Winterberry Farm Primitives

This blog is now devoted to gardening with native plants with a focus on those species native to the east coast of the United States. With an MS in Agricultural Science from the University of Delaware and my love of native plants, I hope to help folks see the beauty and necessity of using native plants in your garden instead of exotic plants. Did you know that our native song birds and native insects are disappearing as our local environments continue to change?
For those who come to this page to see my 'Winterberry Farm Primitives' blog can now be found at where I will post new additions to my online antiques shop at and discuss various subjects about primitive antiques.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Those Pesky Little Japanese Beetles!

Hi everyone!
In my last post I talked about the fact that I don't have a lot - or actually any (!) - Japanese Beetles in my gardens. No need to put up those silly yellow traps with stinky dead bodies in them, no white grubs (baby Japanese Beetles) eating my non-existent lawn, no need to put white powder insecticides all over my plants, no need for any pesticides at all.... Do I need to go on??? Does this picture look familiar????
Why no Japanese Beetles in my gardens?
There are a few reasons why, but the first and foremost is the fact that I don't grow exotics in my gardens!
Second, I don't and wouldn't use those silly yellow traps (that is not me in the photo!), and third, no lawn - no grubs!
Japanese Beetles (henceforth, known as JB) are native to, surprise! surprise! Japan. In their native environment, JB are controlled by their natural predators and are not a serious or problematic plant pest. They exist in their native food web and do not devastate entire communities or agricultural fields like they do here in the U.S. Why are they here and how did they get here? JB were first found in a nursery in New Jersey around 1916, probably on a shipment of ROSES from Japan! Since that time they have spread to almost every state east of the Mississippi, and Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma and Arkansas. I am sure they are found in many more states west of the Mississippi but the highest concentrations are still in the eastern states. Did you know that the JB is the number one turf pest in the U.S.? Over $460 million a year is spent trying to control this awful pest, just in grass! Over $234 million is attributed to control of the grub and replacement of ruined turf grass! The amount and types of pesticides used to control this pest are wide-ranging and downright scary! Pesticides like Imidacloprid, Trichlorfon, and Bendiocarb for the grubs, and Cythion® 57% EC (a.i. malathion), Sevin 5® (a.i. 5% carbaryl), and Ortho Isotox® (a.i. 8% acephate) for the adult beetles are used both by the homeowner and professionals. Look some of these names up with Google! It is scary!
A recent publication from the University of Arkansas Extension Service ( lists preferred hosts versus non-preferred hosts. Here is just a small sampling of that list. Pay particular attention to the non-preferred host list.

Preferred Hosts:
Flowering Crabapple
Japanese Maple
Norway Maple
Rose of Sharon
Crape Myrtle

Non-Preferred Hosts:
White Ash
Green Ash
Red Maple
Silver Maple
American Sweetgum

All plants listed under 'non-preferred' are NATIVE to the U.S.! Yes, there are some preferred hosts that are native like the Black Walnut and the American Linden trees, but the great majority of preferred hosts are exotics.
So, plant natives whenever possible to reduce the food supply to the JB.
A good way to reduce JB in your yard and on your plants is to NOT use those silly little traps! Have your neighbors use them. Even buy some traps for them! If you have a nosy neighbor or one who is the neighbor everyone else on the block can't stand (we all have one of those!), buy them lots of silly little traps and make them think you are helping to rid them of their pesky JB problem! Why do this? Why spend good money to 'help' a pesky neighbor, you ask??? Because these little traps contain JB pheromones and a floral attractant to bring the insects into your yard to the trap. Why is that a bad thing, you ask? Because you are BRINGING them into your yard! If there are too many stinky bodies or the insects get distracted heading to the trap, they will stop off for a yummy treat. These little traps can actually increase your JB population. Wow!
Also, I don't have any lawn for the baby JB to feed on! If you reduce your grub population, they will not be able to mature and become those pesky little JBs that eat your flowers and stick in your hair and drive you crazy! Reducing the amount of grassy lawn that you have will not only reduce your carbon footprint, it will reduce the amount of JBs that will attack your exotic plants. If you want to keep those huge stretches of green, green, too green lawns and still reduce the amount of JBs in your hair, plant native plants in your gardens. They will soon leave your gardens, while still using your lawn as incubators, to find better food elsewhere! It will save you from using all kinds of pesticides, like those listed above.
Another thing that you will begin to notice, once you put away the pesticides and reduce your lawn, is that you will begin to notice the birds in your yards picking JBs off your plants! I don't feed 'my' birds with birdseed or suet, they have been given a pesticide-free, insect and berry-rich environment in my yard and they reward me by doing my IPM (integrated pest management) work for me! I don't have to manually pick JBs from my plants (Yick!), the birds do! It's amazing how birds and small animals, including snakes, will come to a pesticide-free, minimal exotic plant yard and do their thing!
Try it - you really might like it!!!
Until next time - try to stay cool!!!!

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