Red Scourge

Miss France
Miss France

I’ve been growing Oriental Lilies in containers in my garden for quite a few years now. My first 3 bulbs were a variety called “Miss France” which I think would be called dwarf, growing to about 50cm. tall with mid pink flowers. A few years later I acquired a handful of bulbs in each of four new varieties, all of the giant kind, which grow to well over a metre, up to 150cm. These are “Stargazer” (deep speckled pink), “Casa Blanca (pure white), “Legend” (yellow fading to white) and “Willeke Alberti” (pale pink). They have all been prolific bloomers, year after year, proving to give excellent value for money, especially as most of them were thrown in as free gifts with an order of mail order plug plants. In July, at the peak of their blossomy beauty, the stems struggle to bear the weight of such bountiful blooms, so I have taken to supporting them from an early age (about mid-May) with a bamboo frame. At my previous address, no.9, the most worrisome pest  I had to deal with was a grey squirrel which I caught digging up my lily bulbs and trying to steal them away from their pots. Here at no.39 it is bug life, specifically the Red Lily Beetle, more specifically lilioceris lilii.                              

…thanks to RSPB and Telegraph for pest pics…

This bright red beetle, about the size of my smallest finger nail, has been in my garden for a couple of years now, initially undetected but, this year and last, enemy number 3 (number 1 and 2 are snails and slugs in any order you wish). The beetle, if allowed, will  chomp its way through lily stems, leaves, flower buds and petals, happily destroying my horticultural pride and joy almost overnight, breeding and depositing its larva as a pulsating, oily gobbet of what resembles black bird poo surrounding a gold coloured grub which will gaily continue its parents work to a devastating degree. Adult beetles seem to have a human radar, enabling them to sense one’s hand approaching, at which point they will drop to the ground on their backs, exposing their dark undersides and therefore virtually invisible to the human eye. Policing this pest has become a daily task, along with slug-eviction and the catapulting of snails over the fence (not into my neighbour’s garden I might add, but into a small play park on the other side).  Close inspection of all lilies from all angles takes a good five minutes every day, sometimes twice a day, with any interlopers removed and dispatched to lilioceris heaven forthwith. At the end of autumn I’ll be replanting all my lily bulbs into new pots with new compost which will foil any beetles planning to over-winter beneath the soil and so gain a headstart on me next spring. The gloves are on, red beetles, and you cannot win. *invincible pose* …click on any pic to view large…


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