Saturday 16 April 2011

A red lily beetle

I spotted a handsome, bright scarlet beetle, hiding under a lily leaf. It didn't take long to identify it as the red lily beetle, Lilioceris lilii, with its long antennae and black legs and head. I took it to the white bowl and it showed two behaviours that may have helped this species expand its range from Asia to many temperate areas following horticultural Asiatic lilies: it plays dead when handled or disturbed and flies readily. The adult and larvae feed on lilies and fritillaries of many species and they can defoliate the plants very quickly. They have a single generation per year: the adults emerge in september and overwinter in the leaf litter. When the lily leaves appear the adults wake up and mate. They lay bright red eggs in lines underneath the leaves and the larvae, which are also red, disguise themselves on their own fecal matter, so that they resemble fragments of dirt.

The species was first introduced in the UK in 1943 and has recently expanded quickly in range. Now is present all over England, and parts of Wales and Scotland. Two species of parasitoids have followed the expansion of the beetle into the UK.

More information
The red Lily beetle website.

1 comment:

RayHolden said...

For the first time ever I began to see them in my SK48 garden, one in late July on Stinging Nettle and then many late September - on Solomon's Seal.
The NBN Gateway has only one prior (June 2006) record for the area, but they are definitely here now and in quantity.

Earlier, in April, I had watched them happily chomping thu the fritillaries in the wild flower meadow at Wisley RHS Gardens. Pretty and pretty destuctive!

At least Chrysolina americana have given us a miss so far.