Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The War of the Flowers

Recently, I blogged on the topic of my new, laid-back approach to dealing with garden pests.

There is one major exception to this tolerant view—the Japanese beetle.

My feud with this voracious plant assassin goes back to the year I first planted roses. My roses looked beautiful until about the Fourth of July, when the mature beetles erupted out of the ground. I’d walk out to the garden to find my flowers covered in beetles. They seemed to have a knack for picking out the most beautiful buds, the loveliest flowers in full-blown glory—and ruining them.

Not only that, those beetles were copulating on my roses, they were coupling up and having sex while they chomped my flowers to bits. They emitted pheromones, calling their comrades to join the fun. Talk about your multi-tasking. Meanwhile, their devilspawn offspring lurked under the turf, grazing on the roots of my grass.

I tried those Japanese beetle traps, and my neighbors thanked me, because they drew all the beetles to MY yard. I crawled around my yard with a teaspoon, seeding it with milky spore to kill the grubs. With no apparent effect. Apparently you have to also convince all your less-obsessive neighbors to crawl around on their lawns, too. Or offer to do the crawling for them.

I tried systemic insect controls, even though I don’t like using pesticides in my garden. The beetles treated it like a condiment. I looked up “Japanese beetle controls” online. Nematodes were described as providing “marginal” control, and the extension service bulletin noted that milky spore “may not be effective in Ohio and Kentucky.” Nobody promised me a beetle-free future.

Anyway, it was fun looking at the pictures of nematodes invading the bodies of Japanese beetle grubs and parasitic fly maggots boring their way into the thoraxes of the adults.

Or consider our friend, the Japanese wasp tiphia vernalis. “The female wasp digs into the soil, paralyzes a beetle grub by stinging, and then deposits an egg on the grub. When the egg hatches, the emerging wasp larva consumes the grub.” HAHAHAHAHA!

I’m not usually like this.

Now that I work at home, I’ve resorted to a marginally effective but completely organic and simple approach. When I take writing breaks, I walk out to the garden, pick off the beetles, and drop them into a jar of soapy water. I don’t know what it is about soapy water that kills them, but it’s fast-acting, whereas a beetle can swim around in a jar of plain water for a couple of days. (Trust me on this.)

No comments: