Monday, August 13, 2018

Japanese Beetle Late Summer Myths and Sensible Strategies

Damage to grape vines in my neighborhood
The unproven and varied strategies for managing Japanese beetles and their larvae each summer gets more and more interesting as they spread out and gain more dining opportunities along the Front Range. It is understandable that gardeners and homeowners are desperate for any fix to make them go away or reduce their numbers in yards. 

Let's face it, these insects are horrible. Most of us have no problem using another "h" word to describe our feelings. Hate, with a capital "T" and that rhymes with "D" which stands for Disgust, Detest and Despise. I could use stronger words, but this is a family friendly blog.

Those of us in central and south Denver neighborhoods who have been dealing with Japanese beetle summer invasions in fairly high numbers for five years or more can offer some sound advice as to what works or not. We've had lots of practice. Plus there are some newer resources from local CSU entomologists and Colorado Department of Agriculture experts with effective management practices and products to use on adults and lawns for larvae.

Our local experts and research universities know well what to recommend for Japanese beetle management. They've had the benefit of learning from other experts in these same fields who have been dealing with Japanese beetles for over one hundred years. Japanese beetles arrived in Riverton New Jersey in 1916. Hey, it only took them a little under one hundred years to make it to Colorado.

Here are some myth controls I've heard or read of late. I won't qualify the use of the first three bullets with how or why they are being used because I believe they could or will harm plants, the soil, beneficial insects pollinators and who knows what else. 
  • Powdering plants JBs eat with baby powder.
  • Eviscerating dead beetles in a food processor to make a slurry, then sprayed over plants as a repellent. Mix in catmint foliage (must be for fragrance to mask the horrific smell of dead beetles)... "and really...the kitchen Cuisinart food processor?"
Save your money - no traps!
  • Putting out traps work (yes they work) - comments from me - "Do you believe a random posting recommendation on a local community Internet bulletin board or perhaps from a co-worker or a sales clerk in a garden center that putting up a Japanese beetle trap will reduce J. beetle numbers and damage to your plants? Or do you believe decades of researched university and agricultural studies that say that traps draw in more Japanese beetles to the area and surrounding plants? 
  • The lures are highly attractive and will draw in beetles from long distances. Hmm, I smell fresh baked apple pie - and there's a la mode too. It's free pie, wonder how many neighbors will show up for a piece or two, then invite some of their friends to join the eating party. And then what happens - they never leave, just like cousin Eddy!
  • If you buy into using traps then you should have very happy neighbors because their beetles will be coming to your yard and eating more of your plants. They should send you a thank you note or leave a bottle of wine on your front porch. Better yet, they ought to leave you a few bucks each week to cover the trap baits that you have to replace often. I wish I lived next door to trap users!!"
  • Will plants like Virginia creeper serve as trap plants to keep beetles occupied and not interested in other landscape plants? The answer is highly unlikely, no. As the summer progresses and plant sources get eaten, they will seek out other plants they like (or will try) in the landscape. 
  • If you plant onions right next to roses, will beetles leave roses alone? No, they know exactly where the roses are growing and will ignore the onions (or any other plants they don't like) and go straight for their preferences. Consider and research new plants added to your landscape carefully. Click HERE for my like/dislike plant list (a work in progress).  
What are the best controls to use now that it's mid-August on both adult beetles and larvae in lawns (next year's generation)?
  • For the most immediate control flick adults into soapy water in the morning or evening when they are sluggish and easy to flick. Keeping the numbers down actually reduces more beetles from joining the eating party on your plants. What attracts them to the plants is the plant oils released by beetle chewing (called congregation feeding), so less beetle chewing means less beetle visits. The research on Japanese beetles says that it is fine to squish or pinch adults on the spot. Their smushed parts do not attract more beetles to the area - it's the chewed plant oils that put out the welcome sign. 
  • A good mail order, organic spray for adult beetles is beetleJUS!™ beetleGONE!® Different names from different suppliers. 
  • Try to mow less often - keep the lawn on the tall side which adult females don't like. Their preference for egg laying is moist, low cut grass. Keeping the lawn on the drier side during egg laying (June through August) is also effective on egg mortality. Just use care to keep any trees in or near lawns watered so they aren't stressed.  
  • There are a handful of grub control products recommended, but get going, most of them are more effective when put down earlier in the summer. Organic Btg grubHALT!™ or grubGONE!® can be used now into September, as can beneficial nematodes. 
  • Don't waste your time or money on Milky Spore (scroll to page 7), it doesn't work well here, try GrubEX, nematodes or Btg. Click HERE for information on all grub products - found on Dr. Cranshaw's Fact Sheet.
Smile (but I should have sat up straight)
And when the final beetle has fallen dead sometime in September (hopefully) - smile. There is hope on the far horizon to battle this ravenous foe with beneficial predator insects and a new spore pathogen for larvae. Stay tuned and I'll write more as I learn more.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Flower Power - CSU Flower Trial Garden

