Summer’s arrival prompts warm memories of childhood vacations and, for many area gardeners and farmers, a tinge of pest paranoia.
Will the beetles come back?
The ticks surely will.
At this decade’s start, Japanese beetles seemingly swept from the east into central Illinois. The small, oval, metallic green bugs flew like hordes of blind pilots into urban and rural areas, then settled in to eat.
Homeowners trapped tens of thousands of them by the week in pheromone-baited bags in their backyards in July of 2010 and 2011, yet the beetles’ rampage left decorative trees, shrubs and flowers badly damaged, virtually shorn of their life-giving leaves. In 2012, as their migration moved west, the beetles’ impact became hit-and-miss — strong in some areas, less so in others.
Wednesday brought the start of summer, when the beetles emerge from lawns and fields where they’ve eaten grass roots as small grubs through their year of larvae stage.
They’re starting to fly in Pekin.
“Literally in the last week, we’ve had our first customers come in asking for traps,” said Nick Vespa, store manager at Kelly Seed and Hardware in Pekin. “Only two or three, but they’re saying (the beetles) are out in full force.”
“We had a mild winter” without the steady, deep cold that can kill the larvae, “so we’ll see,” said Rhonda Ferree, a Havana-based University of Illinois Extension specialist in insects and horticulture.
This area’s summer droughts in 2012-13, when moist lawns and healthy grass roots the larvae need were hard to come by, “reduced their numbers significantly,” Ferree said. So did the cold winter of 2013-14.
Should the beetles return in force, to feed and propagate through July, Vespa cautioned gardeners to use pheromone traps wisely, if at all.
“If (the beetles) are on your grapes” or other food plants or foliage such as birch trees, “put the traps close by them, but then move them after a day or two,” after the traps have lured the bugs off the plants, Vespa said. The traps will attract more beetles, which otherwise tend not to roam far, he said.
Milky spore spread on lawns will kill Japanese beetle grubs but not larger types such as those that produce June bugs, Vespa said.
As for other pests of summer, “Ticks are numerous this year,” Ferree said.
So is the honeysuckle shrub, which ticks use as a habitat, and other invasive plants.
Honeysuckle “is inundating natural areas” such as woods, she said.
Summer has arrived. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Follow Michael Smothers at twitter.com/msmotherspekin