Lilies encompass nearly 100 different species of flowering plants. They are quite attractive flowers to have in the garden, and many insects think so too. When you find things munching on your lilies, you’ll want to know, “What insects are eating my lilies?”
The red lily leaf beetle is an insect that feeds heavily on lilies and can do a lot of damage. Other bugs and insects that eat lilies include slugs, aphids, lily thrips, lily weevils, and nematodes. Many can be controlled with neem oil, but others will require specialized treatments.
You no longer have to wonder what is eating your lilies because we are going over the most common pests and how to deal with them. Then we will let you know the best methods to repel these annoying critters so they won’t come back.
- There are a variety of lily species that attract insects and bugs that can damage your lily plants.
- Common pests of lilies include red lily leaf beetle, slugs, aphids, lily thrips, weevils, and nematodes.
- Neem oil is a common treatment for lily plants, but there are other ways to deter insect pests.
1. Red Lily Leaf Beetle
A native pest from Europe, the red lily leaf beetle has been a scourge for lily owners for as long as there have been gardens. They must have hitched a ride across the ocean a few decades ago, but since then they have been terrorizing lilies in the states. They are small, bright red beetles that almost exclusively feed on lilies.
You may notice these insects because they are bright red with small black legs and heads. When you reach toward them to remove these pests, they often drop to the ground and lay on their backs to camouflage themselves. Their undersides are black and are difficult to see on dark mulch or soil.
Recognizing Damage From Red Lily Leaf Beetles
The grubs of these beetles are straight from a Stephen King novel. They have a disgusting habit of taking their slimy excrement and loading it onto their backs as protection from predators. When you see a slimy thing that looks like it should have been flushed down the toilet crawling on your lilies, you’ve found the red lily beetle grub.
These little red pests lay hundreds of eggs on the bottoms of the leaves. When the grubs hatch, they immediately begin eating the leaves. The damage from red lily leaf beetle grubs appears as if all the color has been scraped away from the leaves.
They start scraping the bottoms of the leaves leaving pale, sometimes translucent patches on the leaves. As the grubs get bigger, they will start to eat the entire leaves, flowers, and even seed pods.
The adult beetles eat small holes in the parts of the plant, often resulting in leaf drop. Over time, if they are not treated, they can destroy the plants or weaken them severely. This makes any plants that grow back, small and sickly looking.
Control Red Lily Leaf Beetles By Hand
One way to get rid of these pests is by hand. You’ll have to be quick to get the adult beetles because they can quickly drop to the ground and disappear. They will also hide in tiny crevices of the leaves. Once you have them in hand, drop them in a bucket of soapy water to eliminate them.
Snip Off Affected Leaves To Eliminate Lily Beetles
You can also snip off the leaves the grubs are feeding on and dispose of them. The same goes for eggs. Just put the leaves in a sealable plastic bag and dispose of them in the trash, or drop the leaves into a bucket of soapy water.
Check for egg clusters on the undersides of the leaves. These look like orange and brown grains of rice in a row. Check everywhere on your lilies because one female can lay upwards of 450 eggs in one month.
Neem Oil Can Eliminate Red Lily Leaf Beetles
If getting hands-on doesn’t appeal to you (and I don’t blame you if it doesn’t) you can spray the eggs and grubs with neem oil. Natria Neem Oil Spray for Plants and Pests is an effective and organic control measure against young red lily leaf beetles.
An article from Frontiers In Plant Science found that 90% of the repellent effect of neem oil can be attributed to a single chemical – azadirachtin. Azadirachtin is known as a limonoid, which is a triterpene. While these names don’t really matter to the average gardener, just know that science backs us up here!
Use Diatomaceous Earth To Repel Red Lily Leaf Beetles
Diatomaceous earth is another effective insect control and repellant measure. It is a powder made up of fossilized, microscopic organisms that will create tiny cuts in any insect that crawls across it. These tiny cuts cause the insects to dehydrate quickly so they can’t do much more damage.
Spread a line of Harris Diatomaceous Earth Crawling Insect Killer around your lilies to prevent crawling insects, and sprinkle some directly onto the plants to get the red lily beetles that fly to them. Be sure to reapply after rain, as showers can wash the powder away.
