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Japanese Beetles make an early comeback

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@wabashplaindealer.com

Due to an abnormally warm May, Huntington residents could be seeing Japanese beetles a little earlier than usual.

Purdue Extension entomologists Christian Krupke and John Obermeyer reported that they found the beetles flying around on June 11 near the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette.

According to Ed Farris, Huntington Purdue Extension educator, the earliest the beetles usually start appearing is late June, but will often begin appearing in July. Though not every year is the same.

“Like any insect population it can vary greatly from year to year,” Farris said. “We did see a lot of Japanese beetles last year, I would say more than normal from what I was hearing people report.”

Farris added that it’s hard to predict what kind of numbers they’ll see this year in comparison to last year, as a lot of different factors can affect insect populations.

Farris explained that the grubs hatch in the summer and then dig deeper into the ground with colder temperatures, and begin to surface to feed in early spring, which is when damage is done to crops.

So far, Farris said he has not heard of anyone experiencing significant damage to plants or crops from the beetles this year.

“I don’t know if I’ve heard reports of tremendous damage, sometimes once you’ll start seeing damage, skeletonized leaves on grapes and soybeans and that type of thing ... quite often there’s damage there but there’s not enough to where people need to spray,” he said.

Farris added that though the beetles cause damage to plants, it’s usually not enough to where the plant will die from it. Even still, some people really want to try to eliminate the pests and will spray insecticides.

Along with Krupke and Obermeyer’s report, Farris also attached a report by extension entomologists Douglas Richmond and Clifford S. Sadof, which explained how to successfully apply insecticides to rid plants of the beetles.

In protecting ornamentals against adult Japanese beetles, Richmond and Sadof said to coat the leaves with insecticides during the adult flight period. This should be done before damage becomes significant and the number of beetles is abundant.

As for food plants, Richmond and Sadof wrote “bifenthrin, carbaryl, cyfluthrin, neem, and permethrin are safe to use on fruit and vegetables if harvest restrictions on the label are followed.”

Farris noted that sometimes insecticides can do more harm than good if not applied correctly.

“If they just want to kill the pest they don’t realize that when they use some of these products they’re killing beneficial insects too, so you really have to be cautious in when you apply some of these products,” he said. “If plants are blooming and you’re applying in your garden, you’re going to do more harm than good because you’re killing the pollinators, the bees and other butterflies. You have a chance in harming some of the insects that are doing good.”

He added to make sure to always follow what the label says, to think about the pollinators and keep in mind the life cycle of the pest.