Skeletonized Leaves? Rosebuds with Chewed Petals? = Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica Newman, 1841)

These beautiful creatures have metallic green bodies with copper colored wings. They are 3/8 inch long and 1/4 inch wide. Japanese beetles are quite unique!

beetle - Japanese Beetle (Popillia japonica) [MO 06]

It is amazing the damage these imported invaders can do!

WP_20150616_09_21_40_Pro       beetlerose

This is damage from one or two beetles. Imagine what a few dozen can do!

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Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica Newman, 1841) came to our shores in 1912 on Japanese iris.

Stages of development are as follows:

  • Egg
  • Larvae (white grub)
  • Pupae (grub transforms into a cream colored/reddish brown cocoon)
  • Adult beetle emerge from soil May through June. It is a voracious eater for 30 to 50 days.
    • Once emerged it searches for food sources.
    • A pheromone (a scent produced by Japanese beetles to attract other Japanese beetles) is sent out to help other Japanese beetles find the food source.
    • Mating is soon to occur.
    • WP_20150616_11_41_10_Pro
    • Females feed for a few days on a plant food source and burrow 3 inches into the soil to lay eggs.
  • Once the eggs are laid the females emerge again to feed, mate and lay eggs again.
    • This cycle is repeated until their season is over, laying upwards to 40 to 60 eggs.
  • Eggs develop depending on soil temperature. The warmer the soil the quicker larval development.
  • Once they are larvae, they move upwards in the soil to feed on organic matter and roots.
  • Soil cooling moves the larvae (grubs) deeper in the soil for winter.
  • Soil warming moves the grubs upwards in the soil where they pupate and transform into an adult Japanese beetles and their life cycle begins again.

japanese beetle life cycle

The most effective natural control of Japanese beetles is daily, hand picking early in the morning as the beetles are lethargic.

  • Your arsenal of weaponry includes a bucket, soapy water and vigilant monitoring daily!
    • Early detection of the scout Japanese beetles is key to this strategy! This will reduce the following years population!!!
  • Place the bucket under the infested plant. Shake the plant and the beetles will fall into the soapy water.
    • Hand pick any beetles not falling into the bucket of soapy water.
  • This action reduces the pheremones of the exploratory first wave of Japanese beetles. This must be done daily!!
  • Leave the beetles to die and decompose in the bucket of soapy water. The odor of dying and decomposing beetles in the soapy water will repel/deter additional beetles from invading your area. (Many thanks to The Herb Gardener for this insight)
  • Place the bucket(s) near areas of previous Japanese beetle attack.
  • Insecticidal soap applied directly to the beetle will cause its demise.
  • Lemon dish soap sprayed directly on the beetle is another effective way to kill these pests!

Prevention: Kill grubs in the soil which turn into the Japanese beetle.

  • Milky Spore Disease (Bacillus popillae) will kill grubs but will take up to a year to inoculate the soil. This inoculation will last up to 10 years in the areas of heavy, consistent infestations.
    • Milky Spore when ingested in the grubs gut germinate, enter the blood and multiply.
    • The build up of spores causes the grub to have a milky white appearance.
    • Grubs continue to ingest the spore, become infected and die, each releasing 1 – 2 billion spores back into the soil.
      • Apply as labeled. May be purchased through biological mail order catalogs.
  • Beneficial nematodes actively seek out grubs in the soil.
    • The nematodes penetrate the grub releasing a bacteria.
      • This bacteria produces quickly feeding on the tissue of the grub.
      • The nematodes feed on the bacteria and continues their life cycle. They reproduce, release bacteria and kill the grubs.
      • Apply as labeled. May be purchased through biological mail order catalogs.

Both of the above methods are encouraged by the USDA and several well known universities as a safe and effective means to control Japanese beetles. These biological controls are species specific!! There are no other creatures affected by these methods.

Just remember you may have great prevention measures but your neighbors may not. Japanese beetles are with us for short 30 -50 day window. Killing them early may reduce the populations in your immediate area!

Birds are another way to deal with these nasty pests. They eat both the beetles and their grubs.

  • Bobwhite
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Crows
  • Eastern Starling (I knew there must be something good about these birds)
  • Red-winged Blackbirds
  • Catbirds
  • Song Sparrows
  • Robins
  • Grackles (Again, I knew there must be something good about these birds!)

Sanitation is a wonderful way to rid your self of these pests. Clean up all debris around their favored plants. Till in the fall to expose the grubs for birds and other creatures to consume. Till again in the spring to again expose the pupae and emerging adult beetles.