Get Rid Of Red Lily Leaf Beetles With Natural Predators
Another way to help keep these insects away is to encourage predators such as frogs and toads, insect-eating birds, and predatory wasps. These animals often eat adult beetles and even grubs.
Black pepper is another great repellent for beetles in general. You can read about the different ways to use black pepper to keep beetles away from your plants here.
2. Snails And Slugs Will Sample Lilies
You can recognize slug and snail damage on plants by the ragged holes left in the vegetation. You’ll also see the shimmering slime trails left behind as they float on their tiny layers of mucus.
These gastropods often feed at night when it’s cool and damp on newer or more tender parts of the plant. Their targets are often plants that are just starting to bud, and they seem to come out in bigger numbers after long periods of rain. Read about the places snails come from at night to learn where these mollusks hide during the day.
Large numbers of these slimy plant eaters can destroy entire gardens if they are left unchecked. Even though they are slow-moving pests, you’ll probably not see too many of them because they like to hide in damp, dark places when the sun comes out.
Repel Slugs And Snails With Sharp Edges
To repel these uninvited gastropods, you can use diatomaceous earth and sprinkle a line around your plants, or even use something sharp and ragged like crushed eggshells. Slug and snail bodies are so soft that diatomaceous earth and eggshells will cut them, so they won’t pass over these barriers.
You Can Deter Slugs And Snails With Salt
Dry them out! You can use a barrier of Epsom salt to keep slugs and snails away. Salt will immediately react with its slime coating and quickly cause extreme dehydration. Any simple type of Epsom salt will do, like Amazon Basics Epsom Salt. The lavender scent acts as an additional barrier against slugs and snails.
Share A Cold One With A Slug To Eliminate Them
Using a small bowl or container, set it into the ground so that it’s almost level with the dirt level and fill it about three-quarters of the way up with beer. Snails and slugs are attracted to the yeast and will fall into the container. Replace the liquid daily until you have no more slimy visitors.
Grow Fragrant Plants To Repel Slimy Snails And Slugs
Marigolds and lavender have such strong scents that slugs and snails don’t go anywhere near them. With a line of these plants protecting your lilies, you won’t have to worry about damage from the slimy slugs.
We have a fantastic guide on the scents that snails hate. Check it out for a more complete list of the fragrant plants that can repell snails and slugs.
3. Lily Thrips Will Eat Lilies
It’s in their name, so they must eat these flowers. Lily thrips will infect almost any type of lily, but the problem is that they are so small that you’ll see the damage long before you see these tiny insects.
Lily thrips can live out the majority of their lives inside the flowers making them even more challenging to spot.
They damage leaves by sucking out all the juices, leaving behind brown or discolored, dried-out sections of leaves. If they get into the bulbs of the flowers, they can cause the bulbs to shrivel up and eventually rot away completely.
Control Lily Thrips With Predatory Insects
Controlling thrips is difficult because of how small they are and how they can hide inside the plant. Applications of insecticidal soaps such as neem oil can take care of thrips, but you’ll have to treat the flowers periodically to get them all.
Lacewings, ladybugs, and other predatory insects also help to keep the thrip populations in check because they will eat both the adults and larvae.
Soak Your Bulbs To Remove Thrips
If you find evidence of thrips in the bulbs, you can wash or soak the bulbs in mineral oil or insecticidal soap or heat the bulb in hot water. Just be sure to use a good thermometer when using hot water. The temperature only needs to get up to 115℉. Temperatures higher than that can cook the bulbs and render them useless.
Not sure if you have lily thrips in your bulbs? Lily thrip damage to flower bulbs will make the bulbs soft and shriveled. You’ll also see tiny holes where the insects have burrowed inside.
Check out our guide on the different ways to get rid of thrip eggs fast for a more complete list of ways to be rid of these annoying pests.
