Perennial Problems Revisited: Black Lace Borers and Lily Leaf Beetles

Hands down, my number one most popular post this time of year is entitled “Why is my Black Lace Wilting?”  For all those who are wondering, here’s why: it’s this little guy, a borer.  And while it is not technically specific to just Black Lace elderberry varieties, they do seem to be unusually prone to them.

The folks at Proven Winners, who hold the patent on this plant, were very helpful when I contacted them about the problem so that I could help you all with it.  They suggested that a good hard pruning early in the spring would alleviate the problem.

I did prune this spring because I saw evidence of borer holes.  Either I didn’t prune hard enough (which is entirely possible) or the very mild winter made the borer problem worse this year than usual–or both.  Either way, despite these guys, I’m not taking out Black Lace.  It is a beautiful shrub and it does have good wildlife value.  I’ll just be a little more ruthless with the pruners next year.

Now this other problem, the lily leaf beetle, is a different story.  First of all, notice any thing strange?  This isn’t lily foliage.  This is a Fritillaria.  Lily leaf beetles don’t just like lilies! (How rude is that?!) Being the good organic gardener that I am, I have 2 options: vigilance, and squashing all the eggs, or cutting off these plants at their knees.  That’s what I did last year when they found me and it’s what I’ll do again this year.  It’s just not worth fighting with–and possibly spreading the beetle infestation around.

Here’s a photo of their eggs.  Amazing since I’ve just seen this one beetle and already I have leaves with eggs on them–and not just this one.  Clearly these leaves have got to go especially since they are not even budded up.

I have heard that spinosad might work on the beetles but not having tried it myself, I can’t recommend it.

3 thoughts on “Perennial Problems Revisited: Black Lace Borers and Lily Leaf Beetles

  1. JustGail July 7, 2012 / 9:31 am

    After being a lovely plant for several years, mine has 2 big branches that suddenly wilted this year. I’ll check this most recent branch closer for borer evidence when I prune it off.. Thank you for the information on what’s happening to yours,

    You have a lovely garden.

    • gardendaze July 7, 2012 / 10:56 am

      Thanks for the compliment–I hope this information solves your problem. Mine didn’t start getting borers until it was about 5-6 years old so they may not become a problem for some folks until the plants are a bit older.

      As I think I said in that post, I sort of have a love/hate relationship with the plant. Certainly I don’t want to maintain anything that’s too much work, or insect laden, but it does provide fruit for the birds. And this year I’ve fledged more baby birds than ever from my yard so I consider that fruit bearing ability crucial. So they stay–until they really become too problematic. Thanks for reading!


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