There are 300,000 species of beetles in the world. That is an estimate.
There are 300,000 Japanese beetles in our yard. That is a fairly accurate count.
This is a bumper year for these bugs. Beetle larvae thrive in warm, moist conditions. I once thought rising sea levels and shriveled corn crops were major threats of climate change. Now I think the threat is Japanese beetles.
We were counting on help from neighborhood birds. But the work has been mine, trapping beetles in those hanging plastic bags adorned with the sexy pheromone scent lure.
The bags fill quickly, ugly bugs in a clot of struggling legs. I secure the bags with tight knots, and put them in the garbage, beetle legs still clawing as the lid falls.
We have collected 12 bags in five days.
I am disappointed in the birds that visit our yard. Some birds are rumored to eat these pests. Cardinals are supposed to eat adult Japanese beetles, and, supposedly, starlings, robins, catbirds, Purple Martins, and Blue Jays. I think that is fantasy.
Many bird species will eat the beetle grubs, of course, digging up your grass for soft food to feed baby birds. Beetles have hard shells, no bones, the shell of the beetle being the bone, so to speak.
I considered finding a way to offer our hundreds of thousands of beetles as bird food, spill them on the grass where they could not be missed by our feathered friends (ha!).
Trying to find an answer, I asked Google, can birds digest beetles, shell and all? Ironically, at the top of the response list was reference to a column I wrote for this paper several weeks ago. I had written that birds, in their stomachs, would wrap beetle shells in pellets to be coughed up.
Obviously, that is not to imply that birds will eat Japanese beetles.
The bugs are making lacy doilies of the leaves on the grape vine draped along our deck rail. Bird feeders are no more than three feet away. You might think … but you’d be wrong.
The good news is that the beetles live only about six weeks. They should begin to disappear around the middle of August. Cross my fingers.
We’ve decided to rip the grape vines out, and to cut down our beloved mountain ash tree. The young tree is a skeleton. We will replace it and the vines. We are tired of the battle, disappointed in the birds.
I asked a plant expert at a local nursery what vines beetles would avoid. Boston Ivy? Nope. Virginia creeper? Nope. Anything? Nope.
I don't think it is what it looks like.
As of July 5, we've filled 12 bags.