The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.


Just minutes ago, I went out in the yard and was doing what my father-in-law used to call “a tour of the grounds”, checking out the progress in the gardens.

We have one garden that I usually call “The Lily Garden” because we have positively loaded it up with Asiatic lilies.  The plants in the Lily Garden are quite mature and yield dozens of robust blooms in a gorgeous variety of colours.

So, you can imagine my horror when I saw THIS:

Lilioceris lilii = Evil

AAAK!!  Lily beetles!  Lilioceris lilii!!! AAAAAK!!!  My poor, poor lilies!!!  LOOK, up there, just LOOK!  They’re EATING MY LILIES!!!

Now, you may be thinking, “Geez, take a pill, Geek, they’re just little beetles, and that’s really only a teensy nibble.  Plus they’re pretty.  What’s the big deal?”

The problem, my friends, is that I know too much about this evil invasive alien beast to be even REMOTELY comfortable with it being in my Lily Garden.  You see, according to at least one dood on the interwebz, I’m some kind of expert on it.  I’ve written a few things and given a few talks and have instilled fear in the very cockles of lily-lovers’ hearts right across the country (Did you know there are entire Lily Societies?  I didn’t until they started calling me to come talk at their meetings.  The sight of me now dredges up horrible memories and makes them weep and gnash their teeth in despair.) 

The lily beetle is a truly awful, persistent pest that will chew the crap out of a lily garden in a matter of weeks or days if the infestation is not controlled tout suite.

Until today, I’ve felt quite safe from them here in my little rural corner of the world.  I’ve watched our lily plants for years and have seen no signs.  And then tonight, I quickly spotted about 20 individuals, all in pairs.  It’s early still.  They’re mating (quite, um, friskily, apparently) which means I might have a few days’ leeway before the egg clusters start showing up in earnest. 

The only solution to this situation is to seek, and destroy.  I shall keep a few for my collection (for some reason, I didn’t keep any after staring at them every day for 2 years), and then I shall squish the rest.  And then I will have to inspect the underside of each frickin’ leaf and make sure none of the orange eggs are lurking there.  And THEN I’ll have to watch for the chunky, poop-toting larvae (oh, yes, these are just LOVELY creatures) and squish THOSE.

So yes, I know what to do.  Yet, I have a dilemma.  That pic up there was snapped with an awful flash just as the sun set…and, dangit, these little guys are awfully photogenic.   I should be out there squishing NOW…but I want some good pictures.  The weather forecast is “cloud and rain” until Saturday.  Do I dare wait that long?  Sigh.  I might be asking for trouble. 

Stupid #$!%* beetles.


  1. Lucy Corrander May 19, 2011 at 1:58 AM

    This beauty is a powerful form of protection. I know they are a nightmare for lily growers – but I’m glad I have never had to squash any.


    • TGIQ May 19, 2011 at 8:46 AM

      I did some experiments with the beetles to see about this “protection”, because it seemed pretty safe to assume that the coloration is aposematic. Based on my tests I’m fairly certain they’re sequestering protectants from their lily hosts (which are rather unpalatable to most other bugs); bioassays showed that other animals really didn’t want to eat food spiked with “lily beetle juice”.

  2. biobabbler May 19, 2011 at 2:32 AM

    You could, if truly motivation re: pictures and frightened re: lilies, take a few bugs, plunk them in habitat (jar with leaves & dirt?). Squish the rest in the garden. Then, when weather is nice (lighting is good) return these confined specimens to your (newly cleared) garden scape, photo shoot, then, well, do with them as you wish.

  3. Adrian Thysse May 19, 2011 at 7:55 AM

    Alberta still seems to be free of these terrors. Looking forward to some pictures of the life-cycle though, before you eliminate them!

    • TGIQ May 19, 2011 at 8:44 AM

      Adrian, they HAVE been spotted in Alberta, but I seem to recall only a single report. They most likely travel in the soil of potted plants, so it’s easy enough to get moved around. I really, REALLY want some pics of these guys, so I’m actually thinking of buying a potted lily and netting it in, like I did for my own greenhouse experiments.

      • africagomez May 15, 2012 at 4:01 PM

        Hilarious post! I myself might have been too efficient this year at squishing adults (a total of about 12), and now I might not be able to follow the life cycle. But I do love them, they are beautiful and their chick-like chirping makes them so endearing. I was wondering, if the danger is that they build up in numbers before they go out in the countryside to eat native lilies or fritillaries or endangered plants, should we stop growing Asiatic lilies in gardens instead of squishing the beetles?

        • TGIQ May 29, 2012 at 6:08 PM

          That’s an interesting question, Africa…I’m not really sure if density is an issue in terms of their dispersal. It seems to me that a couple of asiatic lily plants can support an awful lot of individuals. That would be a really good project for someone to work on; alas, there seems to be very little interest in the subject…

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