Monty Don warns of a hidden pest 'completely camouflaged' in your garden – and how to get rid of it

 Composite image of Monty Don with english lillies and fritillaries to illustrate Monty Don's garden pest advice .
Composite image of Monty Don with english lillies and fritillaries to illustrate Monty Don's garden pest advice .

Monty's back and this time he's got a warning for gardeners. As your garden begins to bloom and the to-do list lengthens, the gardening expert says you should be on the lookout for a particularly troublesome pest that excels at hiding. 

Keeping up with this year's garden trends is all well and good, but if you're not protecting your plants properly all your hard work could be eaten away. In winter there's the worry of how to protect your plants from frost, and yet summer brings its own perils of keeping your leafy friends safe from pests.

This particular pest that Monty Don has discussed in his latest monthly round-up of garden advice might've been damaging your plants for weeks without you even realising. But what is this garden villain and how can you get rid of it for good?

Monty Don's garden pest advice

As always, Monty starts his monthly blog post with a wonderful introduction detailing the garden conditions, past, present and future. He says, "In Britain, May is often the most beautiful month because not only does the whole natural world burgeon and blossom but there is a thrilling sense of hope and expansion like a slow and beautiful explosion of life."

"In practical terms, the soil is warming up and so anything planted in May will grow quickly and well. However, in colder areas care should be taken to protect tender plants from late frosts. These rarely kill plants but they can and do nip off tender new growth and hold up future flowering," he continues.

So whilst we may be looking forward to warmer weather going into May, it's best to take extra precautions against the late frost with your more delicate plants. Speaking of precautions, Monty also had a warning about a certain hard-to-find pest this month.

Whilst you may have come across lots of advice about how to get rid of leatherjackets in your garden, the pests Monty discusses are perhaps far more inconspicuous and might have stayed off your radar until now.

"Check the leaves of lilies and fritillaries for lily beetle," Monty says. The lily beetle, whether you've heard of it or not, is a common little pest that will creep around your beloved flowers and eat away at their leaves.

Monty explains how these bugs can go undetected for so long, he says, "These have a bright red casing on their upper side but are brown on the underside so although very visible when nibbling the leaves - which they do voraciously - they will drop off if they sense trouble and lie on their backs on the ground so are completely camouflaged."

If you do finally catch these culprits whilst they're back up then unfortunately the solution is a little more hands-on than how you get rid of tiny black flies in your home or the ways you stop foxes from entering your garden.

picture of lily beetle eating a lily leaf
picture of lily beetle eating a lily leaf

"There is no known predator so the only control is to pick them off by hand and dispose of them," says Monty. In order to truly rid your plants of these pests you need to get your gardening gloves at the ready and get to work.

We'd recommend you regularly inspect your lilies and fritillaries should you have them in your garden, this way you can stay on top of any possible infestation. Whilst you may be trying out the mosaic gardening trend, it's arguably part of a gardener's responsibility to step in and help your plants out when they're being eaten by pests like these.

Homebase Protect & Grip Gardening Gloves: £4 at Homebase 

These gloves are perfect for lily beetle hunting, they're made from durable materials so they'll last year after year too. Their specialised gripped design is ideal for pest removal and weeding.

Once your lilies are no longer under siege by the rather strange-looking lily beetles why not try out Monty Don's method for the Chelsea Chop? Your flowers will certainly thank you for it!