Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Japanese Beetles!!!!

There is hardly a gardener out there who hasn't encountered a Japanese beetle. The adult Japanese beetle is a shiny, metallic green with copper-brown wing covers and it’s about 3/8-inch in length. Not all metallic green or copper beetles are Japanese Beetles To be sure of what you’re dealing with, you can look closely at the underside of the beetle and you’ll also see 5 small, white tufts under the wing covers and an additional tuft at the end of the abdomen.

Japanese beetle,  (species Popillia japonica), an insect that is was accidentally introduced into the United States from Japan about 1916, probably as larvae in the soil around imported plants. Japanese beetles are known to feed on more than 200 species of plants, including a wide variety of trees, shrubs, grasses, and nursery plants. They are gregarious insects, often feeding in large groups upon a single tree. A swarm of Japanese beetles can denude a peach tree in 15 minutes, leaving nothing but bare branches and the fruit pits. Keep in mind that the adult Japanese beetles are only around for a little over a month, so don’t automatically reach for the sprayer unless they become a serious problem. Some years are better than others.

Efforts are being made to control the spread of this pest. Poisonous sprays control the adult beetles but differ in the length of their protection against re-infestation. Several of the beetle’s natural enemies—species of parasitic wasps and flies that in Japan were found to prey on the larvae—have been imported into the United States, where some of them have become established. Of even greater promise as a biological control is a disease-inducing bacterium, Bacillus popilliae, which causes milky disease in larvae; its use has reduced Japanese beetle infestations in some areas.

Least Toxic Japanese Beetle Controls

There aren’t many natural controls for adult Japanese beetles. Birds aren’t partial to them and although some predatory wasps and flies have been imported, their population isn’t large enough yet to control the Japanese beetle problem.

The most effective natural control is to go into your garden with a jar of soapy water and knock the beetles into it. Japanese beetles feed in groups, starting at the top of plants, so it’s actually pretty easy to fill a jar with them.

Insecticidal soap will kill adult Japanese beetles only if it is sprayed directly on the beetle. It does not have any residual effect, meaning that beetles that aren’t sprayed directly won’t be harmed.

A word of caution about the pheromone beetle traps. They will attract beetles, but you’ll probably wind up with more beetles coming into your yard than you would have without the trap. The original intention of the traps was to track when and how many Japanese beetles were in the area, not as a means of eradication.

Finally, if you have repeated intense infestations, you should check your soil in late summer to see if you have a large grub population. Lift a 1 sq. ft. section of turf. If there are more than a dozen grubs in this small area, consider treating your lawn with some type of grub control. However, not every garden that has a Japanese beetle problem is associated with a lawn full of grubs. The beetles can hatch in your neighbors lawn and find your tasty garden with very little effort.

More Toxic Controls, to be used with Extreme Caution

There are several insecticides labeled for use on adult Japanese beetles, including:

Bayer Advanced Garden Multi-Insect Killer Concentrate
Carbaryl (Sevin)
Neem extracts
Ortho Bug-B-Gon Garden & Landscape Insect Killer Concentrate
Orthene Turf, Tree & Ornamental Insecticide
Spectracide® Bug Stop Multi-Purpose Insect Control Concentrate
Spectracide® Triazicide® Soil & Turf Insect Killer Concentrate

These sprays will kill on contact and also have some residual effect. Keep in mind that these sprays will kill more than just the Japanese beetles, so use them only for extreme infestations. You will want to avoid these products if you have a wildlife habitat of any kind! And again, Japanese beetles are only a pest for a little over a month, so don’t over react. 

Always read and follow label directions when using any pesticide and Good Luck!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Over-seeding Centipede Lawns with Winter Rye

As I was riding my bike through the neighborhood this evening I rode past a house that used to have a beautiful Centipede lawn. In fact it may have been the nicest lawn in the neighborhood several years running. Then they started over-seeding with Winter Rye  in the fall about 2-3 years ago. My lawn was fully green by early May but I've been watching this lawn and the winter rye has died off but there is no sign of the Centipede coming out of dormancy.

June 5, 2014 (Over-seeded with Winter Rye)

Centipede grass often called the poor-mans grass, and boasts a number of benefits over other types of grasses, the most important of which for homeowners is its low requirements for maintenance. Centipede grass is able to grow, and often thrives, on sandy and clay based ground, needs little fertilization, and does not require frequent mowing. Centipede grass can prosper without watering in average rainfall years, making it ideal for busy homeowners.

I had never encountered Centipede grass until we moved to SC.It was the sod they put down on our new houses lawn. I'd gotten used to lawns going brown while living in Georgia so that wasn't an issue. But had to get used to the low maintenance needs. But some people enjoy green turf so much they will over-seed their Bermuda grass lawn with rye grass each fall to have a green front yard when Bermuda grass is normally brown. Although Bermuda grass tolerates over-seeding well, centipede grass does not. The fertilizer you give rye grass will stimulate the centipede grass out of dormancy too soon and make it susceptible to freezing. Also Rye grass growing on top of centipede grass holds winter moisture and can cause disease on the centipede grass. Rye grass will  also compete with centipede grass when the centipede grass is trying to green-up in spring.

Most experts recommend that you do NOT over-seed your centipede lawn with a winter rye grass.  It can in some situations result in thinning out (killing) of your lawn over time due to the added stress of early spring competition.  Fescue in general is a better over-seed variety to use (not rye grass). However in general the best recommendation is to do nothing to a centipede  lawn in the fall. Basically it’s a terrible idea to plant rye
grass into centipede grass to keep it green in winter. Let your centipede grass lawn go dormant in November and take a break from mowing!

June 5, 2014 (No over-seeding)