Be diligent and decrease their surplus population!

Papa

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Got Mosquitoes? Use Bacillus thuringiensis sub. israelensis (Bti) and Cedar Oil!!

Now is the time for those pesky mosquitoes. I don’t want to use all those nasty chemicals. There has got to be an alternative!

Mosquito

There are natural ways to rid yourselves of the mosquito nuisance. Let’s explore the options:

  • Remove all sources of standing water, where possible.
  • Keep grassy and/or weedy areas mowed on a regular basis.
    • Mosquitoes will reproduce in high humidity areas!
    • Mosquitoes will lay eggs in wet soil and mud!
  • Use Bacillus thuringiensis sub. israelensis (Bti) (OMRI Listed)* in standing water.
    • When eaten by mosquito larvae, Bti is toxic to the point of death in 4 – 24 hours.
    • Mosquito larvae
    • The gut of the larvae ruptures from the formation of crystals produced by the bacteria.
    • Bti is dispensed in the form of crumbles, powder or doughnut shaped dunks.
      • Bti is placed in old tires, rain barrels, ponds, ditches and flood water.
    • Bti is non toxic to people, pets, livestock and beneficial insects. It is only toxic to certain larvae of the fly family (Diptera).
  • Cedar oil (OMRI Listed)* is a safe, effective product to spray.
    • This essential oil (mixed with water) may be sprayed on standing water sources.
    • May be sprayed on your dogs and cats.
    • May be used as a repellent on clothing and lightly sprayed on exposed skin (not your eyes or mouth). (It is also a great tick repellent)

These products may be purchased at the big box stores, garden centers and online.

* OMRI Listed: The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a national nonprofit organization that determines which input products are allowed for use in organic production and processing. OMRI Listed—or approved—products may be used on operations that are certified organic under the USDA National Organic Program.

Now go get them!

Papa

We Got Skunked! A Rather Smelly Experience!!

Ah, the joys of living in the country! Tuesday (May 26), we had a smelly experience. We had to deal with a skunk. It sprayed (phew!) an area on the south side of our house. No one got directly sprayed, but the fumes permeated parts of the inside of our house.

skunk

There is a lot of clean up involved. Clothing, bedding and towels have to be washed. Walls have to be deodorized. Plus, trips to the store for added supplies. It is quite an undertaking.

Papa

There are White Spots on my Peas! Uh Oh, it’s Powdery Mildew!

The daytime temperatures are getting warm and it’s cool at night. It seems like the perfect scenario for great growing weather. Your peas are up and growing like a storm. What’s that on the leaves and pods? There are white fuzzy spots growing on my peas. Powdery Mildew strikes again!!

peapm

Powdery mildew is the most common occurring plant fungal disease. Its appearance, when first noticed, is characterized by spots or patches of white to grayish powdery growth on the upper surface of leaves and their stems.

  • It impairs photosynthesis
  • Stunts growth
  • Increases the rate of plant decline

Advanced stage of powdery mildew:

  • Foliage turns to yellow, leaves curl or turn brown.
    • D-TO-LTAU-FO.001h        D-SP-EPOL-FR.001h

How does this happen? There are three requirements for disease to flourish. A host, the pathogen/disease and the right environmental conditions.

  • Powdery mildew (thin layers of fungal tissue on the surface of the leaf which produce spores) requires new and young living plant tissue to grow.
    • The disease grows as mycelium (fungal tissue) on the surface of the affected plant as white patches where the spores are produced.
      • Spores make up the white/gray powdery growth visible on the leaf surface.
      • Spores  of powdery mildew are carried by the wind, splashing rain drops and/or insects to new plant tissue.
      • The spores can produce in 48 hours.
  • Warm, humid days and cool nights are the perfect conditions for the fungus to grow.
    • Moderate temperatures of 60° to 80° (F) are favorable temperatures for powdery mildew growth.
    • Temperatures of 90° (F) and above inhibits the growth of the disease.
  • High humidity for spore germination common in crowded plantings, where air circulation is poor and damp shaded areas invite this plant fungal disease.
  • Crop debris and host weeds are important to the survival of powdery mildew.
  • The spores of powdery mildew over winter attached to plant parts and plant debris.

These are the common preemptive strategies to avoid/combat powdery mildew.

