Dealing with those nasty lily-leaf beetles, and why a dogwood tree didn't do well

Q. I recently planted Asiatic lilies, before I heard about a bright red beetle that destroys them overnight. What can I do now to keep these pests away? - J.W., Lincoln, Mass.

A. You probably have the lily-leaf beetle, says Bob Childs, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Mr. Childs says it is a relatively new pest to Massachusetts, arriving in 1992 on a shipment of lily bulbs from Europe. Although day lilies are not affected, the beetle "will eat the Asiatic lily to the ground," says Childs. Mature beetles lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves in late March. When the brownish larvae hatch in four to eight days, they feed on the underside of the leaf. If you have only a few plants, he recommends hand-picking the beetles off. A general-use insecticide will inhibit them, but Childs warns it should be used sparingly and should not be sprayed when lilies are in bloom. Insecticides can be toxic to honeybees. Inspect the plant closely at nurseries to avoid buying infested plants.

Q. My dogwood tree, which has always been a robust bloomer was surprisingly lacking flowers this year. The tree is no longer full of blooms like it used to be. What is going on here? - A.S., Providence, R.I.

A. The soil might not have been watered properly, says Ray Corando of the Hampden County Master Gardeners Association in Springfield, Mass. Dogwoods need one inch of water every 10 days. They also prefer acidic soil. Corando suggests a pine-needle or oak-leaf mulch that would prevent water loss and enrich the soil. When fertilized, the tree should receive a slow-release, balanced fertilizer. Too much nitrogen encourages leafy growth instead of flowers.

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail home@csps.com

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