Are Red Lily Beetles Poisonous to Humans? Separating Fact from Fiction

The striking red lily beetle is infamous for destroying lily plants in gardens across North America. But one question home gardeners have is – are these beetles dangerous for people as well? Can they bite or pose any toxicity risks? Let’s explore the facts about red lily beetle dangers to humans and pets.

Distinguishing Features of the Red Lily Beetle

  • Scientific name Lilioceris lilii

  • Adults are bright red and elongated oval, 7-10mm long

  • Larvae are orange-brown, elongated, and slug-like, eventually growing to 12mm

  • Found primarily on true lilies (Lilium) and fritillaria plants

  • Native to Europe and invasive in North America

  • Adults overwinter in soil and re-emerge in spring

Do Red Lily Beetles Bite Humans?

Red lily beetles do not bite humans. They do not view large animals or humans as prey. And they don’t have mouths designed to pierce human skin.

While the beetles have chewing mouthparts used to devour foliage these are not adapted for biting through tough materials like human skin. Their jaws are made for munching juicy plant leaves not animal flesh.

So although the beetles may crawl over your hands while gardening, they cannot deliver any type of venomous or dangerous bite. You don’t have to worry about bites or skin punctures from this insect.

Can Red Lily Beetles Poison People?

According to research, red lily beetles pose no toxicity risk for humans, even young children. The beetles do not secrete or emit any poisonous compounds.

There are also no alkaloid toxins or other dangerous substances within the beetles’ bodies. Consuming a red lily beetle would not lead to poisoning. However, it’s still not recommended for people to intentionally eat them!

Some sources claim the larvae have toxins. But studies have shown the larvae contain saponins used as a chemical defense against predators. These are not toxic to humans. Overall, the beetles are harmless if touched or accidentally ingested.

Do Red Lily Beetles Stain Skin?

Red lily beetles have the ability to “bleed” red-orange fluid from their leg joints when disturbed. This liquid could potentially stain skin if handled excessively. However, it washes off skin easily with soap and water.

The fluid is mostly composed of unsaturated hydrocarbons and functions to deter predators. While it may temporarily dye hands red, it’s not an indelible stain or toxic chemical. There are no lasting effects from minor staining.

Can Pets Be Affected by Red Lily Beetles?

According to veterinary toxicology sources, red lily beetles do not appear to pose any serious health threats to cats, dogs, or other pets who may ingest them. As with humans, the level of toxins is low and not concentrated enough to lead to pet poisoning.

Of course, pets who consume high quantities of any insect may experience minor stomach upset. So keeping dogs away from beetle-infested areas helps prevent this. Overall though, beetles are not deemed dangerously toxic for animal companions.

How to Handle Red Lily Beetles Safely

While red lily beetles themselves are harmless, their damage to gardens can be devastating. Here are tips for safe handling as you manage infestations:

  • Wear gloves while collecting beetles to prevent staining fingers

  • Wash hands after contact, especially before eating

  • Keep beetles away from small children’s areas if possible

  • Monitor lily plants vigilantly each day to catch beetles early

  • Drop collected beetles into soapy water or 70% isopropyl alcohol to kill

  • Destroy eggs and larvae on plants by handpicking or applying insecticidal soap

With vigilance and persistence controlling this invasive pest in gardens, we can avoid rumors and appreciate the red lily beetle for its beauty, not its bite. And have confidence knowing it poses minimal risks to people and pets in the landscape.

How to Get Rid of Scarlet Lily Leaf Beetle

For now, gardeners have a few options for dealing with those destructive red beetles eating your lilies. Hand-picking the adult beetles is very effective if you have only a few lily plants. But you need to be vigilant and fast. The beetles move very quickly. As soon as they sense movement, they drop to the ground and lie on their backs, making them hard to find. If you hold a jar of soapy water under the adults and push them off the leaf, you can catch and kill them. They will immediately fall into the water. Check on your plants several times a week, especially when the adults first come up from the ground in the spring.

What to do when you have a scarlet lily leaf beetle infestation By

Ann is an avid gardener, cook and garden writer, and a Vermont Certified Horticulturist. Her old farmhouse and organic homestead are things she takes care of. There, she grows fruit and nut trees, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and elderberries. In the beautiful Winooski River Valley, Ann grows herbs and vegetables in raised beds and containers that are tucked into a lot of flower gardens. She has a background in horticulture and ecological landscape design and has written four gardening books, including Organic Gardening for Dummies. She has also been writing for many magazines, websites, and other publications for a long time.

How to Get Rid of the Scarlet Lily Beetle Using Organic Control


Are red lily beetles bad?

Most plants can generate new growth if their foliage gets eaten, but that’s not the case with lilies. If lily leaf beetles eat the leaves, that’s it for the season and the plants may not have enough energy to return the next year. This makes it very important to prevent their damage.

What to spray on lily beetles?

Spraying. There are two organic sprays that are relatively effective against the red lily leaf beetle. For both, spray coverage must be heavy and complete. Neem, an extract of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), will kill young larvae.

Do coffee grounds deter lily beetles?

Five beetles headed straight for the coffee; three ended up on the lily planted in garden soil. When a beetle encountered the coffee, it wasn’t in the least deterred, but climbed right up on the mound of grounds and walked across it to the plant. One reader suggested testing fresh coffee.

What does a red lily beetle eat?

The scarlet lily beetle, red lily beetle, or lily leaf beetle ( Lilioceris lilii ), is a leaf beetle that eats the leaves, stem, buds, and flowers, of lilies, fritillaries and other members of the family Liliaceae. It lays its eggs most often on Lilium and Fritillaria species.

Are lily leaf beetles harmful to lilies?

Be aware that conventional and organic insecticides can pose risks to pollinators, so follow all directions on the label to minimize risks to bees and other pollinators. Lily Leaf Beetle, also known as red or scarlet lily beetle, can cause significant damage to native and cultivated true lilies.

What is a red lily beetle?

Red lily beetle ( Lilioceris lilii) is an insect native to Asia and some parts of Europe. Adult insects are around 9mm long, and bright shiny-red above, black below. They are the scurge of lily enthusiasts and many gardeners, feeding on lilies and related plants, particularly in their larval stage, often causing severe damage to plants.

What is a scarlet lily beetle?

The scarlet lily beetle is a small red beetle measuring 0.23” to 0.35” (6 – 9 mm) and recognized by its dimpled red elytra. It’s a tiny red bug with long legs, long black segmented antennae, and a black head. Also called the red lily beetle or lily leaf beetle, the bug is common in gardens.

Leave a Comment