As a gardener, I have a wide range of feelings about insects. I go out of my way to attract certain insects to my vegetable garden, namely pollinators and insects that eat or parasitize garden pests. While some visitors to the Backyard Vegetable Garden at the Civic Garden Center are scared by the number of bees humming along, I work happily alongside them without concern for my safety since I know they have one thing on their minds: gathering food. Other insects I regularly hunt down and squash to prevent them from inflicting excessive damage on my crops, and from reproducing. Imported cabbage worms, harlequin bugs, cucumber beetles, aphids and squash vine borers are the most frequent targets of my attention.
Over the last couple of weeks we have been experiencing an insect invasion that does not fit neatly into my two typical categories. The first, Japanese Beetles, certainly inflict damage on plants, by turning to lace the leaves of fruit trees, raspberries and roses. But they don’t actually eat what I want to eat so as long as the plant has enough leaves to keep collecting energy, the beetles are mostly just creating an eyesore.
The second, Green Fruit Beetles, I originally mistook for June bugs, the clumsy, buzzing, relatively harmless harbingers of summer. The Green Fruit Beetles are large, shimmering green and copper, and an inch wide and about 1.5″ long. They eat rotting fruit, so do not tend to harm crops. For the last two weeks they have been congregating during the heat of the day, in large quantities, quantities that are starting to creep me out as I attempt to tend the garden. They buzz 3-12″ off the ground looking for a mate. Once that is accomplished, they lay their eggs in the ground (typically in a lawn or compost pile). Those eggs hatch into one of the gnarliest grubs, which we, not coincidentally I am sure, have found many of in our composting area and vegetable beds.
So why do these defy my typical friend or foe categories for insects? They are technically a foe but the idea of squashing them (both in adult and larvae form) is repulsive. They are very buzzy so once you’ve got them they make a big deal about trying to escape, and the squashing part… well I won’t go into the details but it is not quiet or pleasant. Colleagues recommended a trap for the Japanese beetles but since I couldn’t find one at my favorite local garden store I made my own. A different trap for each type of beetle. Only one taker so far but I’ll keep checking and will post the recipe if they actually work.
– Ryan Mooney-Bullock, Green Learning Station Coordinator and bug wrangler