You have to look very closely and carefully to see them, but they’re there. . . two of them just above the exact center of the photo (a little bit blurred) and another one (clearer) towards the top of the photo and just to the left of center. The day before yesterday was when Kathy first spotted the little darlings chewing up the small trees (or are they large bushes?) on the side of our house. Actually, they were just about as busy frolicking with one another (if you know what I mean) as they were consuming the leaves of these trees like some caesar salad. Kathy had intended to alert me to the situation but forgot until yesterday afternoon – and when I first set eyes on the little beasts I felt like I was watching one of those Creature Feature movies from the 1950’s. These shiny, half-inch-long beetles were all over the trees/ bushes, either gobbling leaves or auditioning for the insect version of “Sex in the City.” It was absolutely disgusting- and also scary, because it looked like they were fifteen minutes away from turning the trees into three mounds of sawdust. Kathy and I looked at each with complete bewilderment, wondering what in the world we could do to repel this unexpected and unwanted invasion, aside from setting off a couple of sticks of strategically placed dynamite. (Granted, that would have been overkill, but I must admit that the thought crossed my mind.)
Fortunately, we got some information from the Racine County Extension Office. The woman who answered the phone was not the horticulture expert, but after about the first five words of my description, she knew what we had on our hands- Japanese Beetles. (The office had fielded dozens of calls from all over the city and county, and in fact she promised that an article had already been submitted to the Racine Journal Times for Sunday’s paper- and she kindly agreed to forward me a copy of it. ) And a couple of minutes later, the phone rang as Gateway Technical College horticulture instructor Kate Jerome- a regular guest on my morning show – responded to my frantic S.O.S. with a word of reassurance (the trees would almost certainly survive) and a suggestion for eradicating the vile little things. The easiest thing and the most environmentally sensitive thing, she said, was to pluck the beetles off of the tree by hand drop them into a bucket of warm, soapy water. I had trouble picturing exactly how that was going to work, but my disgust overcame my hesitancy and within a minute I was out in the yard with a bucket of warm soapy water. And by the time I was done, I had plucked off 38 of the little ravenous beasts. I know because when I slowly poured them out of the bucket and into the sink (and down the garbage disposal) I counted each shiny little corpse as it flowed out of the suds. The scary part was the enthusiasm bordering on glee with which I dispatched the little creatures, who of course had no way of knowing the harm that they were doing to our poor defenseless trees. Another day I will have to weigh the ethical dilemma of beetles versus bushes and if one is more deserving of the right to survive. For today, I’m looking out at our tree/bushes (we have no idea what they are) and happy to see them beaten up but still standing. . . Beetle-less.