Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Under Seige from Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles are killing me. Well, actually, they’re not killing me, but they are killing many lives that I hold dear. 

The cherry tree that survived the attack of rust two years ago that killed the other cherry trees is covered in skeletalized leaves. The nectarine tree is covered in beetles boring into the fruit and causing them to shrivel and ooze juice. The grapes are putting up a valiant fight, growing new shiney lime green leaves to replace the ones destroyed by the beetles only to lose those new leaves within days. 

Even the asparagus is covered in the nasty creatures. I’ve never seen them go after asparagus before and if they kill mine I just may hang up my shovel and go buy a condominium. What is there to do?

Sadly, not much. I’m not sure why, after 12 years of relative peace, we have such an infestation. It could be that I didn’t free range my chickens very much last year for fear of the foxes (who ultimately killed all but one in an attack a month ago) and hawks. It could have something to do with the record-breaking winter. Maybe it was dumb luck or maybe, as it feels right now, we are cursed.

Every evening I fill a jar with dishwasher detergent
and water and carefully dump every beetle I can find in the jar. It is full within the hour. It’s very easy to gather Japanese beetles in the evening. You simple hold the jar under the leaf and tip it down and the beetles roll right in.

This time of year the beetles are often coupled off (and perhaps distracted?). A nice way to go, I suppose. It may sound labor intensive, and it is, but killing as many as possible is the most effective way of reducing the population. Otherwise, the female beetles will fill their bellies and then burrow in the ground and lay their eggs.

Which brings me to my other battle tactic. In the past, I’ve used nematodes to tackle the small Japanese beetle problems we’ve encountered, but for an infestation this size, I’m going with Milky Spore. Milky Spore is a naturally occurring bacterium which targets the grubs of Japanese Beetles, so it’s not harmful to beneficial insects or pets, just those pesky beetles. The best time to apply it is coming up, so if you’re under attack like we are, you better get your hands on some Milky Spore powder pronto.

Late July and early August, when the female beetles have just laid their eggs is an ideal time to begin waging this battle. Milky Spore will continue to work for years, some say up to ten years or more. We did apply MS the first year we lived here, so I must consider the possibility that it’s been the Milky Spore and not the nematodes and chickens that have kept the beetles at bay. Either way, I’m staging a three-prong attack - handpicking, Milky Spore, and come fall, I will set the chickens loose to find any grubs that are left. I’m sure the war is not over, but I am confident I will take this hill.

1 comment:

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