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Japanese beetles are easily identified by their shining copper-colored and black "armor".  They only grow to the size of a small fingernail.  You may find them eating your rose buds, hibiscus (including Rose of Sharon buds) and various weeds.

Please do not put up any beetle traps in your yard that use pheromone as a lure.  Japanese beetles can notice that fragrance from more than a mile away, and they will go to where they smell that stuff.  It is not surprising that people catch hundreds of these little pests in a single season.  The reason is not that that many lived in their garden.  The reason is that they lured many bugs from farther away into our neighborhood, and only some of those beetles from the surrounding area get caught.

As far as I know, the only natural enemies of the Japanese beetle are starlings the black-billed cuckoo.  I have never seen a black-billed cuckoo (pictured on the right) in our area.  We cannot expect any help with our problem from these cuckoos.

Japanese beetles attack my rose blossoms every year and they also attack my Rose of Sharon - usually before the buds have a chance to mature and blossom.  If many beetles attack the same bud, you may find a sticky brown liquid on the outside.  That may be a sign that Japanese beetles have fed on that bud.  Just because you don't see any beetles when you walk by does not mean they are not in the area.  If they feel threatened, they either raise their front legs in defense, or drop to the ground and out of sight.

I do not know the extent of the damage caused by the grubs under ground.  If you see "area spots" on your lawn that you cannot explain, you can find out if Japanese beetle grubs are to blame by turning just the top layer over.  The beetle grubs would be clearly visible under the grass root layer.


Japanese beetles do not bite you and they do not sting.  You are relatively safe as a hunter and/or gatherer.

Active collection method:  I collect them by hand and throw them into a bucket filled with about an inch, or two of water and some dish soap.  Collect from the bottom up.  If you see several beetles on a Rose of Sharon or other plant, pick the lowest one's first and then work your way up from there.  That way, any beetles that escape your hand and fall to the ground won't motivate other beetles to also dive to safety.  This works best in the morning when their wings are still wet with due, and they don't fly.

Active collection method:  You may want to try putting a tarp on the ground around affected shrubs in the morning, and shaking that plant.  Beetles will fall onto the tarp from where you can easily collect them.  This also works best in the early morning.

Passive collection method:  Mix 1 cup of water with 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 mashed banana and 1 package of yeast.  Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the water.  Add the very well mashed banana and fill the mixture into a gallon milk jug.  Place the jug (without the screw-on top) in an area where Japanese beetles feed.  The fermentation and odor of the bait attracts the beetles.  Many get in but few get out. Trap crops for the beetles are African marigold, borage, evening primrose (oonthera), four o'clocks, knotweed, soybeans, white roses, white and pastel zinnias, wild grapes and blackberries.

Passive collection method:  Make your own bait traps of plastic jugs with water, mashed fruit, sugar and yeast.  Cut, or drill and entrance hole at the top of the jar, and put the filled jugs on the perimeter of the garden at least one inch off the ground.  Choose sunny spots and strain the bodies out of traps every evening.   Good plants for trap crops include: evening primrose, soybeans, wild grapes, African marigolds, borage and knotweed.

Botanical Control:  I found this method described on the internet but have not personally tested it's validity.  I wonder if the beetles' chenin plates can be broken into pieces so small that they pass through a sprayer without clogging the nozzle.
Harvest about 1 cup of beetles, put them in a blender and liquefy them.  Add enough water to make this "stuff" pass through a sprayer.  Spray it on the plants the beetles attack.  If you use beetles that are infected with the milky spore disease you will infect grubs with the disease. 

Chemical warfare:  I do not use man-made poisons.  However, it is possible to poison these beetles.  The flowers of mirabilis, larkspur, white geraniums, red buckeyes and dwarf buckeyes attract and poison the beetles.  The leaves of the castor bean plant also poison them.  However, these plants are also poisonous to people and should be used with great caution around children and animals (including pets).

Fighting disease:  Milky spore disease (bacillus popilliae) offers an effective long-term control alternative.  It infects the beetles in their grub stage.  However, to be effect, the entire infested area (the whole neighborhood and beyond) should be treated.  Complete control may take a few years.  Reportedly, this control method can be effective for up to 15 years.

1-on-1 combat:  If you're fast, you can pick a beetle off a plant and squeeze it in your hand.  The brown residue is difficult to wash off.  You will need a lot of soap and water.
If you are less of a guerrilla fighter but more of the behind-the-desk managerial type and don't want to personally get involved in the trenches to THAT degree, hire an army of nematodes and leave the killing to them.  You can be a commander-in-chief and apply an army of beneficial nematodes to the infested area, about 50,000 per square foot of the targeted area.  Do the math.  You'll need a whole bunch of 'em.  The good news is that you don't have to feed them.  They'll look for their own.


