Friday, June 19, 2015

Japanese Beetle Season

They're here, dammit.  Japanese Beetles.  I spotted this year's first beetle on Open Garden Day, and I'm finding more and more of them each day since then.  It's time to start dealing with the problem.


This is the second beetle that I found, last Monday, on a flower of 'Paul Ecke, Jr.'


Japanese Beetles exist to do only two things:  they eat and they mate to make more beetles for next year, and they can usually be found doing both things at once.  Roses are a favorite meal for them, as are the grape vines next door at Hartwood Winery.

When I do rose presentations for garden groups, my most frequently asked question is about how to deal with the annual plague of Japanese Beetles.  I don't use insecticides of any type in my garden ... and beetle control for me is a two-level process that takes a bit of effort ... I know this is a disappointment to the quick-fix type of folks.  (They tend to want a magic bullet, one-time thing.  Sorry, there's not one for these nasty pests.)

Step One is to place beetle traps.  I know what some of you are thinking ... we've been led to believe that beetle traps attract more beetles than they catch.  This may be true to some extent, but my plan is to remove as many of these nasty creatures as I can from the available pool of eligible mating partners.   The beetles that are lured to their deaths by the traps (a) won't be eating my roses and (b) aren't contributing to the population of next year's brood.

Step Two is to hand pick any beetles that I find on the roses.  I walk the garden with a small bucket of soapy water in the early morning, when it's cool and the beetles are sluggish, dropping any beetles I find into the bucket ... no beneficial insects are harmed in the process.  Later in the day, I dump the dead beetles and rinse the bucket.

If there is an up-side to this, it's that Beetle Season only lasts for a few weeks in the heat of summer when the roses aren't at their best anyway.  I do what I can to keep up with it, trimming off dead and damaged flowers and foliage.  Before I know it, the beetles and the summer heat are gone, and the roses get back to doing what they do best ... producing flowers and making me very, very happy.

12 comments:

  1. Yuck those dang things! I'd better start looking for them also. They defoliated a couple of our fruit trees in the past. Grrrrrrr. I like your method.

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    1. One of the worst plagues of Japanese Beetles I have ever seen was on a newly planted crabapple tree that we had at our former house many years ago. I tried everything I could think of to deal with them, with no success. One afternoon, in a fit of overwhelming frustration, I kicked the trunk of the tree … the tree snapped back and threw beetles all over me. The fit got worse at this point, and I dug that tree up right then and there. A neighbor saw what I was doing, and asked if she could have the tree since I was getting rid of it … I even helped her plant it in her front yard.

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  2. I have often wondered...if you would hang those traps by a grouping away from your gardens if they would lure the beetles to their death away from your roses....I do not know enough about the beetles or traps. Blessings, xoxo, Susie

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    1. That's exactly what I do with the traps! I hang them well away from the garden, to attract them away from the roses as much as possible.

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  3. "They're here, dammit" is usually what I say about rabbits. I am overrun with them this year. I planted a climbing rose this year, and they have just demolished it. While it's still alive and now fenced, it's essentially given up an entire season's growth to those ravenous beasts. I don't really care for people who think baby bunnies are cute. They are terrible little monsters.

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    1. I had a plague of rabbits two years ago. I had planted a bunch of baby roses, and the rabbits killed at least two of them by nibbling them all the way to the ground. Now, to be safe, I put chicken wire cages around new roses to keep the bunnies away from them.

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  4. I had Japanese Beetle problem a while back. They seemed to all live in my dying Weeping Willow tree.
    Now that it's been cut down and outta here, I haven't seen any more.
    Fingers crossed!
    But at least I now know what to do if they return.
    ;)

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    1. You just reminded me of why I won't plant Pussy Willow, even though I love them ... Beetles! I had a friend years ago who would share clippings of her Pussy Willow with me every year in the early spring, and they would bloom and be beautiful in the vase in the house. Because the beetles loved the plant in her garden, I always resisted the urge to plant one of my own.

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  5. You're dealing with Japanese beetles and I'm dealing with June bugs! I hate when those things get in the house!

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    1. Summer brings each of us our own individual, regional trials and plagues.

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  6. At my last job, one of the things I had great pleasure in doing was traipsing through the rose beds with my bucket of soapy water in-hand in which to knock the Japanese beetles into. It was very satisfying.

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    1. Japanese Beetles are one of the few things that I can kill with a completely clear conscience … some others are ticks, fleas, and flies.

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