Dances with Beetles

Swarmed!

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY TIM FOLEY

I am not a fan of bugs, specifically, Japanese beetles. I attribute my strong feelings to one particular incident I refer to as “Dances with Beetles.”

It was a beautiful late-May day, the first Spring at our “new” (read: old starter) home, and I couldn’t wait to start planting. I had planted the first of my roses and just finished mowing the lawn when I spied the first of the invaders.

Japanese beetles.

Their tell-tale, iridescent green, hard shells blanketed my lush grape arbor as they greedily feasted on newly opened leaves. How dare they treat my arbor as if it were an all-you-can eat buffet?! My poor baby grapes didn’t stand a chance! And my roses! How could they survive? My maternal instincts kicked into overdrive.

I was being chased by a Japanese beetle swarm of biblical proportions!

But I had just the solution waiting in my barn: two Japanese beetle traps. I slipped the potent lures into their slots, knowing it was only a matter of time before the invaders would be trapped in these hanging coffins. But hold on. Would one lure really be enough to pull in all the beetles? Just to be safe, I added an extra lure to each trap. I marched toward the grape arbor to give the pests a whiff of their upcoming doom. Then I would stake the bags way back behind our small orchard, where two shepherd’s hooks stood waiting.

My plan was coming together perfectly. Almost.

When I glanced behind me, my heart dropped to my feet. I was being chased by a Japanese beetle swarm of biblical proportions! I let out an inhuman shriek and took off through the orchard, arms outstretched, beetle bags whipping in the wind! I ran full-speed, trying to make it to the shepherd’s hooks before the swarm overtook me and I felt their tiny, sticky legs on my skin and in my hair.

I reached the hooks, but now I had to struggle to hang the bags with the Earth’s lure-drunk Japanese beetle population buzzing around me. Blindly I swatted the beetles away from my face, fighting the urge to scream lest one fly into my mouth. After what must have been an eternity, I felt the loops slide over the hooks and, still swatting frantically, retreated a safe distance to catch a beetle-free breath. I watched in amazement as the swarm hovered and dove around the traps. The bags were full in an hour! I was going to have to grab them, dispose of the beetles, and reset the traps.

Heavens. I gritted my teeth and began.

Suffice it to say, I no longer use beetle traps. These days, I swat them off of plants into a bucket of soapy water.

I can tell you, after my Dance with Beetles, it took more than a bucket of soapy water to make me clean again. It took a long shower.

Several long showers.

This article was published originally in 2019, in GreenPrints Issue #118.


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