by Margie Lachman
The Japanese beetle has arrived! This destructive insect can wreak havoc on many plants, as I saw first hand in my mother’s Baltimore garden. How lucky I felt that this pest was only in the eastern US.
Last summer, traps placed in our area by the Oregon Department of Agriculture collected a significant number of the beetle. The ODA has notified neighbors in the affected parts of Cedar Mill and Bethany that an eradication program will be implemented in April. The ODA has hired a contractor who will be treating irrigated turf grass (lawns) at no charge to homeowners with a targeted granular insecticide called Acelepryn.
Much of Oregon’s economy is based on agriculture—wine grapes, hops for beer, nursery plants shipped all over the country. If this beetle were to become established here, there is a potential that other western states would impose a quarantine on our products.
Even if you don’t live in the affected area, your cooperation is essential in this effort by spreading the word so that everyone knows how important this is. Talk to your neighbors; pay attention to what is in your garden, and use a container of soapy water to dispose of any beetles (stronger chemicals are not necessary and can be harmful to you and your family).
Notify the ODA with contact information for your landscape maintenance company if you use one so that they can be informed about safe disposal of yard trimmings and debris without spreading the pests. The ODA is currently working with Washington County Metro, the waste haulers, and DEQ to modify the destination of the green waste originating from this area.
Barry Bai at the ODA assured me that vegetable gardens will not be treated. He suggests that if you are concerned about it, you can allow your food-growing areas to remain fallow this summer. (Join a CSA or shop at the Farmers Market!)
If you want to be sure that your garden areas aren’t harboring the beetles, you can solarize an area by covering it with clear plastic, which will heat the soil during warm months to kill any grubs present. Rake soil flat and smooth, water, cover tightly with clear plastic, and secure to the ground with rocks, bricks or stakes for six weeks during June, July and August. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc. can be grown in large (20-inch) pots with purchased soil mix if you want homegrown veggies.
It is important that you do not spray your gardens with an insecticide to prevent the beetle invading your garden. This will only upset the natural balance of beneficial insects that do much to control the bad ones like aphids, and other destructive bugs. Be vigilant and if you find Japanese beetles simply flick them into a container of soapy water.
If we all do our part, the Japanese beetle will be safely eradicated in Oregon again, as it has been several times in the past. If not, Cedar Mill will go down in history as the source of the disaster!
If you have questions you can call the ODA at 503-986-4636 or 1-800-525-0137 or find out more about the project at www.japanesebeetlepdx.info
For other gardening questions or comments, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 503-645-2994