Annoying Bug on the March

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Posted Thursday, July 21st, 2011---6:15p.m.

The Japanese Beetle can be a major pain for gardeners--or even just anyone with plants in their yard.

"It feeds on 300 varieties of plants," said Phil Pellitteri, of the U-W Madison extension.

And right now it's on the march."The adults show up about the first of July," he said. "They don't go away at least until the first of September."

One landscaping professional says the volume of the pesky bugs this summer is about normal--but thinks their time frame is longer. "They seem that they're going to be around for longer this year, " said Mark Barnes, of Barnes, Inc. "The numbers are up at least in the near west side," said Pellitteri. "Probably equate that to the lushness of last year. I mean the very heavy rains promote good turf growth and honestly the grubs of this insect are also a lawn pest. "

And good luck getting rid of them. "What really drives people crazy is the ones that are feeding in your yard are not coming from your yard," said Pellitteri. "In most cases the beetle will fly up to a half a mile away from its breeding site and so typically when you deal with an insect you want to go to the breeding site and stop them but you can't in this case."

He says there are a lot of products that will clear them out for four or five days. "Because they're flying for 2 months you have to be out there 4 or 5 times a year spraying and that's the kind of maintenance level that none of us really want to get into," he said.

But one thing that won't help? Traps. " Traps are bad, we never use the traps," said Barnes. "They have a hormone in the traps that attracts the bugs so it's the exact opposite of what we're trying to accomplish by treating them."

The Japanese Beetles' damage is mostly cosmetic. You can tell if one of your plants has been hit because they'll eat the plant matter off of the leaves--but leave the veins behind. Barnes says the best treatment is to spray plants they like and then treat them with a granular insecticide before their eggs hatch--which is around Labor Day.