Monday, September 27, 2010

June Bugs

I've learned about a lot of new bugs this summer.  The latest discovery has been June Bugs.  Actually, I discovered them in the spring when I was digging planting holes for trees.

I had no idea what those ugly grubs were
and oddly there were some big brown insects in the ground too
To my eye they looked a lot like cockroaches.

I didn't know the two insects were actually the same thing.

Oh internet, what would I do without you?!  Turns out the white grubs I was finding are the larval stage of June beetles.  These nasty critters are generally found curled up close to the soil surface.  What are they doing there?  They're feeding on the roots of your grass and flowers.  The brown beetles are the adult beetles which come out of the ground in June and feast on trees and other plants.  At first I wasn't too concerned about this, after all, how much damage can they do?

A lot I've discovered.

The lawn was nicely green and looked good for the better part of this spring and summer.  But in August it started to die.  This is my lawn now.
See those large patches of dead grass.  That's damage from June bug larvae.  The larvae have eaten all of the grass roots so the plants aren't able to function and then die.  When you can roll your lawn up off the ground like it was fresh laid sod you have a serious problem.
Something else is going on here too.
The skunks are digging holes in the turf and having a feast.  There are holes in the lawn everywhere you turn.  I don't mind the skunks actually, they're helping to remedy the problem by digging the grubs out and eating them.  The holes they dig even help the lawn by aerating it.

But what's the remedy to June bugs?  Well my friend the internet says a healthy lawn is the best defence.  I can see the logic there.  Generally insects attack plants that are already suffering.  Healthy plants are better able to defend themselves.  But why isn't my lawn healthy?  That I can't answer.  Could it be the soil is compacted?  Perhaps.  We drive a lawn tractor over it once a week to mow the lawn, that would compact soil.  Could it be there's too much clay and not enough humous in my soil?  We haven't fed the lawn any compost or fertilizer so that's also possible.  It could also be that we don't water our lawn.  There's a lot of possibilities so I guess I'll have to start with the basics.  Give the lawn a good raking and throw down some compost to start and see how it goes from there.  If anyone has any suggestions though I'd love to hear them.

In the meantime I've come up with a solution to those skunk holes.  This past week I began filling them with  compost and muscari bulbs.  The lawn will get a little fertilizer and in the spring I'll get a crop of pretty blue flowers.
I retraced the skunk's path hole by hole filling them with bulbs and compost

17 comments:

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  2. Skunk holes?!!! That is a beneficial creature I don't think I've ever read about in garden writing! Who'da thunk it? As for June bugs, there are some childhood memories there. I wish I could help with lawn issues. We have a time with lawns here in Florida. I've tried to obey all the water retrictions and refrain from pesticides, only to lose the entire south and east lawns in 2009. We resodded in spring of 2010, and the lawn is struggling once again. Chinch bugs are our mortal enemy here. For some reason, the north side of the house, which is more shady, has had a beautiful, thick, healthy lawn for six years. (knock on wood!)

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  3. Now that it is September, would the June bugs leave?

    Skunk holes? I haven't heard of such things. There are no skunks in Malaysia. It's very clever of you to fill then in with compost and bulbs.

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  4. I love your solution with the Muscari! When they are finished at your place, please send the skunks to Tennessee to dig the holes for the hundreds of bulbs I have ordered. :-)
    Frances

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  5. FloridaGirl - Maybe I should do a post on skunks! I sometimes forget that my readers range from Canada to Malaysia. I've yet to get any good skunk photos though. (that might be a good thing) Chinch bugs are here as well although I haven't seen any in my yard. The June bugs are more than enough of a menace for me.

    One - Unfortunately June bugs have a 2 - 3 year life cycle. The female tunnels into the soil and lays her eggs where they hatch and go through several larval stages. During this stage they eat the roots of plants. Eventually they transform into beetles and emerge from the soil where they eat the leaves of trees, shrubs and other plants. From what I understand we're at a bad point in the cycle where the larvae are at their largest and eating the roots of lawns with abandon. Come spring the beetles will emerge from the ground and eat the plants on the surface. Then the cycle will start all over again.

    Fairegarden - you know I almost didn't plant any bulbs this year but with half the work already completed I couldn't resist.

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  6. Hi Marguerite,
    I am sorry to hear that your grass in under attack. I like your plan for dealing with the skunk holes. Very clever and I am sure it will be very beautiful come spring!

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  7. Try milky spore to kill the beetle larvae!! It saved my garden when it was attacked every summer by Japanese beetles. My post Milky Spore, How Do I Love Thee? might help. Weird title, I know, but it will make more sense after you read it!! It's organic and won't kill any of your beneficials. :0)

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  8. Hey Marguerite, I think you have the right idea with the compost and raking for your lawn. Have you a dug a small hole (yes, another hole!) and checked out what your soil layers are like under the grass? You may not have enough sand for good drainage/nutrient cycling. With your soil sample (plug or core sample), you can also tell if you have a large thatch layer (dead grass accumulating under the lawn) which could be contributing to lack of drainage and aeration. If you have tons of thatch, try a dethatcher than over-seed your lawn with new grass seeds. You may also want to aerate if you are using a tractor or have clay soil. Hope that helps!! (we just did turf class so it's fresh in my mind:)

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  9. Thanks Jennifer. I thought it wasn't too bad of an idea myself!

    TS - I've heard about milky spore but not sure where I would buy them. I'll definitely take a look at your post. I think some pests in nature is normal but the sheer numbers of these bugs is a bit out of sync.

    Blush and Bees - Thank you for all that wonderful information! I've done nothing but digging this year and can tell you we have clay! Although there does appear to be a good amount of worm action too so it's not all bad. Certainly the drainage could be improved though. and honestly, I've never raked this lawn so I'm betting there's thatch as well. I generally ignore the lawn so that doesn't help the situation but I intend to be a better lawnkeeper in future.

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  10. I expected when you said you solved the skunk hole problem, a thirty ought six was involved. Your solution is more beautiful, at least.

    You certainly win the ugly bug contest. Thankfully, we've never spotted such an ugly grub around here. But then again, my grass is small and hidden. Maybe they just haven't found it yet.


    Christine in Alaska

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  11. LOL Christine, the skunks are safe with me. I have a hard time killing bugs, even when I know they're bad ones. Would you believe I actually put these ugly grubs back in the dirt when I found them in the spring! Of course I had no idea what they were or how bad the situation would get.

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  12. Amazon.com carries milky spore, but your local garden/home improvement center probably does. too. Fall is the best time to apply it to the garden because it kills the larvae before they hatch. Good luck!!

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  13. Marguerite, I often have skunks in my garden digging for grubs, but I have never thought to plant bulbs in the holes they leave behind. What a charming idea! In addition to Muscari, I bet those holes would work well for Siberian squill, too.

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  14. Thanks TS, I'll look into it.

    Jean - I was thinking about trying a different bulb as well. I wasn't sure the muscari would work well but I love them so. Squill is a great suggestion as I see it doesn't mind living in lawn. I'll be buying more bulbs this week and might give this a go.

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  15. dig some of them suckers up and use em fer bait!! they catch them breams real good!

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  16. Jonathon touches kids, so I wouldn't listen to anything he says.

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