You may remember the phrase and movement from the mid 60s into the early 70s named "Flower Power." It all had to do with the counterculture youth interpretation of war, peace and freedom. The era included wearing all things flower related - from screen printed or embroidered flower logos to dandelion blooms tucked behind the ear or in a headband. Flowers were THE style of the times - it certainly was groovy. Those days have passed, but flowers are still very much in style today.

Internet Photo from CSU
If I were to write two flower words to describe this weekend's public event at the CSU Flower Trial Garden in Ft. Collins it would be something like Flower Cheer, Flower Spark, Flower Verve and for sure - Flower Life!  

Consumer Day at the Annual Trial Garden, August 11, 9:00 am to noon in Fort Collins is THE place to see hundreds (or more) of flowering and foliage annuals in one location - some are not even in the market place yet...but your input will help decide and select recipients of the Colorado Garden Foundation Consumer Choice Awards. The event is free and open to the public. 

The exciting morning includes - refreshments, guided hourly tours of the gardens (10:00, 11:00 and noon), children planting activities (yes, bring the kids, pets need to please remain at home). And the best part is you get to help select Colorado's top varieties of flowers (they'll explain how). There will be plenty of free parking and shade available for those that just want to view the activities and breathe in three acres of color and flower life!

The address is 1401 Remington Street in Fort Collins, CO.
FROM I-25 take exit #268 and head west on Prospect Road for 3.8 miles to Remington Street. Turn right (north) on Remington Street and go one block to the intersection of Remington Street and Lake Street; the garden will be on your left. There are also perennial trials to the right, on the east side of Remington Street, in front of the Colorado State University Center for the Arts.

Enjoy lots of flower life this weekend! 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Dog Days of Summer - Insect Edition

Ah the Dog, sunny days that seem to go on forever. The short break of monsoon weather a week or more ago was welcome by most, not the gardeners who were hailed out. We've been in your garden clogs many times.

The cicadas are crooning by ten in the morning while Ferris is just settling in for his first nap of the day behind the patio sofa on the cool concrete - he knows where to take life easy. Speaking of cicadas, what interesting insects have you noticed this summer?  I've come across a couple of new ones, at least to my eyes - they may have been here before but they didn't catch my attention until this summer.

Agapostemon Sweat Bee

A metallic green bee stands out in any crowd of bees. This one stood out as much as the André the Giant sized bumblebees who are dominating our garden this summer. He was around in late June for several weeks. He's a sweat bee, Agapostemon in the large group of five hundred or so species found in North America.

I'm pretty sure this one is a male because of his metallic green head and thorax, with a yellow and black striped abdomen. Females are entirely green or blue and are super fast fliers. Males fly slower looking out for females who seem more serious about finding flower pollen. They can be solitary bees or nest in communities with others. They dig deep nests in areas with sloping soil. And not only are they good looking, but they aren't aggressive as their common name suggests - he was more interested in posing for me (this time) than seeking my gardener perspiration.

On first glance I thought this bug seemed like he might be a good bug - perhaps a predator of an insect that was chewing a plant that shouldn't be chewed. I was hoping he liked grasshoppers. He wasn't camera shy while he was resting on a stack of Smart Pot containers that I was shaking out and getting ready to plant. 

