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Noon Edition

Picking Them Off (Japanese Beetles)

July is a hot sticky month here in the Midwest and my least favorite gardening month. While, as the saying goes, you can bury a lot of trouble digging in the dirt, you have to get up early in the morning if you want to dig in the dirt in July. Fortunately the day-lilies are unfazed by the heat and together with the black-eyed Susans, cone flowers, helianthus, and an assortment of flowering annuals, carry the garden through the heat of midsummer.

As I have mentioned before, I do more drifting around and less actual work in the garden in July. I do, however, keep after the Japanese beetles that appear like clockwork in July and stay about a month. These iridescent beetles love roses, hollyhocks, crepe myrtle and hibiscus especially. I dislike them with a passion for ruining my flowers. So, I carry an open-necked jar half-filled with water in which I have squirted some dish-washing detergent whenever I go out into my garden in July.

Whenever I see a beetle on a flower I pick it off and throw it into the jar. I like to think it is a merciful and quick death for the beetles, and it is certainly preferable to squashing them. When there are a cluster of beetles on one flower it is challenging to avoid some escaping, but I usually put my palm over the whole flower and pull it and all of the beetles it harbors into my closed fist. I then open my fist over the top of the jar. I am exhilarated when I get them into the jar and terribly disappointed if one manages to fly off and escape.

When I don't have my jar, I pick them off and stamp my foot on them. But morning and night, jar in hand, I do a thorough beetle walk, stopping at all of their favorite haunts in my yard. After my hunt, when they have all drowned in my jar, I pour the whole contents onto my gravel driveway and leave them for the birds. Armed with a jar, surgical gloves, soapy water, and the resolve to kill, even the most squeamish flower gardener can become proficient at doing a July beetle walk.

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