Posts Tagged ‘pests’

red lily beetle 1

In my flower beds it happens exactly the same way every year, like an advancing army from the old movies.   First, in the early spring, it’s the hatching red lily beetles, which I pluck off by hand, one at a time.  Then, just as that invasion is winding down, the ravaging iris bud fly worms advance and I swoop in and dispatch them to a plastic zip-lock baggie in the trash, never even having to lay eyes on the actual critters anymore.  I know where they are hiding!  Next, the icky, sticky gold bugs (maybe they’re actually rose chafers) arrive in hoards and maraud and plunder, destroying what’s left of the blooming iris and infesting the raspberry patch – these I sweep into oblivion, into my sudsy ‘bug bucket’ (I’ll tell you about this in an upcoming post, I promise!), and do the same with the japanese beetles which follow in close order as the straggling few gold bugs who remain are waning in their old age.  The japanese beetles bury their little heads into the rose buds, you can almost see happy little hineys wiggling as they work their way in. *Plop* into the trusty bug bucket they go, as I make my daily rounds. In this way I control insects in my organic perennial gardens.

I first discovered the red lily beetle quite by accident, and was calling it “that little scarlet lily beetle” before I knew what it was. My lilies – both the glowing asiatics and the fragrant orientals, as well as the big patch of tiger lilies – had been growing strong, healthy and abundantly for years. Then, I was given a glorious Madonna Lily for my birthday one year, and cheerily planted in among the others. The following season in early spring I began to notice something terribly wrong with the leaves on several of my established lilies. ‘Drought’ I thought, or, maybe, ‘too much water’. Or perhaps ‘not enough fertilizer’ or maybe ‘too much fertilizer’.  At any rate, I had a poor display of lilies, and the following year it was even worse – by the fall, some of my beautiful plants had became completely denuded!  In danger of losing my treasured lilies, the next year I really began to pay attention.  At the first sign of a leaf in distress, I looked closer.  I couldn’t see anything.  I looked closer still.  I turned the leaf over, and there hiding underneath I found a smeary, slimy mass of black goo, right where the green of the leaf was disappearing into thin brown paper.  What??

scarlet beetle larvae

Destruction on a lily leaf.  What's with the black globs!!?

Destruction on a lily leaf. What’s with the black globs!!?

I took the leaf off, and dipped it into my bucket of water, and swished it around a little.  The black goo washed away, and there was a teeny tiny little brown grub.  Ugh!  I found more leaves, then more, all with the icky globs, some grubs of different sizes.  I had no idea what I was dealing with, but I knew they were destroying my lilies – so, the bug lady that I am, I set up my laboratory on the kitchen counter and kept the grubs fed and happy until they demolished all the leaves I could give them and ended up in the soil at the bottom of the jar.  Two weeks later, there he was, a little scarlet beetle crawling around and around inside the glass.  Aha!

garden journal

From my garden journal

Now I had something to google – my little scarlet lily beetle – and voila! there was his name (Lilioceris lilii), life story and history of invasion of New England lily gardens, first coming in on lilies from Asia in the 1990’s.  Apparently my Birthday lily brought me some unwelcome guests. And, as it turns out, the black icky goo is the larva’s own excrement (a ‘fecal shield’) to protect it from predators, and from squeamish gardeners.  Knowing what I was looking for, I began to find the little red adult beetles, and would pick them off and give a good squish. If I missed, I found they dropped to the ground and disappeared into the soil.  Giving the soil a little dusting usually will make them stir, and I have to be pretty quick and pretty careful, but they are doomed.   I found, too, that nearly all the lily patches were infested, totally, making an icky, icky mess of their leaves.  I observed that neat little lines of tiny florescent orange eggs were the first sign, and while feeding on the leaves these would grow rapidly into the brown slugs that eventually eat their fill and drop to the ground to become bright orange pupae, and emerge as adults, ready to start the cycle over again.  I found that the simplest thing was to remove the entire blemished leaf, larvae and all, and seal them up in the trash.  I’ve been diligently doing this for the last four years – daily inspecting  every lily patch, squishing all adults and destroying all infested leaves, and this year (!) by jove, I think I’ve got it!!  I know, it only takes overlooking just two, and the whole thing starts over again.  But I am determined and formidable when it comes to battling the bugs in my garden!

Standing there among my lilies, bent over from the waist, peering at the underside of every stalk and leaf to to find and nab the tiny beasties before they can grow up and make more, I find myself pondering another invader that is as unwelcome and full of messiness as these little bugs.  This is an invasion of my peace of mind and disruption of a dear friendship.

Recently, something happened that has left me confused, angry, sad and leaning on prayer.  Dear, dear friends, long-time friends that we have shared secrets and hardships and travels together with, heard something that my beloved JR said in a public meeting, and are convinced that it was a betrayal and a slur on our relationship.  I don’t want to go into the details here, but maybe you know the feeling.  The feeling of being completely misheard, misunderstood, accused, judged and condemned.  I am bewildered why they would believe this —  first of all, haven’t they known us better than this?  Wouldn’t they want to give the benefit of doubt, check it out and hear what JR has to say about it? What is really going on underneath, that they are suddenly so devastated and unreachable?

I think of my bugs.  I go after them with care and with diligence. I want to eradicate the source of the destruction, to save my lilies.  Aren’t my friends more precious than flowers in my garden?  Well, of course they are.  But how do I go about bringing this kind of bug into the light without provoking further?  How do I reach into the ucky messiness, which may get worse before it gets better?

We are off this morning to have breakfast with our friends — they are willing to talk with us about this.  Please pray for loving patience and grace, for open hearts and minds for all of us, for the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal Truth, and for authentic reconciliation.  It takes only two little ugly grubs, not dealt with, to start the whole mess over again next season.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  Matthew 5:23-24

red lily 3

red star gazer lily


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