Summer Hot and Pesky Critters

June 24th, 2009

Can you say heat wave?! It’s been incredibly hot the past few days, and the plants are really feeling it.  Not to mention the people… there’s work to do outside, and inside of a few minutes your shirt is just soaking wet.   Have to remind myself to drink lots of water.   The garden needs the water too, but the peas have finally succumbed to the heat as the flowers just wilt too quickly.  Yet the warm season plants such as tomatoes and eggplant are really starting to grow- for everything there is a season, right?   We even had our first summer squash the other day.

I’m curious to try the yellow banana peppers- the plants are really producing many right now and they seem to love the heat too.  They’re supposed to be sweet and yellow at maturity- but they’re all staying greenish so far.  This one is five inches long now.  It’s supposed to turn a brighter yellow on the plant but I think I’m going to pick it!



The other evening after a hot day the storm clouds were building to the west.  This one looked like a beautiful windswept face.



In other garden news (unfortunately) it’s japanese beetle season!  Which is a little much these days.  Those of you further to the west probably don’t have them around yet.  They only arrived in our area a few years ago, but they’re marching steadily west it seems- how far they go is the question. It seems like they’re all ending up here!

They are not a native species, and were introduced accidentally in the early 1900’s in New Jersey on nursery plants.  But as they invade new local environments they have no natural predators and just go crazy.  They are particularly fond of roses- which are covered with them in the summer.  But they’ve also stripped our little cherry trees of leaves already.  They emerge in June and July in our area, laying eggs in summer, which hatch and become larvae that burrow deeper  into the soil and overwinter until the following year.

They’re also really annoying… nickel sized bugs flying and buzzing everywhere like alien space invaders.  “Buzzzzz!  Whoa! What was that!? ” is your first reaction… then, “Oh…”  Here’s a few of the lovely critters munching on a rose bush:


I’m hoping some enterprising bird learns to enjoy eating the little buggers at some point, or that the population explosion diminishes over time.  Probably futile wishes, at least in terms of a few years.   In order to control them around our landscape, we’re using beetle traps.  These consist of a flower scent and a sex pheromone that seems to drive the beetles crazy.  Here’s a picture of a hundreds of these beetles that have fallen into the plastic bag trap.  I put this trap up the day before this picture and it’s already getting full.   Kind of gross, but it makes the point.


We have three of these bags set fifty yards from the garden, and it draws the beetles away from more valuable landscape plants.  Thank heavens they don’t eat anything in the garden that I can tell so far!   Who knows- maybe I should put the bags a few acres away- for all I know I’m attracting them here.   Another choice would be to spread insecticide throughout the landscape to kill the larval grubs in the ground where they live.  But I’m too stubborn and don’t want to spread chemicals around… everything washes down hill toward the pond, and I have no idea of the toxicity of those chemicals over time.   There’s another control agent we could try- a powdered form of Bacillus popilliae, which is a bacterium that causes milky spore disease and provides natural control against grubs.

We’ll see how it goes with the traps for now.  Lovely oddities of nature, but it drives home the importance of not introducing non-native plant and animal species where they don’t belong throughout the world.

5 Responses to “Summer Hot and Pesky Critters”

  1. That cloud photo is spectacular!

    Keep an eye on the plants and judge the effectiveness of the traps where you have them placed. As you suspect, traps actually can act to attract beetles in greater numbers than they would have been without traps. Although it does feel good (deep down) to kill a bunch of the pesky little buggers! Forget insecticides – that does more damage than good, and even Bacillus popilliae is best used only if you own a significant source population in your lawn.


  2. I like my yellow banana peppers pickled. I haven’t spotted any Japanese beetles just yet but I know they are out there because they love to munch on the roses as you mentioned. I don’t trap them but they haven’t been much of a problem on either my cherry tree or garden, just the roses.

  3. pamela

    Thanks for not choosing the poison approach. Chickens love grubs, so if some of the beetles don’t make it to the bags you should invite some chickens in to clear out the larvae. It’s pretty entertaining. I’m not sure what it says about me that that would find myself muttering, “Nyah, nyah, nyah.”(however that villain’s sound is spelled) whenever I would sic my peeps on the grubs. So far, only grubs inspire such a reaction.

  4. Nice pepper! I’ve got flowers here, but none have set yet. I hope those beetles aren’t headed here! It sure is hot out.

  5. Ted- Thanks for the insight; I may take the traps down this week- I don’t want to use any other control methods, but if this population isn’t significant, I wouldn’t want to see one that is!
    Ed- Good idea with the pickled peppers- I’ve done that with jalapenos, but not the yellow ones. Maybe we could slice them for a mixed pickled jar with cucumbers in it.
    Pamlea- Well good, another reason to get chickens! That must be a sight. I don’t know about the grubs either, but between japanese beetles, crane flies and others, it’s hard to find very much redeeming about grubs in the landscape… not to mention that they attract moles too!
    Ron- Thanks! I don’t know why but the peppers really took off- the tomatoes slowed down however. Think I’d rather have the tomatoes… :)

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