Avoid over-fertilizing to deter Lily Thrips
Be careful when fertilizing your flowers as plants that get too much nitrogen tend to attract thrips. If you plan to fertilize your lilies, try using a 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 for an even distribution of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
4. Lily Weevils Eat Lilies
These insects are small beetles with a long, protruding point jutting off the front of their heads, and the grubs are tiny, white-colored, with light brown heads. The grubs dig into the stems and bulbs of the plant and can cause extensive damage.
Adults feed on the leaves and flowers of lilies but don’t do nearly as much damage as the tiny grubs. The grubs can drastically weaken or destroy the lilies.
Use Insecticidal Soap To Repel Lily Weevils
Both insecticidal soap and neem oil are effective natural insecticides that can repel and eliminate lily weevils. These products can be sprayed directly onto the lily plants, targeting the weevils while being safe for beneficial insects. You’ll need to reapply the soap or neem oil to make sure all weevils are targeted.
Control Lily Weevil Populations With Beneficial Insects
Beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators of lily weevils. By introducing these beneficial insects into the garden, they can help control the weevil population by feeding on the larvae and adults. Nematodes can also be used to control grub populations.
Use Row Covers To Block Weevils
Floating row covers made of lightweight fabric can be used to physically block adult weevils from reaching the lily plants. This prevents them from laying eggs on the foliage and reduces the risk of infestation. Valibe Plant Covers work great against weevils.
Regular Inspection Can Save Your Lilies From Weevils
Regular inspection of lily plants is crucial for early detection of weevil infestations. By monitoring the plants for signs of weevil damage, such as notched leaves or wilting, prompt action can be taken to address any infestations before they become severe.
For more suggestions on how to repel these pests, check out our article with simple tips to keep weevils out of your garden.
5. Nematodes Will Eat Lily Bulbs And Roots
Nematodes are microscopic worms that live in the soil. Most nematodes are beneficial and help to keep soil healthy. You can even use certain nematodes to treat grubs that can damage your flowers and garden plants. Not all nematodes are beneficial though. Two types of nematodes that will damage your lilies include the root lesion and the leaf lesion nematode.
How To Identify Nematode Damage To Lilies
These microscopic pests burrow into the roots and bulbs of all types of lilies and other plants. While they are inside they feed on the cells of the plants and multiply by laying thousands of eggs. Eventually, they destroy the entire bulb or allow infections to move in.
Infected bulbs will be soft and mushy or rotten. When they destroy the plant and have nothing left to feed on, they move on to the next plant.
Nematode symptoms include plants that start to turn yellow and brown from the bottom up. If you dig up the roots, you’ll notice lesions, soft bulbs, and smaller-than-normal root growth.
Use Marigolds To Repel Bad Nematodes
If you suspect you have bad nematodes in your soil, you can plant marigolds to help repel them. There is a compound in the flowers that these tiny worms hate. To be even more effective at controlling them, till the spent flowers into the ground when they have turned brown and brittle.
Use Soil Solarization To Eliminate Nematodes
The only other effective way—aside from commercial pesticides—to get rid of bad nematodes is by soil solarization. This process uses the heat of the sun to “bake” the soil, making the dirt so hot that it gets rid of the majority of detrimental organisms
To use soil solarization, follow these steps:
- Till the ground so there are no large clumps of dirt
- Soak the area with water
- Cover the area with clear plastic
- Stake the plastic down or bury the edges so prevent the plastic from blowing away
- Let the summer sun do its job for 4-6 weeks.
This process essentially ‘bakes’ the soil by heating up the water, creating steam. The extremely hot steam eliminates any living organisms in the soil. Any bulbs or plants left in the area you treat by soil solarization will be destroyed.
After the soil has been solarized, sow in beneficial nematodes to help offset the negative ones and help the soil become healthy again.
6. Aphids Will Eat Lilies
These tiny bugs look like green, brown, or black specks with long antennae packed into clusters. They feed on most plants that we like to grow and the damage they cause looks like dried up, curled, or crispy leaves.
The problems with aphids is that they multiply so quickly, spread out far and wide, and can cause a multitude of secondary infections on your plants. They will infect true lilies, hybrids, daylilies, and almost any type of lily. Check out our article on the flowers that aphids love to see if you have other flowers attracting aphids to your garden.
