Japanese invasion: Destructive beetles swarming region
Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2010 9:05 pm
Ken Johnson has a reliable way to gauge the extent of the Japanese beetle problem on local landscapes this summer.
“Japanese beetle traps. They’re the hot item the last two weeks,” said Johnson, manager of the lawn and garden department at Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse of Union City.
“We sold every one we had in two days. We sold 48 so far this year. We have 192 coming in tomorrow morning (today). They retail for $5.97 each.
“Last year we had a run on beetle traps, but I don’t remember it being this bad. People have come into the store saying they’re looking up in trees and all they’re seeing is the beetles. They can’t see the leaves for the beetles.
“So it’s pretty bad this year.”
Tim Smith, University of Tennessee Extension Service Obion County office director, expressed similar sentiments. “They are here. They come out in mid-June and last about six weeks,” he said.
These little insects have a voracious appetite, he said. They attack the silk on pollinating corn and ornamental plants such as Japanese maples. “They love roses and crepe myrtles,” he said. “They’re really bad. They’ll get on soybeans, too, but usually don’t do as much damage as with landscapes.
“They are here and they’re going to get worse and worse. I had never seen one until three years ago. The last year was the first year they were really bad. This hot weather, they’ll thrive. They like sunny weather.”
Johnson said other than the beetle traps, Sevin dust helps eradicate the pests. “We’ve moved a lot of that, too,” he said. “I’d say at least 200 little three-pound (bags). We also have products like Spectracide (a liquid) and Orthro. These are proven to kill Japanese beetles. There’s two forms of Spectracide. The one we sell the most fits on your water hose. You can spray the yard, trees, crepe myrtles. It mixes itself with water.”
Smith offers these notes about the Japanese beetle:
• It is probably the most devastating pest of urban landscape plants in the eastern United States. They were first found in this country in 1916, after being accidentally introduced into New Jersey. Prior to that, the insect was known to occur only in Japan, where it was not considered a major pest.
• Adult Japanese beetles are seven-sixteenths inches long, metallic green, with copper-brown wing covers. A row of white tufts (spots) of hair project from under the wing covers on each side of the body.
• Adult beetles emerge from the ground and begin feeding on plants in June. Activity is most intense over a four- to six-week period beginning in late June, after which they gradually die off.
• The beetles feed on about 300 species of plants, devouring leaves, flowers and overripe or wounded fruit. They usually feed in groups. They are most active on warm, sunny days, and prefer plants that are in direct sunlight. A single beetle doesn’t eat much; it is group feeding that results in severe damage.
• Adults feed on the upper surface of foliage, chewing out tissue between the veins. This gives the leaf a lace-like or skeletonized appearance.
• Adults are highly mobile and can infest new areas from several miles away. However, they usually make only short flights as they move about to feed or lay eggs.
Smith does not support the use of bug traps. “University research has shown that the traps attract many more beetles than are actually caught,” he said. “Consequently, susceptible plants along the flight path of the beetles and in the vicinity of traps are likely to suffer much more damage than if no traps are used at all.”
Published in The Messenger 6.17.10