  • Plant powdery mildew resistant varieties if available.
  • Plant in full sun.
  • Properly space plantings to allow good air circulation.
    • If plants are overcrowded, prune to allow increased air circulation, reduce humidity and cross infection.
  • Arrange your rows or beds east to west to eliminate shade possibility.
  • Tallest plantings should be to the north.
  • Avoid overhead watering. Best time to water is mid morning allowing the plants to completely dry.
  • Stay out of the garden when wet!!! Otherwise, you become a carrier of the disease.
  • Avoid the late summer application of nitrogen fertilizer (fish emulsion, composted poultry litter, ammonia nitrate, urea) which limits new growth the disease attacks.
  • Remove ALL diseased plant parts and burn or bag and remove from property.
    • If possible, remove diseased plant parts on a sunny, hot, wind free day.
      • Spores are killed by heat and direct sunlight.
      • In the absence of wind there is less of a chance for spore dispersal.
  • Remove ALL plant material and plant debris (mulch included) in the fall.
    • Survival rate of any overwintering fungal spores is decreased.
  • DO NOT COMPOST ANY PLANT MATERIAL OR DEBRIS where this disease was active.

When fungus pressure/threshold is too great you can pull all diseased plants or are there fungicides to use? The answer is YES!!

  • Horticultural oils – Saf-T-Side Spray Oil®, Sunspray Ultra Fine Spray Oil® – follow label directions
  • Neem Oil (plant based), Jojoba Oil (plant based) – follow label directions
    • Never apply when temperatures are 90° (F) or above or with drought stressed plants.
    • Never apply an oil spray within two (2) weeks of a sulfur application as plants may be damaged.
  • Wettable Sulfur is most effective when applied before disease symptoms appear. – Safer Garden Fungicide® – follow label directions
    • Never apply when temperatures are 90° (F) or above or with drought stressed plants.
    • Never apply within two (2) weeks of an oil spray.
    • Be careful when spraying squash and melons as there may be damage.
  • Baking soda ( Sodium Bicarbonate)
    • Combine with horticultural/dormant oil with liquid/insecticidal soap
      • 1 TBS Baking Soda, 1 tsp horticultural/dormant oil, 1 tsp insecticidal/liquid soap to 1 gallon of water.
      • Spray every one to two weeks.
      • Use sparingly to avoid sweetening (alkaline) the soil.
  • Potassium Bicarbonate – Kaligreen® – contact fungicide killing spores of powdery mildew quickly.
    • Approved for organic use. Follow label directions.
  • Mouthwash – generic ethanol based – spray 1 part mouthwash to 3 parts water.
    • Caution use on new foliage as it may be damaged.
  • Vinegar – spray 2 -3 TBS apple cider vinegar (5% acetic acid) mixed with 1 gallon water.
    • Caution use on new foliage as it may be damaged.
  • Milk – natural occurring compounds in milk attack the disease while improving the plants immune system.
    • Spray 1 part milk to 2 parts water weekly.

Biological Fungicides – beneficial microorganisms when sprayed on plant tissue destroy fungal disease. Serenade®, Actinovate AG®, Cease®

  • Active ingredient  – Bacillus subtillis – prevents powdery mildew from infecting the plant. Follow label directions.
    • Non toxic to people, pets and beneficial insects
      • Not proven to be as effective as oils or sulfur

Here are a few examples of powdery mildew.

powdery_mildew_tomatoes      carrot-powdery-mildew-1L

9-4PM-on-grape-leaves-1ANNEMIEK (1)       PMSquashBHedlundHerndonVA2006-1y47tkc

PM watermelon

Remember, fall clean-up is essential!! Be on your guard!

Papa

The Squash Vine Borer is your Enemy and Here’s How to Defeat Them.

You’ve started your summer squash and zucchini. The plants look great! A couple of weeks later, the plants start to wilt and some die. What did I do wrong? After careful observation, you notice there is something that looks like wet sawdust at the base of the plant. Plus, you see small holes in the bottom stem. What is going on?

SVBwilt  SVBdamage

Your enemy is the Squash Vine Borer!! (SVB)

svb

The female Squash Vine Borer moth (Melitta curcurbitae) lay brown eggs especially on the stems, just above the soil line.

squash-vine-borers-3-sm  SVB1SVBmating   SVBeggs2

Eggs hatch in 10 days. Once the eggs hatch, they immediately enter the stem, leaving a small hole at the place of entry surrounded by frass (moist sawdust like debris). The larvae (white caterpillars with brown heads) bore into the stem and remain until maturity before pupation (the transformation of the larvae to a pupa(in a cocoon)). They will now stay in the soil (usually 1″-2″) and over winter .

squash-vine-borers-4    SVBmoth_pupae

Squash Vine Borer moths emerge from the ground from early spring through mid-summer. The moth looks like a wasp and is a half inch long. The wings are clear and look like a windowpane. Unlike other moths, this one flies during the day and makes a buzzing sound.

