I don’t hide my disdain for the Colorado potato beetles that annually devour my potato crop, but come July, I’m battling a much more formidable foe.
The deceptively handsome, copper-colored Japanese beetles are out in force, their voracious appetites turning foliage to lace throughout my backyard.
As obnoxious as they are, potato beetles are at least slower moving, and thus easier to squish than the wily Japanese beetle.
Japanese beetles have perfected the art of stop, drop and roll, and if that fails, while I’m reaching in for the death kill, they simply fly away.
Their favorite meals appear to be grapes, hollyhocks, roses and – where we do most of our battle – raspberry bushes.
Armed with a single gardening glove and a container for whatever raspberries they haven’t devoured, I make a trek to the bushes every evening after work.
Early evening seems to be the time when they are less likely to fly off and are an easier target for my gloved hand.
When one or two started appearing on the bushes in late June, this “squish” technique seemed to work, but by now, several of the beetles gather on each leaf and it’s time to move on to bigger things.
Because raspberry patches should be a place where you or a child can readily eat whatever’s ripe, as-is, I wouldn’t use any chemical means of control. The best approach has so far been to take a small bucket of soapy water to the bushes – I use liquid dish soap – and knock the beetles into the water.
Plain water doesn’t quite do the trick, as the beetles can survive, swimming around, for at least several days in it.
I’ve heard bug experts say Japanese beetles usually don’t kill anything before they end their midsummer’s rampage, but I don’t know that they’ve seen the infestation problem that my backyard seems to have. Once the beetles ravage their favorite plants, they will move on to almost any others available. They even suck the flowers of my fragrant milkweed to nothing.
I’m envious of the parts of the country where these beetles have not yet reached. Even areas of Cedar Rapids seem immune to the problem. If you’ve had any luck with other methods of control, please let me know.