Good morning. We certainly are enjoying a spectacular summer, which we deserve after the last few. The flowers are happy and, unfortunately, so are the bugs.

It seems the easy winter and early spring were not only a boon to the things we want, but also to things we don’t. E-mails have been pouring in about Japanese beetles, as usual. I’ve added these to a number of questions about mole hills in lawns, large yellow patches of dead grass areas and other indicators of grubs.

Yep, those little piles of dirt on your lawns are in all likelihood the result of the beetles spotted on your bushes. They all go together in one manner or another. And let me reiterate yet again that I don’t use Sevin. It is probably one of the few products that kills Japanese beetles, but, unfortunately, it also kills other things like butterflies, hummingbirds, good insects and bees. (I was really pleased to read the positive report from state beekeepers on the condition of the hives in Maine this summer. We are one of the states not listed as experiencing bee colony collapse.)

I thought it would be good today to help you understand the cycle of Japanese beetles and how best to deal with them.

In June, the problem was chafer beetles; and now we are nearing the end of the Japanese beetle’s yearly devastation. Both these destroyers have the same life cycle and can be treated the same way. If Japanese beetles are disappearing from your flowers, it isn’t that they have moved on to your neighbor’s. That would be too easy. The life cycle has simply begun for next year’s invasion just as the chafer beetles started about a month ago. The beetles appear, they eat everything in sight and they mate. At the end of this foray, the females burrow into the ground usually very near where they were eating, and lay eggs. Those eggs hatch and grow into grubs. Those grubs grow throughout the rest of the season, overwinter in the ground and then pop out in July as beetles to begin the cycle again. In order to get rid of the beetles, without spraying pesticides, you must get rid of the grubs.

Those dead yellow areas in your lawn are caused by grubs eating the grass roots. If you have moles at your house, it’s because grubs are one of their major food sources. They tunnel, creating those dirt piles, to get to and eat grubs. If there are no grubs, the moles will go on their way. If there are no grubs, your grass won’t die. If there are no grubs, you won’t have beetles. It is really quite simple.

In late May and early June this year, I remarked to my husband that there hadn’t been one foolish June bug for the dog and cats to harass. I didn’t think a whole lot about it until later. The nematodes I use to kill the chafer and beetle grubs also kill the larvae of the June bugs. Now I wasn’t aiming for the June bugs, but those foolishly entertaining insects were a target just the same. But I would much rather use the nematodes and lose the June bugs than use the Sevin and kill the bees and the hummingbirds. Everything is a trade-off.

When it comes to taking care of grubs, you have choices. For years, I have used and promoted the use of beneficial nematodes, microscopic parasites mixed in water and put on lawns and gardens. They burrow into the soil, infect the grubs and kill them before they hatch into beetles. They work best when used in the middle of May after the soil has warmed, but before the grubs are too big to be killed. I have used several different kinds from several different sources with a wide range of effectiveness. The most effective have come from a company called Garden’s Alive, which you can access online at GardensAlive.com or by calling 513-354-1482. This is a company with a wide range of organic gardening products and my experiences with their products has been very good.

Garden’s Alive also has a fairly new product which might prove to be a gift for many of you. According to several people on nonindustry sponsored gardening blogs I read, their new Lawn-Gard bioinsecticide is doing a great job against these same grubs in the late summer and early fall. So if you had a large infestation of chafers or Japanese beetles this year and don’t want a repeat next year, this could work. It also might be a big bonus when the snow melts in the spring to not have to deal with mole tunnels all over the grass. It is a dry product that is applied with a spreader over the lawn. If I was going to use this, I wouldn’t hesitate to spread it over both flower and vegetable garden areas where you had large numbers of beetles. They tend to lay their eggs where they feed, so don’t forget under the rose bushes.

I use nematodes for two springs in a row and then don’t do it again for at least two to three years. This new product is designed to protect you for one season and it is recommended you use it yearly. I would use it for two years in a row and then see if the beetles return. If you are in a heavily infested area, this probably won’t work; but if you live with no close neighbors, it might. It certainly is worth a try.

A couple of reminders

It is seed collecting season for those of you who like to have flowers in all the spaces you can find. Coneflowers and brown-eyed Susans are starting to go to seed; and if you would like some more of these lovely summer flowers, that is easy. Just take a plastic sandwich bag, bend the ripened seed head into the bag and shake vigorously. The seeds will drop to the bottom of the bag and you can simply scratch up the ground where you want flowers and scatter the seeds. Stick in a marker of some kind to remind you in the spring so you don’t “weed” them.

This is also time to take note of any holes in your garden that need to be filled. Lots of nurseries are having plant sales now; and if you get new plants into the ground by the first week of September and water them well for a few weeks, they will winter just fine. One last reminder for those who might have plants that need dividing: If it blooms in the spring, divide it in the fall and, obviously, if it blooms in the fall, divide in the spring.

Until next time, I hope your vases are filled with the colors and fragrances of the garden and your tables are laden with fresh vegetables and some of the last blueberries of the season. I hope you enjoy the last few weeks of summer because before you know it, it will be time to pick apples.

Happy gardening.

Jody Goodwin has been gardening for more than 25 years. She lives in Turner with her husband, Ike, her dog and two cats. She may be reached by writing to her in care of the Sun Journal, 104 Park St., Lewiston, Maine, 04243-4400 or by e-mail at [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.