Saturday, July 15, 2023

Hand Pick Japanese Beetles from Plants (No Traps) and Other Tips

It's that time of the year when you start to notice Japanese beetles getting into your yard and eating your trees and shrubs. They are quite beautiful beetles actually with rainbow oil slick looking wing coverings and they are harmless to humans because they don't bite or sting. But they will run rampant in the yard if you are not on the lookout for them. Here are a few tips I've picked up over the years dealing with Japanese beetles. 

1. Look for their characteristic "skeletonized" leaves - the beetles eat the fleshy part of the leaf and leave the veins, so if you see skeleton leaves this is a tell tale sign of Japanese beetle damage. 

identify japanese beetle leaf damage

2. Hand picking Japanese beetles from plants can be effective early intervention and prevention - If your yard is not yet overrun and you just notice a few, pick them off the plants and get rid of them. When they feed they release a scent that attracts EVEN MORE Japanese beetles, basically ringing the dinner bell. You don't need to spray insect killer on your whole plant or yard just because you see a few, but remember they are sending out an invisible signal to their friends. 

japanese beetles fall into cup of water

The technique I like to use to get them off the plants is to hold a cup of water under them before I grab them. When they are disturbed their defense mechanism is to drop to the ground, so if you are trying to get them by hand they might slip away. If you hold a cup of water under them first they will drop into the water. They are lousy swimmers and the water will prevent them from flying away as you walk around the yard looking for more. This is also why you see people put buckets of water underneath Japanese beetle traps to catch the ones that fall off. 

3. Do not use traps - Remember how I said the Japanese beetles release a scent that attracts other beetles to the feast? The bait used in Japanese beetle traps uses the same scene, essentially attracting EVEN MORE to your yard. I heard a funny expression once that Japanese beetle traps are the perfect gift for your neighbor 5 houses down. If things get really bad I just end up spraying my trees with an insect killer spray. 

japanese beetle trap hanging with bucket of water

4. Remember the plants that usually get hit - In my yard I can usually spot them on Buckthorn Fineline, River Birch, and Linden trees. These seem to be their favorite at least where I live. I never see them on boxwoods or roses for example, so I don't bother looking there unless I see "skeletonized" leaves first. 

japanese beetles on buckthorn fine line leaves

Friday, September 30, 2022

Sweetbay Magnolia Seeds and Fruit

What does the fruit of sweetbay magnolia look like? I guess I never expected a magnolia tree to have bright red seeds and a big pineapple looking fruit pod on it. Obviously magnolia does have a nice flower on it so if the flower is pollenated it's going to turn into something. It looks bizarre because you never really see photos of magnolia tree seed pods like this. 

As the fruit ripens it bursts open revealing bright red seeds inside. I didn't see any seeds on the ground so I think the birds are eating them. Maybe the bright red color attracts birds to help them find the seeds to eat so they can spread the seeds further across the region. 

Sweetbay Magnolia Seeds and Fruit

sweetbay magnolia seed pod

Here's a picture of my young Sweetbay Magnolia tree on the west side of my morning room so you get an idea of the size and location of the tree. 

And here is the magnolia flower blooming earlier in the year before it was pollenated. 

photo of sweetbay magnolia flowers blooming

Friday, July 1, 2022

DIY Get Rid of Dog Vomit Fungus in Mulch Bed

Have you ever seen what looks like dog vomit or scrambled eggs show up in your mulch bed on a hot summer day after a heavy rain or watering your lawn at night? I watered at night and ended up with this fungus that looks like my dog ate something and barfed right in the mulch. Turns out this stuff is actually called dog vomit slime mold, and it's a protist not a fungus technically. If the vomit looking part matures it releases clouds of brown spores in order to spread to new areas. It's virtually impossible to get rid of, but I found a DIY way to control it that is easy to do and inexpensive. 

Dog vomit slime mold in mulch bed
Dog vomit slime mold in mulch bed

If you see the dog vomit slime mold looking like this when it is still yellow, like scrambled eggs, then it is not too late to treat it. If it already has a hard dry outer shell then the inside is already packed with brown spores. The spores are hydrophobic meaning they repel water, so spraying it with the hose actually causes the spores to spread even more. 

spray bottle with vinegar treat dog vomit fungus

If you catch it early while it is still yellow like this, spray it with white vinegar. This is a mild acid, and I wouldn't recommend doing it right next to a sensitive plant. But I did it next to some bushes and it was fine. I sprayed the dog vomit slime mold with vinegar and saw the tops start to melt away. Take that!

spray dog vomit slime mold with vinegar
Dog vomit fungus melting away with vinegar

24 hours later the parts I sprayed were melted brown slime that dried up without producing spores. Spraying it with vinegar was so much easier than trying to dig it up and move it or throwing out a whole layer of mulch. This seems to do the trick, but I'm not a scientist I just tried different things to see what works. 

before and after get rid of dog vomit fungus
24 hours later

The thing sent out some extra yellow piles that I also sprayed and they dissolved the same as before. Again, this will definitely add some acid to your mulch bed but it didn't take that much to treat the dog vomit and so far so good I haven't had any damage to my plants.