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Skaggs: Beware, beetles are on their way

POSTED: May 27, 2008 5:00 a.m.

It's that time again - time for that most dreaded of garden pests - the Japanese beetle.

I have yet to receive my first Japanese beetle phone call of the season, but I recently spoke with one of my counterparts in South Georgia. He said the troublesome Japanese beetles are out in force, so it only makes sense that we'll begin seeing them in North Georgia very soon.

If you've battled the dreaded Japanese beetle in years past, just the thought of these vile creatures devouring your precious garden plants is enough to make your skin crawl.

When it comes to identifying Japanese beetles, most experienced gardeners are quite familiar. If you're not quite sure what to look for, adult Japanese beetles are approximately 3/8 inch long.

They have a metallic green color with copper colored coverings on their wings. Five small white tufts under the wing covers on each side and one more pair projecting from the tip of the abdomen, distinguish them from similar beetle species.

An equal-opportunity feeder, Japanese beetles have been known to feed on more than 300 plant species. From the carefully manicured roses in your garden to the poison ivy you've been trying to clear out, they have quite a varied appetite.

Japanese beetles really aren't very picky about what they eat, but when they do go after a plant, they can really do some damage if enough of them gather.

Signs of a Japanese beetle problem include discoloration and a skeleton-like appearance from leaf tissue chewed out from between the veins. The Japanese beetle lifespan is around four to six weeks, with activity peaking in mid-summer.

When the Japanese beetles emerge and mate, the females will lay eggs in the ground, which will spend the next 10 months developing as white grubs, the larval stage of Japanese beetles.

Controlling Japanese beetles depends on the magnitude of the problem. Small numbers can be removed by hand; simply shake the plant early in the morning when the beetles are somewhat docile and collect them in a bucket of soapy water.

If the problem persists or you're overrun with plague-like numbers of beetles, other methods of control may be necessary. When an infestation is apparent, chemical control with an insecticide labeled for Japanese beetle control will provide you needed relief and protect your plants.

Over-the-counter insecticides include: acephate (Orthene), carbaryl (Sevin), esfenvalerate (Ortho Bug-B-Gon Max), and several pyrethroids - bifenthrin, cyfluthrin and permethrin. During the heavy adult activity periods, sprays may be needed every 7 to 10 days. For extended control, try a systemic insecticide such as imidacloprid (Bayer Advanced).

One method that has been popular in recent years uses pheromone traps that attract the beetles. However, this has proven problematic for home gardeners.

It appears that these traps may actually attract more beetles than they control. You might give one to your neighbors so that the beetles are drawn away from your landscape and garden!

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County Extension Coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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