Ever since the invasion began 10 days ago, I have become a virtual prisoner of my house.
As soon as I go outdoors they attack like kamikaze pilots from Hell.
The invaders, I finally learned, are called “False Japanese Beetles.” They are the most diabolical, hateful, disgusting bugs in the insect world, if you ask me. I’d much rather deal with hordes of flies and mosquitoes or even flying spiders.
These vicious pests fly around in willy-nilly patterns, buzzing like approaching dive-bombers. They love to devour light-colored blossoms. They land on the plants and chow down, ruining all the blooms. These fiends, also known as “Spring Rose Beetles,” especially love roses. A neighbor’s rose bushes are bare, stripped of blooms and buds by the beasts. They also eat some kinds of veggies.
Now I know a little bit of what early pioneers felt like as they watched thick clouds of locusts descend to devour everything in sight.
All of my light-colored flowers are decimated, not to mention my many basil plants. I have sprayed with Sevin, which kills the beetles but only after they have chomped blossoms to their hearts’ content. And when the dead beetles drop, new ones fly in to take their place so the spraying, really, is quite futile. I spray them, anyway, out of sheer sadistic revenge. My white bird-bath is literally black with beetles, dead and dying, that thought they’d take a little swim between blossom meals. Sorry, fiends – no lifeguard on duty there!
What’s as bad as their gluttony is I cannot sit outside. They constantly land on my head, in my hair, down my T-shirt. They cannot be brushed away. They cling to the skin almost as stubbornly as wood ticks. In fact, just now as I write this, I found one crawling creepily on the back of my neck.
False Japanese beetles are about 1/4th-inch long with deep brown – almost black – backs (wing covers). Their two back legs look like jagged saws. Their larvae over-winter 10 inches under the soil, then they emerge gleefully in June to wreak their havoc and misery.
They are related to Japanese beetles through a subgroup called “Shining Leaf Chafers.”
False Japanese beetles are native to Minnesota. That was news to me because I grew up in this area and have never seen them before, until their first invasion here about six Junes ago. But they were never nearly as bad as they are this time around. Their visit, in past years, lasted about two weeks. Here in the neighborhood, we’d always assumed they were some kind of potato bug because there are vast commercial potato fields nearby.
Yesterday I called the U. of M. Extension Service. Before I could even finish my question, a master gardener said with utter authority, “False Japanese beetles.” He’d had umpteen calls about them from gardeners at wit’s end. Then he told me to be thankful they’re not “true” Japanese beetles because they are even more aggressive and voracious than these demons. Newcomers to Minnesota, those beetles have caused problems in the Twin Cities area. Let us hope and pray they don’t decide to migrate northwest.
Each morning I peek out the windows of my fortress. Many a morning it looked like they’d had their fill and moved on. I rejoiced. But, then, an hour or so later they’d arrive in sickening swarms, and once again I was a prisoner, like the besieged victims in Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Except this real-life horror movie is called “The Beetles.”