Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Dread Beetle Japanese

(Okay, all you local folks can quit hyperventilating - the following photos and observations were taken in the Chicago area in early August.)

I remember Japanese beetles from my childhood in Maryland:  colorful little insects that were fun to collect in jars while they ate plants and flowers to shreds.  I really haven't had to deal with them personally since then.

Earlier this summer, though, a couple Japanese beetles were turned in to the Sedgwick County Extension Office and, not much later, a fellow Kansas garden blogger from the Manhattan area wrote about seeing them locally at a nursery.  It would appear that they are knocking on our door.

So a week ago, when we visited our good friends, Flip and Shelley, in the Chicago area, I was both intrigued and somewhat horrified by the plethora of Japanese beetles in their garden.  I don't remember seeing them when we've visited before.

Here, in no particular order, are my thoughts and observations as I explored the garden during our visit....

Japanese beetles are smaller than I remember.  My memory paints them as about the same size as June bugs, but they are actually about half that size.  The beetles are, however, just as pretty as I remember them.

Japanese beetles LOVE roses, both the blossoms (especially the blossoms) and the leaves.  A single Japanese beetle can wreak havoc on a rose bloom in a very short period of time.

Based on their name, Japanese beetles would appear to be from Japan. Many roses are from that area of the world too.  I wonder what keeps them under control in their native range?

There were many plants that the Japanese beetles did not appear to consider edible in Shelley's garden:  clematis vines, Russian sage, Oriental lilies, Echinacea, and Joe Pye weed, for example, were all left alone.  On the other hand, the Japanese beetles seemed to relish roses (as mentioned), wisteria leaves, grape vine leaves, hollyhocks, and even elm leaves.

The Japanese beetles were horny little things.  Mating pairs were everywhere.  No wonder they expand their range so rapidly!  The photo above shows typical damage on a brand new rose shoot.

I was able to decrease the numbers of Japanese beetles in Flip & Shelley's garden a bit by using my favorite "soapy water in a jar" method of termination, but the beetles (especially when the day was warm) were excellent at evading capture, both by dropping to the ground and by flying away.  Many even combined the two escape routes:  they fell halfway to the ground and then opened their wings and flew away.

The beetles tended to feed in groups and must have released some sort of pheromone when disturbed, because snagging one individual would cause a mass exodus of almost all nearby beetles, even if I captured the one without jostling any nearby leaves.  At best my efforts allowed a few sprays of roses to bloom long enough that we could have cut them off for display in a vase.   I was also able to get a couple photos.

Despite the beetles' gorging on petals, the blooms appeared to set seed (hollyhocks) or develop hips (roses) as normal.  There were grapes developing on some of the grape vines too.  So it would appear that the beetles may function as pollinators - or, at any rate, don't negatively effect fertilization - when they eat the petals into oblivion.

That said, Japanese beetles cannot be said to improve the beauty of a garden.  They leave stubs of petals on blossoms, skeletonize the leaves and generally just create a mess of their favorite food plants.

I sure hope they decide that central Kansas isn't welcoming territory and stay the heck away.  The last thing that gardeners around here need is one more horde to attack!

Indigo Bunting!

It's a horrible photo, but the best of the two that I took yesterday after gathering my wits when I realized that the little blue bird I was seeing in the draw was an indigo bunting, not a "regular" bluebird in weird light.

Indigo buntings are actually known to breed in eastern Kansas and I've seen them before in the state, but not in Sedgwick County and especially not in my own yard!

Just a Little Collecting....

Plants.  Books.  Bird images.  Art pottery.  Books.  Plants.  Books.

I collect.  Do you?

I love antique stores, plant nurseries (especially for native plants), books, art pieces, family "stuff", birds, garden art, ....  The list, for better or for worse, goes on and on.  I've wondered a bit whether I am in danger of becoming a hoarder, but so far I don't think I've fallen into that well.  I just love certain things.  And lots of some of those certain things!

Enter a book titled Killer Stuff and Tons of Money, written by Maureen Stanton.  When I saw it at an independent bookstore in Somerville, MA, (in June while we were haunting estate sales, garage sales, antique stores, used furniture stores, consignment stores, and Goodwill to outfit our son's new home), I just had to get it.   What a fascinating read!  It's an engrossing combination of personal anecdotes, historical tidbits, plain old facts and lots of gory details about the antiques and collectibles business.

For example, do you know how many items are typically appraised on a single Antiques Roadshow day - out of which approximately 50 will be chosen for inclusion on the TV show?  Well, they generally sell about 7,000 tickets...each ticket holder is allowed to bring in 2 items for appraisal...which means they screen approximately 14,000 items in each 10 hour day.  So, approximately 50 items are chosen out of 14,000 items, more or less.  Sobering odds of having a cool and/or unusual piece worth tons of money!

There were some tidbits for thought in the book, too.  For example, "Antique dealing is all about taking an item out of the wrong setting and placing it in its rightful frame of reference." (p. 22)  That idea resonates with me.  Isn't it better to match an item with someone who appreciates it than to let that item just join the growing piles of discarded trash throughout the world?  I'm simply trying to make sure that I don't consider my home and yard the "right[ful] frame of reference" for too many of those misplaced things!

Or how about these quotes?  Andy Warhol is reported to have written, "Buying is much more American than thinking."  Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, "Possession is a magical relation; I am these objects which I possess."   W. D. King writes, "Collecting is a way of linking past, present, and future.  Objects from the past get collected in the present to preserve them for the future."  Stanton links these three quotes with an overarching statement, "Assembling a collection suggests a deep engagement with living; objects link people to the continuous chain of life." (p. 26-27)

For me, from the quotes above, collecting comes closest to Sartre's statement:  owning these items I care about somehow seems to expand my possibilities, to remind me of who I am and what I love, and to form an avenue to share my passions and interests with others. 

All that good feeling and possibility from what my husband occasionally calls, "All this crap."  (Only when he's in a snit, though.  At other times he compliments me on how enjoyable our home is.)

Hmmmm.  Maybe it's time for me to find a "Wunderkammer," a piece of furniture developed during the Age of Exploration where people would display all the wonderful bits and pieces they had collected during their travels.  It would corral all my "crap" in one piece of furniture or (in the case of a "Kunstkammer," a room for art objects) in one room.  After all, we can all do with a little more "Wunder" in our lives!