Who knows what lily beetles lurk…

So-called-summer 2009 has been the summer of love for lily leaf beetles. Since I wrote about them on June 1st, they’ve been arriving by the thousands, camping out and making music.

And they’re hungry. Turn your back for an instant and you’re growing poles, not lilies. The whole stem is defoliated, leaving the bulb nothing to feed next year’s flowers. Sheesh!

Although you’d think the stop-sign red shells would make them easy to spot, lily leaf beetles like to hide underneath the leaf. You have to seek them out by peering from the ground up, which can put a real crick in your spine. Yes, they are. A veritable pain in the neck.

It’s no good moving the leaves to get a better look. At the slightest quiver of the leaf by the All-Squishing Hand, the beetles release their grip and drop like skydivers, leaving you empty handed. That’s why I’ve been mastering my two-handed catch: One hand to probe, one hand beneath it to capture the prey. Then the mighty squish.

You’ll want to wear gloves while you’re probing, as this little fellow casting a giant shadow is a lily leaf beetle larva, who likes to wrap himself in a slimy cloak of his own poo.

He makes just as satisfying a squish, though.

Hmmmm. Maybe I’m the evil lurking.

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