Hello fellow readers,
I saw the first of the season as did Tom of Mt. Bethel who asked if he should hang the Japanese beetle traps you find at the hardware store. The subject opens up a can of worms… or should I say grubs? Studies have shown that these pheromone lures attract many more beetles than they trap. In fact, when you hang a Japanese beetle trap in your yard, you’re inviting the neighborhood of Japanese beetles to your garden. You’ll trap a bunch, but the rest will enjoy the call to dinner.
Japanese beetles Popillia japonica are a nuisance even before they become a good looking beetle sporting a green and gold iridescent shell. Their crescent-shaped grayish-white larvae, called grubs, live in the soil and feed on the roots of grasses and plants. If there’s a dead area of grass that you can easily lift up you will probably find Japanese beetle grubs as the culprit. On top of which critters love beetle grubs and rip up the turf to feed on them.
Adult beetles begin to emerge in late June and feed and mate into September then lay their eggs back in the soil. Clearly controlling Japanese beetles requires a two-part strategy; one for the grubs, and one for the beetles.
Biological control using milky disease spores called Milky Spore is a safe, all natural bacteria lethal to grubs but harmless to humans, pets and beneficial insects. Dispense about a teaspoon every 4 feet. Grubs ingest the spore, die then spread the bacteria into the soil. The bacteria will live in the soil for 10-15 years providing a long term solution and can be applied anytime the ground is not frozen. Yes, there are chemical pesticides if you are so inclined that can be applied in July or August when young grubs are feeding but please don’t tell me about it.
I’d rather you gather Japanese beetles as good old mom hired us to do at five cents per Jiffy jar filled. Beetles can be shaken from branches easily. What to do after the catch depends on how squeamish your stomach. Mom tossed them in a pan of hot water but a bucket of soapy water works too. Recently I heard if your puree their bodies in a blender and add water to create a spray for plants they chomp, it will infect more grubs with the disease. Just don’t invite me for a margarita after. Garden dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com