Every year a sort of whole sale slaughter goes on in my garden. Flowers and shrubs face an onslaught of hungry over sexed Japanese beetles that skeletonize foliage leaving only fragile ghosts of delicate lacy green. I’ve seen entire plants stripped bare, left to die in the heat of the August sun. According to Wikipedia the Japanese beetle isn’t much of a problem in its native Japan as natural predators keep populations in check. Here in North America we’re not so lucky. The plants that seem to attract the beetles to my yard include hostas, hollyhocks, snowball viburnums and corkscrew hazels. The beetles’ M.O. is to set up shop in these plants and fill their days and nights with snacking and shacking up.
I decided this would be the year I fought back. An internet search was narrowed down to two popular methods of attack, each with their merits and draw backs. The manual approach is to place a container of soapy water under the plants and knock the beetles loose. The beetles are quite clumsy and usually drop right into the water and drown. Effective I suppose if you have twenty-four hours a day to sit in the garden like some kind of beetle chaperone keeping an eye out for any sign of beetle hanky-panky. The other suggested method is a Japanese beetle trap that uses scent to lure the beetles to their doom. The traps could be effective if used correctly but if used incorrectly might draw more beetles to the area. Given the mixed reviews I thought I’d try both.
I bought two traps but decided to only set one up. I had read how the traps worked so I already knew that floral or pheromone scent was what attracted the beetles. When I opened the package I found the manufacturers had been much less euphemistic. The outside packaging indicated I had bought a “Biolure Beetle Trap” the inside literature made no bones about it- I had bought a “sex trap”. I’m not big on the old “nudge-nudge wink-wink” type of humor. I do remember watching some of the old ‘Carry On’ movies on Sunday afternoon television when I was very young but I primarily recall being vaguely repulsed by the innuendo while enjoying the slapstick. Still when I read Japanese Beetle Sex Lure (no biolure euphemism there) on the bait package and saw one of the ingredients was something called PEP well my brain did a little 360 and once it started it would not stop. It was wincingly juvenile and yet I just couldn’t (and still can’t) help myself.
“PEP” Really? I thought…PEP? What was that? Some kind of Japanese beetle Viagra? What if I got it on my hands? Ew-w-w-w. Would beetles chase me around the yard? I told myself not to be so silly. I gingerly put the bait package down and picked up the little plastic walls that would form the top of the trap. The instructions said to “slide the vanes together at the slots to form a cross”. I slid the vanes together and in my head a little voice whispered scissor together. This thought was immediately followed by an intense self-irritation manifested through my aware interior voice answering that whisper with an “OMG REALLY???” Did you really just think that? WHERE did that come from? But it didn’t stop there. To my chagrin everything about the process seemed to engage the formerly unknown juvenile that hitherto had resided silent in my head. I tried to be careful when I peeled the cover off the bait package. I tried not to get it on my skin but I couldn’t avoid smelling it because it smelled really strong. A-a-a-a-a-ah I didn’t want to smell it but I couldn’t help it! The voice inside my head said that’s what Japanese beetle sex smells like. Some part of me acknowledged that, as if I would need to know it sometime in the future. Will that be the answer to some long far off crossword puzzle clue? Will I meet an entomologist someday and need a topic to make small talk about? Ugh why would I do that? Talk bug sex talk with an entomologist. They might think I was making some sort of overt pass at them. If you’re curious I can tell you that it smelled like cloves. There, now you can make bug sex small talk with an entomologist. There’s some underlying pheromone thing going on (that’s how it works for people too) but to my very human nose it smelled like my kitchen when I’m making spiced coffee cake.
Setting up the trap wasn’t rocket science and before too long the bag hanging below (see there it is again) was full. There is a bug bordello in my backyard that smells like spice cake and I am the bug bordello Madame. I get that it smells all sexy (Love for sale, appetizing young love for sale) but it doesn’t look anything like a den of iniquity. Maybe the pheromones are hallucinogenic (Love that’s fresh and still unspoiled) and the beetles hear a siren’s call or imagine they see the seduction of will- o’-the-wisp fairy lights leading them on (Love that’s only slightly soiled, love for sale).
The disposable collection bags are just plastic bags with holes in the bottom so the rain won’t fill them up. The beetles don’t die right away. As a matter of fact by the amount of writhing that seems to be going on in the bags I’m pretty sure they are still doing it. Even in the throes of death they are still getting it on…orgy style (OMG will it never stop?). Each new addition to the trap is probably doing it right on top of the dead beetles that were trapped there days before. Maybe the new beetles are even doing it with the dead beetles. Maybe they’re self-aware. Well that took a dark turn. Maybe they think the entire world is ending. It’s the Japanese beetle apocalypse. There’s nothing left to lose so they might as well screw. I imagine I hear the chorus of Ultra Vox’s “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes”. SHUT UP Ultra Vox in my head.
I’ve only managed to get rid of a dozen or so beetles by knocking them off the plants into the bowl of soapy water. That might simply be that there hasn’t been as many on the plants because of the traps. I’ve had to change the bag three times in the past week. I think I’ve trapped over two hundred beetles. Holding a bag heavy with Japanese beetles I can see little legs waving out of the drainage holes on the bottom. I wonder why they don’t climb out of the bag. I think I’m killing them with sex. It’s a sexy, sexy, death, and then, Should I shake the bag? NO! Just put the full bag in the garbage…sigh… It’s like I’m arguing with a 12-year-old psychopath but not out loud because he/she is sitting inside my head.
Do you think a time out will work or is it too late?
Songs for this post.
My U tube search for music for this post was a hilarious excursion. Did you know Tom Jones has a song called ‘Sex Bomb’? I had to look up the lyrics. Though he was singing “infrared to see me move through the night” to me it sounded like “infrared semen move through the night” (what???) . I decided to double check just in case I run across one of those obscure crossword puzzle clues. I’m not linking to the video. I’m embarrassed for him. You can look that one up yourself. I found many, many other things that were funny both to my adult self and the wayward child inside but I digress.
I thought I would include the Cole Porter classic ‘Love for Sale’ as I used the lyrics above but there were so many good versions I couldn’t choose. Some of the runners-up were the Vengaboys ‘Boom Boom Boom’, Nazareth’s ‘Love Hurts’, Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ and Barry White’s ‘Can’t Get Enough of Your Love’ but I finally decided on the ones below.
Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’ .
Crowded House with ‘Into Temptation’.
Ultra Vox’s ‘Dancing with Tears in My Eyes’.