Now that you have identified the enemy, what are your weapons of warfare?

  • A preemptive strategy would be to use a floating row cover (sheer, light weight fabric that is placed over a crop to protect from insects). It is secured in place to prevent insects from damaging the crop. The row cover is put on at the time of planting until the plants begin to flower. Squash crops require insect pollination.
  • Monitor by using a yellow colored bucket trap with water, placed near the newly planted squash plants. The yellow color attracts the moths.  Traps must be checked daily. Once you’ve found moths in the traps, start looking for stem damage. This indicates the female moth is out laying eggs.
    • SVBtrap
  • Create a barrier on the lower stem by using materials such as aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the lower stem to confuse and prevent the moth from  laying eggs.
  • Plant a trap crop of early planted Hubbard squash three (3) weeks prior to planting your preferred squash crop.
  • Use succession planting (weather permitting). Have fresh transplants ready to go. A late crop planted after SVB pressure may offer a harvest. Do not plant your late crop where there has been previous pressure from the SVB. Rotate your planting to an unaffected area.
  • SVB resistant varieties of squash, such as Waltham Butternut, offer a solid stemmed variety to thwart the penetration of the larvae. Cucurbita moschata are their least favorite, as they are solid stemmed. Cucurbita pepo are their most favorite, as they are hollow stemmed. Seed catalogs will list this information for each squash seed offered.
  • When a squash plant has been attacked by the squash vine borer, find the borer by looking for the frass or small holes with frass. Carefully slit open the stem and remove the caterpillar. Cover the wound with fresh soil or compost to encourage the re-rooting of the plant.
  • Remove and destroy any plants that are severely wilted or dead immediately. Do not compost these plants!!
  • Sanitation is key! Immediately remove your squash vines after harvest. Do not compost!! Burn the vines or bag the vines and remove them from your property. The soil must be exposed to reveal the cocoons.
  • Till or fluff the soil up to 2″ to expose SVB cocoons. Songbirds and poultry delight in eating the pupae (cocoons).
  • Always rotate your squash crop to another space each year.

My strategy this year includes the Blue Hubbard trap crop and yellow trap buckets. Plus, I will preemptively spray the ground stems with a mixture of vegetable oil and Dipel (Bacillus thuringiensis). I’ll keep you updated throughout the summer.

Papa

Leaf Miner, huh? What’s a Leaf Miner?

Jan  My organic garden plague is leaf miners! Suggestions?

I get this picture in my mind of a small creature with a miner’s hat and a pick. In reality, they are the larvae of a fly that burrow through leaves. Usually the damage is not aesthetically pleasing. However, if left unchecked, leaf miners can cause major damage.

Here are some solutions:

  1. Monitoring – kill leaf miner larvae in the leaf if possible.
  2. Nutrition –  a healthy plant has thicker, healthier leaves. Plus, biochemically, the plant is not as appealing to the leaf miner.
  3. Floating Row Covers – creates a mechanical barrier that keeps the leaf miner fly away from the crop.
  4. Parasitic Wasp – Diglyphus isaea is a parasitic wasp that prey on the larvae of the leaf miner fly.
  5. Neem Oil – Neem Oil may break the life cycle of the leaf miner larvae to keep them from growing to maturity.

Getting rid of this pest takes diligence!

What to do about slugs and snails, naturally!

Lindsay  – Snails! I really REALLY make every effort to garden organically, but I am having an infestation of snails, and am stumped as to what to do about it.

There are many natural solutions for slugs and snails.

  1. Sanitation is key! Make sure there is no debris for them to hide. Do not plant next to a compost pile.
  2. Plant trap crops for them to eat. Marigolds, brassicas, melons, lettuce,strawberries, etc. are great attractants of slugs and snails.
  3. Plant resistant plant varieties – lavender, rosemary, sage, wormwood, impatiens, poppies, geraniums, etc.
  4. Barriers – copper strips, Diatomaceous Earth, sand, and wood ashes. Be careful with wood ashes! You could make your soil pH go sky high!
  5. Traps – stale beer in containers at ground level, melon halves turned upside down, untreated wood boards laid on top of the ground.
  6. Guinea fowl will eat them. They shouldn’t eat your crops!
  7. Encourage your Lightning Bugs – their larvae eat slugs and snails!!!
  8. Iron phosphate baits such as Sluggo® or Escar-Go®

That’s quite an arsenal!

Papa