A camera photo text to a couple of garden friends led to the correct identification (thank you Susan and Peggy). He wasn't a good guy assassin bug, but rather a bad guy leaffooted bug who was probably nibbling on some close by developing tomatoes. If you check out this fact sheet from The University of California you will see photos of all the life stages of this nuisance Leptoglossus clypealis. I know without a doubt I've seen eggs and nymphs in our garden. I'm not too worried about on-going damage, but I'll keep an eye out for group feeding and wake Ferris for help if they get out of hand.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Japanese Beetle Management Class - 2018

If you're at the hair pulling stage from looking, flicking or smashing these coppery/green bothersome beetles, then I'm here to offer help. Or at least an opportunity to join in the beetle battle learning plan for the rest of this summer and next year with others who are are also losing their hair!

My final 2018 class on Japanese beetle management at Denver Botanic Gardens is August 2, 2018 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm in Gates Hall, which is just inside the main building once you're through the gift shop entrance. Free parking in the lot across from the main entrance.

I'll cover all that you need to know about this small, but hungry, destructive pest. There are lawn care practices that can deter egg laying (which is next year's generation of adult beetles). I'll offer some easy, inexpensive tips for covering your favorite plants to prevent damage and then we'll roll up our sleeves and discuss the best products to use for your time frame and pocket book. Some are very safe to use around people, pets, pollinators and beneficial insects. Proper application and timing of products is KEY when it comes to battle readiness. I'll discuss this in depth, plus you'll take home all the information you'll need for years to come and where to look for updates.

There is good news on the horizon about beneficial predator insects and biological controls that target adult beetles and larvae, I'll explain.

Low Denver Botanic Garden member fee of $26.00, non-member fee of $31.00 

Please register here - HERE.

I'm looking forward to seeing you on Thursday!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Rain Songs

The monsoon rains finally arrived near the end of July. Rain is a blessing or a curse - that's no secret to any gardener who has lived here longer than five minutes. Many homeowners are crying over their landscapes and plant damage. I'm reading social media posts like "all that work, hours of planting and tending...wiped out in ten minutes!" "Our poor tomatoes, they were finally coming on after all this heat." "Maybe it's time to plow under the garden and put in a bocce court!" Okay, haven't heard that, but some years it sounds like a great idea.
About an inch received on July 24

All this fretting will continue while another storm is brewing over a corn patch near you.

Thinking about the rain storms this week reminded me of all the songs written over the years about this very topic. Here's a small sampling.

What's your favorite rain song?

Most agree, he's one terrific writer, poet and singer - Mr. Bob Dylan took the phrase that gardeners fear and welcome - "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." 

Karen Carpenter combined two events - "Rainy Days and Mondays."

We ALL know this song. It may remain in your head for a few days or years - from one of the best movies of all time "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Plant and Page - "The Rain Song" 

Always true - "Here Comes the Rain Again." 

The heart may mend....but will the landscape?  "It's Raining Again."  

Tina knows how to say and sing it, I wonder if she's a gardener. - "I Can't Stand the Rain." 

"Who'll Stop the Rain" ... not us!
Shade Cloth Hail Protection over Potatoes 8-10-17

Sing it - "Let it Rain."

Feel it - "It Feels Like Rain."

You'll need a tissue while listening - "Set Fire to the Rain." 

Kenny likes the rain and "There's Something Sexy about the Rain." 

Is it possible there's "A Better Rain." 

How about "Raining on Sunday." 

Everyone has experienced "Laughter in the Rain."

There's even a "Mandolin Rain."

Might as well get out there and start "Rockin' with the Rhythm of the Rain." 

This will take you back in time - "The Rain, the Park and Other Things." 

It rains in other states too "A Rainy Night in Georgia."  

Internet Photo
Sing it Elvis - "Kentucky Rain"

Who sings it better, Billie "Come Rain or Come Shine." OR Ray.

We miss "Purple Rain." 

Willie knows about "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain."

ALL gardeners agree..."Rain is a Good Thing." 

My all time favorite - "Singing in the Rain." 

How many times have we said "I Think it's Going to Rain Today."

Here's what we'll be saying during the next hot, dry spell - "I Wish it Would Rain."