If these insects are left unchecked, they could ruin your lilies in a short time. Fortunately, there are several ways to get rid of and repel these prolific pests.
Control Aphids With Natural Predators
Ladybugs and lacewing flies are natural predators that will devour these tiny insects. Especially the nymphs of these insects as they won’t fly off. You can get Clark&Co Organic 3000 Live Ladybugs to treat aphids with beneficial bugs.
Alternatively, you can read about the different ways to attract ladybugs to your garden here for a more natural approach.
Insecticidal Soap To Treat For Aphids
Spraying aphids with insecticidal soaps will get rid of them too. Just keep checking as the eggs can hatch weeks later and start the cycle all over again. As we mentioned before, it’s best to spray your plants off after using soaps and oils to keep your lilies healthy.
Plant Some Overly Fragrant Herbs To Keep Aphids Away
Growing strong-smelling plants such as catnip, garlic, or chives is a great way to repel these insect pests. They hate the smell of these herbs and won’t come near them unless they are truly desperate.
Mixing up a solution of essential oils is another way to treat and repel aphids. In a spray bottle, add a few drops of mint, rosemary, garlic, clove, and thyme essential oils to the water, then spray on the affected plants. This will not only get rid of them, but the strong scent will send them and many other potential pests running (or flying!) away.
Diatomaceous Earth Works On Aphids
Diatomaceous earth is another all-natural treatment for aphids. Sprinkle the powder on the plants, paying extra attention to the undersides and stem of the lilies.
Be sure to reapply the essential oil or diatomaceous earth after a rain shower.
7. Leatherjackets Eat Your Lilies
Leatherjackets are the larvae or grubs of the crane fly. These worm-like grubs can be grey to brown and look like legless caterpillars and can reach a length of 1.5 inches. They live most of their lives in the ground eating roots and tubers until they pupate and exit as the flying crane flies.
These grubs often show up in large numbers after wet fall seasons as they need moist ground to survive. They can damage your lawn and destroy bulbs such as lilies. In large numbers, these grubs can wreak havoc on your flower garden.
Use Beneficial Nematodes To Eliminate Leatherjackets
The best way to treat leatherjacket grubs is to cover the affected ground with beneficial nematodes. These microscopic worms work their way into the ground and feed on the grubs, but they won’t damage your yard or other organisms.
Once the nematodes have finished off the grubs, they disappear.
Iron Sulfate Prevents Leatherbacks
Once you get rid of the leatherbacks, you can keep them from coming back by spreading iron sulfate in your yard or wherever you had leatherback grubs. The iron sulfate will slightly raise the acidity of the soil.
Crane flies won’t lay eggs in acidic soil, so no crane flies, no leatherjacket grubs. Try out VOLUNTARY PURCHASING GROUP Iron Soil Acidifier
8. Wireworms Will Eat Lilies
Wireworms like to burrow in the ground and eat lily bulbs. These segmented grubs are a dirty yellow color, have tiny legs, and are the larvae of click beetles. They are attracted to moist ground, so they tend to gather around gardens because they get watered regularly.
Nematodes & Diatomaceous Earth May Initially Help Eliminate Wireworms
These pests are difficult to prevent because they live in the ground and burrow into roots and bulbs. Nematodes can be used to treat wireworms when you know they are eating your lily bulbs, but nematodes can’t be used as a preventative.
Beneficial nematodes need a host to survive and will die off when there are no host grubs around. Sewing these microscopic worms into the ground for prevention is a waste of money.
Diatomaceous earth will take care of the wireworms that come to the surface, but if they stay in the ground, it’s not effective.
Trap Wireworms With Potatoes
You can trap wireworms using potatoes. When you know you have wireworms, cut a few potatoes in half and set them on the ground, cut side down. Check on the potatoes every day, and when you find wireworms inside, pull them out and dispose of them, or dispose of the potato and set another piece.
Birds Can Help Control Wireworms
Attracting insect-eating birds can help you prevent and treat wireworms as they will eat the grubs when they see them. Setting out bird feeders with meal worms, or suet cakes will often attract bug eaters.