Catnip, chives, garlic, tansy and rue are repellent plants.




Those whitish, greyish looking webs that remind of cotton candy and you may have noticed in your trees are most likely the "tents" of tent caterpillars.  These hungry little natives of the American woodlands cause millions of dollars of destruction in the United States alone every year, and some can be seen in our neighborhood.  You see them in the spring when leaves and flowers unfold.  The caterpillars can actually be seen inside the tents.  The larger they become, the more easy it becomes to see them.  Eventually, they break out of the tent and feed on foliage.  These caterpillars can denude trees.  Most trees manage to regrow new leaves but if they are attacked in consecutive years they may die.

The removal of egg masses by hand is not practical for any of us since the tents are fairly high up in the trees, and the masses are so small that they can hardly be detected from a distance.  Sticky tree traps can be installed to trap caterpillars as they move over them.  Burning the tents out is another option.  Great care needs to be applied so as to avoid damage to the tree and anything nearby that may catch fire.

A single tent is not appreciably harmful to the environment.  When you see the severe damage these caterpillars cause in New York state and in other areas, you'll understand why I mention them here.



There are several things we can do to keep a little safer from mosquitoes, and they do not cost much money, or require much effort.

1)  Empty open container in your garden after every rain fall.  Do not provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water (See picture on the right).  Still, shallow water is preferred.  Locations include gutters, puddles, planters, rain collecting buckets and cans, etc.

Mosquito eggs mature quickly and turn to larvae.  You can buy tablets of "bacillus thuringiensis" at garden supplies stores, or from mail order stores.  Your local hardware store may also have some.  Put one or more tablets (depending on the amount of water) into the water to kill the mosquitoes before they mature. 

Mosquito eggs clump together as shown in the picture on the right but can be overlooked by the untrained eye because they are so tiny.

Mosquito eggs that have hatched into larvae look like tiny grey nails that often hang just under the surface of the water.  (See picture above.)  When they see your shadow, they quickly try to disappear and dive. 

2)  Do NOT use electric, or electronic mosquito catchers, also known as "bug zappers".  These devices kill only about 10% - 15% mosquitoes.  Most of the other insects that fly into the zappers are beneficial to our survival and include insects that hunt and kill mosquitoes!!  Unfortunately, the advertisers and marketers of these products focus on the few mosquitoes that really get killed.

3)  Install a bat house on your chimney, or roof.  The opening must face down and the outside wall should be exposed to sunlight during the day.  There must be about 6 feet of open space under the opening.  Bats will not use the bat house if they cannot easily fly in and out of the opening.  In other words, a bat house that was installed over a bush will not attract any bats.

Some people refer to crane flies, dragon flies and similar insects as "mosquito hawks".  There really isn't such an insect as a mosquito hawk.  It's like calling a vulture a buzzard.  Nevertheless, some of these insects really hunt mosquitoes.



If you have read the article on MSN that warns us that a bite from a Kissing Bug may lead to us having difficulty breathing, you may be ready to arm yourself with a flyswatter and a spray can filled with some insecticide and declare war on the six-legged creepy crawlies in our neighborhood.

Please be sure you know what you're doing. I don't remember ever seeing a Kissing Bug at home. However, I have seen hundreds, maybe thousands of Boxelder Bugs over the years, that look similar. Boxelder bugs may take refuge in your home during the cold months of the year. You may find them in between your window panes, or sitting quietly on a wall. I remember sharing an apartment with so many of these little squatters many years ago that I called them "petnthewall" (pet on the wall). I am not aware of any damage they did to me, food supplies or anything else in the apartment. When warm weather returned, the boxelder bugs moved out again.

The kissing bug got its name because it frequently bites the face.  That is the one part of the human body usually exposed at night when these bugs are most active.




Pictured on the left are white-footed mice.  You probably have some in your garden, maybe a few more in your tool shed, your tractor garage, and some may even invade your basement and attic in the cold months of the year.  When temperatures drop in late fall, they start to look for warm places where they can stay over the winter months.  At that time, they may find narrow paths into your home you are not even aware exist.  Their bodies are surprisingly flexible so that they manage to squeeze through seemingly "impossibly" small cracks and crevices.

You can usually tell if mice are present by the little clues (excrement) they leave along the paths they travel.  Other than that, mice are surprisingly clean animals.  I used to breed mice when I was a kid.  I never really made a profit because I kept expanding my "business".  At one time, I had more than 200 (yes, two-hundred) mice.

Mice feed on vegetable, meat, bread, crackers, dry food, soap, insulation materials, corrugated boxes, seeds and much, much more.  They are very adaptable creatures. 

Although mice frequently groom themselves and each other, some live in less-than-clean places.  Mice can carry diseases that are communicable to humans.

