Dahlias and Japanese Beetles

Growing sustainable flowers can turn a flower farmer into an amateur entomologist. Studying bugs that come to your dahlia party without an invitation, can help you deal with the little devils. Study your enemy, I say.

There are many more bugs than humans on this planet, but that doesn’t mean they get to rule my flower world that is lovingly tended to. There is a balance. Thankfully, not all insects are out to defoliate rows of flowering dahlias. Words of comfort.

Popillia Japonica, more commonly known as a Japanese Beetle, is a troublemaker for many growers. These iridescent creatures are attracted to roses, cannas, wild grape vines, crepe myrtles and…Dahlias. There are more plants and fruits they are attracted to not named here. Their appetite could go down in the Guinness book of records. Both in appetite and destructive categories. Maybe they are already there, I haven’t looked.

Do Japanese Beetles have predators? A whooping yes! Birds and and some insects feed on beetles. I’ve seen cardinals catch them and swallow. When we had ducks they loved these bugs. Chickens and Guineas also consume beetles. Alas we don’t have large numbers of these fowl so I have to take a different approach.

The safest method, here where I am, is to walk down the row and pinch the beetles between my fingers or drop them into a bucket of water and feed to the chickens. Many store bought chemical sprays will state it will kill Japanese beetles on the bottle or bag, but it won’t list all of the insects it does kill, especially the beneficial ones. Educate yourself on these toxic chemicals.

Flowers for sale need to be in excellent form and keeping these beetles out of the dahlias is a must. Since our Cardinal bird population is not prolific to help me, I will continue to walk down the rows each morning and catch these poachers.

Until tomorrow…enjoy your dahlia party.

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