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The Daily Guide - Waynesville, MO
  • Gardening to Distraction: These beetles bug me

  • They’re back, in case you haven’t seen the little iridescent green eating machines. Japanese beetles have turned my arbor with wild grapevines into lace and are now snacking on Rose of Sharon tree blossoms. I don’t mind sharing but their voracious appetite is taking pollen sources away from my honeybees.
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  • They’re back, in case you haven’t seen the little iridescent green eating machines. Japanese beetles have turned my arbor with wild grapevines into lace and are now snacking on Rose of Sharon tree blossoms. I don’t mind sharing but their voracious appetite is taking pollen sources away from my honeybees.
    According to Wayne Bailey, University of Missouri Division of Plant Sciences, Japanese beetles in Missouri are still in the colonization stage.
    “Numbers will grow over the next seven to 10 years throughout the state before beneficial biological pathogens and agents will slow population growth.”
    Japanese beetles were first found in the U.S. in 1916, possibly arriving in shipments of irises from Japan before there were importation inspections starting in 1918.
    It made its way to Missouri by 1934 and stayed in urban areas through the 1960s, living primarily in golf courses and plant nurseries where grubs were brought in with soil. I first spotted them in my garden three years ago.
    Adult Japanese beetles are quite pretty, half-inch long with metallic green or copper-colored wing covers and what appear to be little tufts of white hairs surrounded their shell. Unfortunately, these beetles will eat the leaves off of more than 400 flowers, shrubs and trees, depriving the plants of absorbing sunlight, which they use for photosynthesis.
    So far, they haven’t killed my garden plants. Some of mine have been completely denuded in the six weeks or so Japanese beetles are around but they have survived and re-leafed.
    Record summer drought and winter temperatures these past two years may have slowed down the expected increased population.
    So does a can of soapy water and a stealthy step in the garden first thing in the morning, when Japanese beetles are at their most sluggish. I sneak the soapy water-filled container under plant leaves and let the beetles dive into the water. The soap prevents them from flying out and they drown.
    For a couple of years, gardening friends mentioned using pheromone-laced traps. Research confirms using pheromones brings in more Japanese beetles so I would think twice before using them.
    One option is to set up a trap over a kiddy swimming pool with soapy water hoping more beetles drown.
    If you see Japanese beetles feeding on leaves in an area, it can be annoying but it does not mean you have an infestation. Look for splotches of brown turf this fall; that usually is the indication grubs are eating through roots and you may have a longer term problem.
    According to Michigan State University specialists, the verdict is still out on the efficacy of using a “milky” bacterial spore disease. Soil has to be treated for several years before the disease affects only certain species of larva, including Japanese beetles.
    Page 2 of 2 - Worth a try but you won't see immediate results. It will also depend on what your neighbors are doing about the beetles. If they aren't taking measures, you may inherit their beetles.
    As more research continues, there may be other recommendations on how best to deal with Japanese beetle grubs. In the meantime, luckily for us, hard rock soil is a very successful Japanese beetle grub deterrent.
    Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate. Copyright 2014 used with permission by Rolla Daily News and Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at chargardens@ gmail.com.

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