You don't need to worry too much about fighting mice outside your home in our neighborhood.  Our local great horned owls and saw-whet owls, the red-tailed hawks, the Cooper's hawk I have seen in my trees again and again, as well as the foxes and coyotes and cats all have mice on their menu - provided they catch one.

Ways to fight mice inside your house:



Much has been written about ticks, their prevalence, the ability to spread Lyme Disease which threatens the well-being of humans, their pets and "wild" animas, their sometimes amazing ability to survive.

A Brown Dog Tick a.k.a. Wood Tick is shown in (approx.) natural size as it gorges itself on blood.

This species is not known to be a Lyme disease carrier.

The Deer Tick a.k.a. European Wood Tick (shown right) is small and therefore, not easy to spot.

This species is known to be a Lyme Disease carrier !!!

Having ticks does NOT indicate your garden / property needs work. It only means that conditions are right for ticks (and many desirable species) to thrive.

A Deer Tick a.k.a. European Wood Tick is shown in (approx.) natural size as it gorges itself on blood.

This species is known to be a Lyme disease carrier.

A variety of tick species live in the United States. Shown here are those most often found in the woods and gardens in our area (Northeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S.).

This section focuses on methods to try and control tick population.

To say it up front, population control is an almost impossible challenge. The best we can probably do at this time is minimize the likelihood that they feel comfortable in our surroundings.

Gardeners choices:

Natural enemies:

Chemical warfare:

Deer tick live in large numbers among us. They prefer moist areas (high grass, shade, wooded areas, etc.) and are difficult to spot on dark clothes. We often don't notice them until they crawl over hairy skin and provide a mild tickle. Since they can make themselves very flat, they are also very difficult to spot when they hide under the clothes we wear.

Check yourself for ticks daily !

Once you have been bitten and infected, a rash appears like the one in the enlarged picture shown on the left. The bite occured in the center (dark) from wich a red "bullseye" develops that grows outward.

The actual bite site is smaller than shown here and may be easily overlooked at first. As time progresses, however, the bullseye grows larger and becomes easier to spot.

The photo on the left shows the typical red area in the center of the "bullseye" and the outer circle.

When you see a bullseye like that on your body, seek immediate medical attention. Treatments for tick bites may not eliminate the threat of contracting Lyme's Disease. There is much misinformation in the medical community and few physicians seem to recognize the danger their patients with markings like this are facing.




Many kinds of spiders live in our area, serve a greater purpose in the balance of life than most people appreciate, and only a few of them pose a threat to the well-being of humans. Among those few is the infamous black widow.

Those relatvely small spiders are highly venomous and can make even fully grown people very sick. In some cases deaths have been reported but they are actually not as prevalent as the news media like us to believe. Among the symptoms are rapid heart rate, dizziness, cramps. Please consult a medical source for more detail. The photo on the left is an enlargement of a picture if a black widow.

Not every spider with a bulbous body like the black widow has is indeed a black widow, and not all black widows are actually black. Some are more brown(-ish) in color than you might expect.

They like to hide in moist areas around foundations, in your garden, outhouses and tool-sheds. Keep these areas reasonably clean by removing webs and leaves the wind may blow in.

I don't spray poison because I have no idea what I might kill. Spiders catch many small insects that would otherwise plague us humans in some way, shape or form.

Black Widows usually come out in the twilight to feed. They are probably more afraid of you than you are of them and will hide, or roll up into an inconspicuous "ball" in their web when you approach.

Many kinds of garden spiders live in and under tall garden plants and weeds where they find protection from the sun and plenty of food.

The specimen shown on the right crossed my path when I prepared the ground to establish a new wildflower area (meadow) in 2009. It is depicted here close to its actual size.

Daddy-Long-Legs are not really spiders but look a lot like them and are often incorrectly referred to as long-legged spiders. They do not pose a threat to us. If you hold your hand very still, they may actually climb aboard and hitch a ride with you.

Shown on the left is a red variety on a Canada thistle. More common colors of these arachnoids include various shades of brown and grey.

Pictured on the right is the black and yellow argiope I found in an open trash can on my property in June of 2012. The silver argiope is also common in Pennsylvania. This particular little guy was waiting for food to get entangled in his wide web. Some rainwater had gathered at the bottom of the trashcan and probably provided the humid environ these spider prefer.

The picture on the right shows the underside of that same spider. The configuration of the front legs so closely aligned with one another is typical for argiope (pronounced like "are-ghe-o-pea").

They do not pose a health-threat to humans and should not be destroyed. Sizes including legs vary between roughly 1 inch (smaller male) and over 2 inches (much larger female).

Every once in a while I see references to bites of brown recluse spiders which are very harmful, hurtful and pose a serious threat to humans in the papers. While there probably are some in Pennsylvania, most live farther south of us. Given the unpredictability of the weather lately, they may migrate north and change their preferred location within the US over time.


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