Monday, July 18, 2011

Japanese Beetles

Japanese Beetle
Popilla japonica, Scarabaeidae

Japanese Beetles, feasting
Earlier, when I was calling them flea beetles, I was actually a bit confused. I very much meant Japanese beetles. Flea beetles are another pest, which we did have some issues with earlier this year, but are much smaller. Either way, they're the incredibly annoying beetles that are devouring the broccoli plants and munching on a far amount of other plants in the garden. Both are controlled using similar measures: garlic spray, soapy-water spray, hand-picking/removing, etc.

Japanese beetles are recognizable especially because of their tendency to "skeletonize" a leaf, or gnaw away at the fleshy part of the leaf, removing everything other than the veins. Somehow, they sense when other Japanese beetles are already feasting, and come over. Therefore, the more Japanese beetles present, the more are on their way--a viscous cycle.

the damage left from the "skeletonizing"of the broccoli leaves
According to Blue Horizon Farm, in an article about organic control of Japanese beetles: 
According to the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, "When you remove beetles daily by hand from a plant, only about half as many are attracted to that plant compared to those on which beetles are allowed to accumulate." Japanese beetles tend to congregate in clusters that can easily be knocked off of your beloved plants into a bucket of soapy water where they will drown. Squishing them is an option for those of us who feel more aggressive towards them.
Japanese Beetles
So that's what we've been doing: garlic spray (which apparently sometimes works, sometimes doesn't) to try to prevent the initial attraction, and hand-picking and drowning/squishing. Lauren and I decided to cover the main bed they've been attacking (the bed with the majority of the broccoli in it) with row covers to hopefully prevent more from coming. The row covers still allows about 85% of the sunlight and a good amount of water in, so the plants should continue to grow.

On the bright side, the broccoli itself has been growing despite the invasion. (Sorry the picture is sideways, I was having a hard time making it go right side up.) Broccoli, like the signs explain, is ready to harvest when about 8-10 inches across. The head should be cut with a knife, including about 6 inches of the stalk. The leaves should be left (or what leaves the Japanese beetles have left!) and the broccoli plant will continue to produce smaller florets which can be harvested and enjoyed as well. So, our broccoli isn't quite ready for picking, but it's getting really close! Check out this site for more information!

successful broccoli!

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