9. Millipedes Will Eat Lilies
These multi-segmented worms with hundreds of legs usually feed on decaying matter like old leaves and rotting wood. During droughts or when their normal food is scarce, millipedes will feed on living plants.
When millipedes are searching for live plants to snack on, lilies of any kind are on the menu. Depending on the size and how many millipedes there are, they can do significant damage to lilies. Millipede damage looks like ragged cuts or tears across the leaves.
You can read about the reasons why millipedes are in your garden here to see if there is something else attracting these many-legged pests to your plant sanctuary.
You’ll probably see these slow-moving bugs clinging to your plants. While you can remove them by hand, gloves should be worn because their defense mechanism is the smelly chemical they exude.
Sharp edges, strong scents, and a tidy garden will deter millipedes
Here are a few recommendations we have to keep millipedes off your lily plants:
|Sprinkle a layer of diatomaceous earth around the base of plants. The sharp particles deter millipedes.
|Reapply after rain or every 1-2 weeks
|Cleaning up wet or rotting leaves
|Regularly remove wet or rotting leaves and debris from the garden to eliminate millipede hiding spots.
|As needed, especially after rainfall
|Using strong scents
|Plant strong-scented herbs or flowers like lavender or mint around the garden to repel millipedes.
|Plant and maintain as a permanent feature
10. Grasshoppers Are Eating Your Lilies
Grasshoppers and locusts can cause a lot of damage to your lilies. One or a few grasshoppers won’t do much damage because they tend to eat a little bit and then hop away, but if your yard is infested with them, they can cause major damage.
Grasshoppers chew on the outer edges of leaves, so if you see a lot of jagged, ugly-looking leaves, you might have a grasshopper or locust problem. The main difference between locusts and grasshoppers is that locusts always form swarms, while grasshoppers are typically solitary.
Use Garlic To Repel Grasshoppers
Pesticides don’t typically work very well against grasshoppers because they can fly or hop all over, and they rarely stay in one place for long. The best way to repel these insects is to use garlic.
Plant garlic among your lilies as the smell tends to keep grasshoppers away. You can also mix up a solution of garlic water and spray your plants to keep pests (not just vampires) away.
To make a grasshopper-repellent spray, take a few bulbs of garlic and mash or blend them in a quart of water. Pour that water and garlic mixture into a pot and boil it for a few minutes. Let it steep overnight, then strain the water into a spray bottle.
When you’re spraying your lilies, be sure to get the undersides of the leaves as well. Reapply every few days or after rain to keep the garlic smell fresh.
Surprisingly, garlic is just one of many scents that grasshoppers dislike. Check out our guide on the scents that grasshoppers hate for a complete list.
Attract Toads And Birds To Control Grasshoppers
Toads will eat a lot of grasshoppers and other pests. Make your garden inviting to toads by planting broad-leafed plants like hostas and ferns, offering chlorine-free water features, and setting out toad houses.
Birds are another way to fend off grasshoppers. Swallows, Jays, Robins, Bluebirds, and others will greedily feast on grasshoppers. Set up feeders, birdbaths, and birdhouses that attract these types of birds to keep the grasshopper and locust populations in check.
11. Japanese Beetles Will Eat Lilies
Japanese beetles can easily swarm a garden and cause damage to many different plants, lilies included. They seem to pop out of thin air during the summer and feed on almost any vegetation, especially if you value it. Why can’t they eat crabgrass instead of my roses?
Japanese beetles often eat around the thick veins in more hardy leaves. Sometimes this damage is called skeletonizing because the plants look like they are morphing into skeletons.
Use Milky Spore To Eliminate Grubs
They are too numerous to pick off by hand. For every one you pluck off your plants, you’ll end up seeing about five more. The best way to treat Japanese beetles is to get rid of the grubs.
Milky spore is one of the best ways to treat grubs. If you have grubs in your yard or you have a problem with Japanese beetles, use ST GABRIEL ORGANICS Milky Spore Grub Control Mix. Milky spore is an all-natural way to get rid of grubs.
