Monday, July 20, 2009

I Don't Bait Beetles

Visiting gardening forums and blogs can be so helpful, particularly this time of year when my most dreaded garden pest is due to hatch. I was alerted on Friday to start watching for Japanese beetles when my forum friends in Missouri and Indiana started posting about them. Sure enough, two days later, they hatched.

There are as many suggestions for dealing with this pest as there are weeds in the garden. One that is particularly popular is baiting. Homemade or store bought baits are placed in the garden to catch and kill the beetles. Photos show some pretty impressive (and disgusting) numbers of beetles in these traps. I have no doubt, they are an effective means to catch beetles. Still, I don't bait.

My theory is that beetle traps can actually make the situation much worse by luring even more beetles onto your property. Instead, my method is simple. Catch em. The kiddos can be enlisted for this task. Current going price on a beetle head is a dime. They were a nickle on the first day they hatched due to large quantity. When we catch them, we stick them in a bug hotel with stuff to munch on, because we are dorks and feel bad squishing them. OK sometimes we also feed them to the toads. Most of them go in the bug hotel though.

Japanese beetles don't bite, but they feel creepy when you catch them. They have claws on their feet that don't hurt at all, but you definitely know you have a beetle in your hand. There are a couple of tricks to catching them. Early morning or late evening are the easiest, because when they are cold, they are less likely to fly. These beetles have a trick where they roll on their side and off whatever they are hanging onto. If they are on a huge tomato, good luck finding them once they roll off. That's why when I go to nab on, I place one hand under the leaf and then go to grab it. Most of the time they roll right into my hands. It's handy to have your container right there because once they unfurl their legs from the rolling, it feels ICK!

This seems like a lot of work, but am/pm beetle scanning after the first day only takes a few minutes. They seem to pick a few favorite plants and you'll find 90% of them hanging out there. There year for me, they have been on the peppers, the fugly bush and one tomato plant on the patio (Persimmon-of course). They only seem to be eating the peppers and whoo boy a few missed beetles can do a LOT of damage!
Catching them early is the key. We made a huge dent in the numbers the first day they appeared. Tonight I only plucked three. There have been less and less everyday. Beetle feet are creepy but I'll take them over a stinky beetle trap any day, especially if I only have to deal with the feet for a few days.


AnnF said...

Milky spore applied to the lawn each year for 3 years will help reduce the number of developing jap. beetle grubs in your lawn.

Also, I use a cup of water with a couple drops of dish soap, if you knock the leaves the beetles drop straight down, straight into your cup. I leave my cup on the front stoop.

Tessa at Blunders with shoots, blossoms 'n roots said...

Sounds very icky! I agree with you about trapping them- you have to lure them first and you could be luring them from all over the neighborhood, for all you know! I plan on creating a bug hotel in my next home- we will probably be moving soon and I have a few pictures to get us started- very fun!

Ellie Mae's Cottage said...

I'm seeing quite a few Japanese beetles this year in my yard. They seem to like my cosmos blooms. My hubby does a great job with keeping the grubs in our lawn under control, but our neighbor had them bad this year and I think the adults flew over to my garden when looking for food (of course there was none in my neighbor's barren yard) - hate that when neighbors don't take care of the yard I end up paying for it. -Jackie

Daphne said...

I'm with Ann. I use a jar of soapy water and just knock them into it. I hate touching them. I usually hide the jar under a hosta plant that is near my rose bush. They love my rose bush but don't bother much else. Of course I say that and I think my beans have a lot of beetle damage on them now too. They just hatched here.

Beegirl said...

Great post! We have a ton of them now. I do what Daphne does.. jar of soapy water makes a wicked batch of "beetlegeuse"!! They are killing my pole beans and all over the blue berry bushes. They are less active in the early AM and later PM, so that's when I try to attack with my jar!

Stacy said...

Ann: Every year I mean to do the milky spore or nematodes and every year I miss it!

Jackie: I feel your pain, boy do I feel your pain. One of my neighbors thought creeping charlie made a fabulous groundcover on a property line bed...

Daphne and Bee: I just can't do the soap and water. For some reason it squicks me out more than just scooping them into a hotel. I'm weird.

ALL: Only four caught all day, definite progress!