Thursday, June 28, 2012

My battles with Japanese beetles

I suspect they've been around for awhile, but I really didn't notice the Japanese beetles in our area until two years ago.  That was when I noticed the leaves at the top of the cherry tree seemed to be turning brown in the middle of summer.  I'd seen other trees suffer that fate, but since they weren't in my yard, I ignored whatever had caused the devastation.  When MY cherry tree seemed to get worse every day, I finally investigated.  I was horrified to find hundreds, perhaps thousands of beetles slowly eating the life out of my tree!

My research that year convinced me to spray the tree with Sevin, especially since all the cherries had been harvested weeks earlier.  It was satisfying to see all the bugs lying dead on the ground just days later, but I realized this war would probably have many battles over many years.

The next year, I noticed the beetles were attracted to several plants in our yard, specifically: the cherry tree, raspberry plants, only one of our three maple trees, and hops bines.  I sprayed all the affected plants except the maple with Sevin, and was generally pleased with the results, but something about spraying chemicals on food plants made me uncomfortable.

This year, I changed my strategy.  I'd seen my neighbors catching a lot of bugs in their traps, and after weighing the pros and cons, I decided to join them.  Of the two or three choices at Menards, I chose the Spectracide Bag-A-Bug Japanese Beetle Trap.  The bait contains a sex attractant and a floral lure that the folks at Spectracide assure me is hard for beetles to resist.

This is the way the product looks assembled and hung from the stairs at the back of our barn.  Notice the plumpness of the bag toward the bottom, indicating lots of beetles are congregating there stupefied and unable to escape.  Evidently these flying beetles are not successful at locating the opening at the top of the bag.  Oh well, that just makes the trapping job easier.

Every day I empty the bag into a 5-gallon bucket containing a gallon or less of soapy water.  This image shows one day's harvest from my one trap after soaking over night.  I haven't counted all of them in this image, but I estimate there are over 1,000 beetles visible, and who knows how many underneath this top layer.  The bugs secrete a brown, sticky liquid that makes the trap bag messy and turns soapy water brown. It also stinks with a potency that is hard to wash off your hands.  I made that mistake once.  Now I use gloves when I'm going to touch the bag so I don't spend the rest of the evening washing stink off my hands!

Because these traps attract Japanese beetles, they shouldn't be located right next to a plant you're trying to protect.  Spectracide recommends at least 30 feet separation, and our trap is about that distance from the cherry and raspberry plants.  Those seem to be protected pretty well this year, although I do occasionally find beetles on both plants.  I remove those bugs when I see them, which tends to prevent others from congregating there also.  One source I read claims the beetles can smell a leaf that is being eaten, so they tend to gather together on the same plants.  Recently, I noticed a few dozen beetles on our small basil plant, and once I removed them I haven't seen any others on the plant since.

Criticized for drawing more beetles to your property, I think this style trap comes out far ahead in removing pests from your plants.  The damage I see on our plants this year is probably comparable to what I saw last year when I sprayed with Sevin at the first sign of infestation.  I'll continue to monitor and empty the trap faithfully, as I'm interested to see if the trap continues to be effective through the rest of the summer.

1 comment:

  1. Thankfully we have no problems with Japanese beetles. But sadly, we are having a horrendous time with ants this year... in the house! In the past, we've had great success with diatomasceous earth (and yes, Mr. Spellcheck, I know I didn't spell that right, but since the only thing you're giving me is "semiautomatic," apparently you can't spell it either. So there.) I don't know why, but this year the DE is not helping a lot. I've even sprinkled it directly on our kitchen counters, yes we have ants on the counters, I'm ashamed to admit. The ants seem unaffected. ugh.
    Anyhoo, enough with my ant troubles! Kudos on your Japanese beetle victory!