It causes the grubs to decompose in a week or two. As the infected grub decomposes, it releases more spores that infect more grubs. With the grubs taken care of, you’ll have dramatically fewer Japanese beetles.
While milky spore can be applied to your yard nearly any time of year, as long as the ground isn’t frozen, the best time is in the fall when new grubs are feeding to hold over through the winter.
Strong Scents Can Repel Japanese Beetles
You can also use scents these beetles can’t stand. Peppermint, juniper, chive, and garlic are scents that Japanese beetles tend to stay away from. Plant some chives or garlic near your lilies, or mix up some juniper or peppermint essential oil spray to keep them out of your garden.
We have more scents you can choose from in our article on the scents that Japanese beetles hate.
Geraniums Can Slow Japanese Beetles Down
If you’re feeling particularly mischievous, you can introduce some geraniums. Japanese beetles seem to love geraniums, but the plant makes them sluggish and they forget how to fly. Don’t quote me on this, but I don’t think drugging a bug is illegal…
Go ahead, slip these beetles a geranium, then clean up the drunk insects and dispose of them.
12. Spider Mites Will Eat Lilies
When you look out at your lilies and you see tiny-looking spider webs scattered around the plant, you might have spider mites. You may or may not see specks moving around the fine threads – these are the pesky mites.
Left untreated, spider mites can severely weaken or even kill the plant they infect. The bigger the infestation, the more web-like strands you’ll see all over your lilies, and they can spread to others.
Spider mites suck the fluids out of the plants and leave them dried out. They spin the tiny webs to travel from one area to another and to protect themselves from predators.
Use Dish Soap To Repel Spider Mites
You can treat infected lilies with a mixture of dish soap and water. Add a few drops of plain dish soap to a spray bottle and soak your flowers. Be sure to hit the undersides of the leaves, anywhere you see webs, and in tiny crevices the mites can hide.
You’ll probably have to spray the plants every few days to make sure all of the mites have been treated.
Rubbing Alcohol Eliminates Spider Mites
Rubbing alcohol can be used to eradicate spider mites also. This is more hands-on and time-consuming, but will effectively get rid of them.
Dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and wipe the plant down. Be sure to wipe all the leaves, the stalk, and any other parts of the flower to get rid of all the mites. If you use this method or the dish soap method, spray your lily down with clean water a few hours later to remove the soap, alcohol, and spider mites.
Use repellent Plants Against Spider Mites
Several plants seem to repel spider mites. These include garlic—this wonder plant helps to keep numerous pests away—lemongrass, dill, chrysanthemums, rosemary, and Chinese parsley.
Plant some of these around your lilies to keep spider mites and many other pests far, far away. Some of these plants, like rosemary, garlic, and dill attract beneficial insects like pollinators and ladybugs. As we know, ladybugs will help get rid of a lot of pests as well.
While there are a lot of nasty bugs out there just waiting to feast on your lilies, you can combat them with the right tools.
To recap, here are the 12 bugs and insects that love eating your lilies:
- Red Lily Leaf Beetle
- Snails and Slugs
- Lily Thrips
- Lily Weevil
- Japanese Beetles
- Spider Mites
Garlic seems to be a super plant that repels the majority of detrimental bugs so plant these bulbs to your heart’s content.
Diatomaceous earth will help fend off slugs, millipedes, and several other pests. You have plenty of tools to fight these pests, so don’t worry if your lilies show signs of insect damage. Reach into your bag of tricks and take care of the pests.
Baker, Edward William, and Donald Monroe Tuttle. A guide to the spider mites (Tetranychidae) of the United States. Indira Publishing House, 1994.
Ladd Jr, T. L., M. Jacobson, and C. R. Buriff. “Japanese beetles: extracts from neem tree seeds as feeding deterrents.” Journal of economic entomology 71.5 (1978): 810-813.
Blackshaw, R. P. “A preliminary comparison of some management options for reducing grass losses caused by leatherjackets in Northern Ireland.” Annals of applied biology 107.2 (1985): 279-285.
Stjernberg, Louise, and Johan Berglund. “Garlic as an insect repellent.” JAMA 284.7 (2000): 831-831.
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