

LLB adults are about one-quarter-inch long and bright scarlet. Their head, antennae, legs, and underside are black. Adults emit a squeak if disturbed or squeezed, to deter predators.

Females lay orange eggs in an irregular line on the undersides of leaves and on flower buds and open flowers. LLB larvae emerge from eggs and pass through four life stages, growing larger as they molt. They cover themselves in their own excrement, called a fecal shield. This moist black material acts as a defense mechanism against predator species.

Nonchemical Control of Lily Leaf Beetles

Hand-picking adults, eggs, and larvae is an effective means of reducing damage. It’s important to begin scouting for the emergence of adults in April and destroy any that you see. As spring progresses, check the undersides of leaves for orange egg masses and destroy them as well. Remove young larvae from leaves as they develop. Wear a tight-fitting rubber glove if you want to avoid directly touching the eggs or larvae. Make this practice a regular routine throughout the summer months, as it is a very effective control tactic.

Chemical Control of Lily Leaf Beetles

Neem, an extract of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), is the active ingredient in the organic insecticides Turplex, Azatin EC, Margosan-O, Align, and Bio-Neem. Neem is most effective on first-stage, very young LLB larvae, and should be applied every five to seven days after eggs begin to hatch. The systemic synthetic insecticide imidacloprid (Merit) also provides effective control when applied to the soil in early spring. Malathion is an effective chemical spray for adults and larvae. Follow the directions on all pesticide labels closely.

Promising Research on Lily Leaf Beetles

Entomologists at the University of Rhode Island have identified a group of parasitic wasps that are potentially effective biological control agents against LLB. Their research is ongoing and these wasps are not yet commercially available.

We have conducted research at the University of Maine to identify lilies that offer resistance to LLB. We have found that certain lily species limit the survival of LLB eggs and larvae and thereby reduce subsequent damage to the plants. Our research indicates that Asiatic hybrids are the most susceptible lilies, while certain Oriental lilies and other hybrids may provide some resistance. To date, the three most resistant lilies in our tests are Lilium henryi ‘Madame Butterfly’, Lilium speciosum ‘Uchida’, and Lilium ‘Black Beauty’.

Mating LLB Adults on Oriental LilyLilium ‘Madame Butterfly’LLB Larvae and LLB Damage


Research funding from the University of Maine Agricultural Center and USDA IPM Partnership Grants.

Photos by Philip A. Stack and Lois Berg Stack.

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2009

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Lily leaf beetle: Watch out for this garden pest

The lily leaf beetle (Liliocerus lilii) is an invasive pest of growing concern in North America. The lily leaf beetle targets “true lilies” (genus: Lilium), however it has also been recorded on some other hosts. The larval form of this beetle causes significant feeding damage on the leaves of native and exotic lily species and hybrids.


Liliocerus lilii (in the family: Chrysomelidae), native to Europe and Euroasia, was discovered in Montreal, Canada, in the 1940s. It has since been transported to the United States in 1992, likely through moving bulbs, and continues to expand its range. It is currently prevalent in the north eastern U.S. and is continuing to spread towards the Midwest with recent reports of lily leaf beetle detection in central Wisconsin and eastern Iowa. As of 2016, there have been multiple reports in southeast Michigan’s Wayne County.

Life cycle

These bright red beetles overwinter as adults in the soil or leaf-litter, emerging in early spring and through June to lay eggs. Eggs can be found on the underside of lily or fritillary leaves in irregular lines of three to 12. The slug-like larvae hatch after one to two weeks, and can feed from 16 to 24 days. Through their larval development, these orange-green larvae cover themselves in their own frass (excrement) to deter predators.


The primary hosts for lily leaf beetles are plants in the genus Lilium and Fritillaria. They are commonly found on tiger lilies, Easter lilies, Asiatic and oriental lilies, and Fritillaries, making them the most at-risk for significant feeding damage. Minor feeding damage can also occur on lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), soloman’s seal (Polygonatum sp.), bittersweet (Solanum sp.), potato (Solanum tuberosum), hollyhock (Alcea) and various hosta species. Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are not affected by this pest.

Contact insecticides can be used to control larval feeding on plant foliage. Products containing Permethrin, Cyhalothrin, Deltamethrin, Pyrethrin and other insecticides labeled for ornamental use have shown the most effective control. Systemic insecticide such as imidacloprid have reportedly provided effective control applied either as a foliage spray or soil drench depending on label instructions. Azadiractin (neem oil) products and insecticidal soaps have also shown some control of lily leaf beetles.

Hand-picking and destroying adult beetles, larvae and eggs is also effective in reducing damage.

As with any insecticide, only use products appropriately labeled for desired use and always read the label.

Although no native parasitoid of lily leaf beetle exists in the U.S., research is underway at the University of Rhode Island on potential biocontrol options.

Research on resistant lilies (ones that limit survival of lily leaf beetle eggs) from the University of Maine indicates Asiatic hybrids are the most susceptible lilies, while certain oriental lilies and other hybrids may provide some resistance. They state that the three most resistant lilies in their tests are Lilium henryi ‘Madame Butterfly’, Lilium speciosum ‘Uchida’ and Lilium ‘Black Beauty’.

Report sightings

Please be vigilant of this emerging pest and spread awareness amongst anyone who grows lilies in Michigan. Monitor lilies throughout the growing seasons for signs of larvae, feeding damage or eggs.

A map of lily leaf beetle reports is currently being curated by Naomi Cappuccino of Carleton University in Ontario, Canada. For more information on her ongoing research or to report a detection of lily leaf beetle infestation, visit her Lily Leaf Beetle Tracker website.


Call Michigan State University Extension’s toll-free Lawn and Garden Hotline at 1-888-678-3464 or submit questions through Ask an Expert.

More information

  • Lily Leaf Beetle, University of Maine Extension bulletin #2450
  • Invasion of American native lily populations by an alien beetle, Biological Invasions
  • Potential novel hosts for the lily leaf beetle Lilioceris lilii Scopoli (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) in eastern North America, Ecological Entomology
  • Biological control of the lily leaf beetle, Lilioceris lilii, in North America, University of Rhode Island

What can I do to protect my lilies from lily leaf beetles?

Lily leaf beetles have been a menace since first arriving in Massachusetts in 1992. Native to Europe, the lily leaf beetle (LLB) is an especially damaging insect species that feeds primarily on true lilies (Lilium species, not daylilies). Native lilies such as Canada, Turk’s cap, and wood lilies, as well as a number of garden lilies and Fritillaries are susceptible to LLB. Hungry adults and larva will eat both the leaves and flowers on lilies, sometimes leaving only the stem behind.

Adult beetles are bright red with black legs, antennae, heads, and undersides. They overwinter in the soil or plant debris and emerge as adults in the spring. They are strong fliers and can travel considerable distances to find host plants. Once lilies start growing, LLB adults aren’t far behind. When adult beetles find a suitable host plant, they feed and mate. Females lay orange eggs in lines on leaf undersides, flower buds, and flowers. As soon as the eggs hatch, the larva begin feeding, all the while covering themselves with their own excrement to deter potential predators.

Lily foliage showing early signs of LLB damage

If you only have a few lilies in your garden, hand-picking the adults, eggs, and larva is a good control measure. You can either crush the insects with your fingers or drop them into a soapy water solution, which will kill them quickly. Make sure to check the undersides of leaves for hiding insects and eggs. If you have a large number of lilies and hand-picking is impractical, some insecticides can provide effective control. Before using any pesticide product, always read the label and follow the directions closely. Contact the Infoline for specific insecticide recommendations.

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