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Sunday, January 13, 2008



I believe my experience with Japanese Beetles is worth telling. I believe this experience could suggest a similar approach to the eradication of the also dreaded Gypsy Moth.

History of Introduction

The Japanese beetle, Popillia japonica, was introduced into the United States from Japan in 1916 on infested nursery stock. Since that time it has become established throughout the Eastern United States where it is one of the most destructive plant pests in urban landscapes. Japanese beetles now are an established pest in many areas and attempts to eradicate them has been very frustrating.

The gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar, is one of North America's most devastating forest pests. The species originally evolved in Europe and Asia and has existed there for thousands of years. In either 1868 or 1869, the gypsy moth was accidentally introduced near Boston, MA by E. Leopold Trouvelot. About 10 years after this introduction, the first outbreaks began in Trouvelot's neighborhood and in 1890 the State and Federal Government began their attempts to eradicate the gypsy moth. These attempts ultimately failed and since that time, the range of gypsy moth has continued to spread. Every year, isolated populations are discovered beyond the contiguous range of the gypsy moth but these populations are eradicated or they disappear without intervention. It is inevitable that gypsy moth will continue to expand its range in the future.

Experience Eradicating Japanese BeetlesWhen I first bought the property on which I eventually lived for over 30 years, I had intended initially to convert the property into a private botanical garden. The entrance into the property was a 1,000 foot long driveway. While attending Boston College during the 50's I was enthralled at their entrance which was called Linden Lane because both sides wee adorned with those magnificent Linden Trees. My thought was to duplicate the look by planting Linden Trees on both sides along my driveway. I was warned against it by the local garden club because it was known that Lindens were susceptible to Japanese Beetle infestation. The club wanted me to plant Bradford Pear trees instead. I purchased three Bradford Pear trees which were quite beautiful initially. They grew rapidly, but when they were adult trees they were very susceptible to severe wind damage which on occasion would destroy 1/3 of the entire tree. Others who planted the same tree were also very disappointed with the ultimate performance of their Bradford Pear trees.

I had to purchase what was available at the time, the Little Leaf Linden Tree. It was a graft on the root of the large Linden Tree. The Little Leaf Linden Tree was a magnificent pear shaped tree which grew slowly. As they grew each year I noticed some infestation with Japanese beetles. Boy did they love my trees. One year in late July after they did their work I stood beneath my trees which one month before were so dense in foliage that I would not be able to see the sky. Now the Japanese Beetles had defoliated the trees so much that I could not see the sky quite clearly. I thought that with such high degree of damage the trees would not survive such an insult. I had to do something.

I attended many garden shows and attended many botanical seminars. I evaluate the use of a fungal preparation which would infest the grubs which wintered within the ground. I evaluated other methods of control and decided to employ Japanese Beetle traps which contained both a chemical lure and a sex pheromone. Although there were some proponents of the use of traps, other experts said that traps would attract more beetles onto your property. I decided to try the traps. If I attracted beetles from the neighborhood, at least, when they were trapped, that was one less beetle which would breed.

Although the Linden trees lined both sides of the driveway, I placed my traps about 50 feet along the southwest side. I placed 4 traps equally spaced along the 1,000 foot way. The first year I had to empty the traps every 2-3 days. I never saw so many beetles. I dumped the beetles into a bucket of detergent/Chlorox water which killed them. The beetles came about the first week of July and they were gone in 4 weeks. The following year, I had to empty the traps about once per week. The third year I emptied the traps three times during the entire month. Some years the infestation was more than others, but by and large, the infestation decreased each year.

It would be reasonable to assume that by decreasing the numbers of breeding beetles would result in less grubs overwintering each year. The important thing is that using the traps should be a long term commitment to be done each year without missing a year. Predatory insects can never be eliminated entirely. It is not in their nature to just go away. If you are committed to have a healthy garden you should be committed to perform certain functions on a regular basis: fertilize, provide a regular source of water if nature does not provide, prune where and when necessary, AND put in place an insect eradication program. I like the beetle traps because they do not introduce poisonous chemicals into the environment.

Eradication of the Gypsy Moth
Since there is a trap designed to eradicate Gypsy Moths, I believe they can be eradicated in a similar manner. But the commitment should be there and it should be done yearly on a regular basis. Eradication of the breeders is the key. If the traps are as good as the Japanese Beetle traps, success can be achieved. I have no experience with Gypsy Moth eradication, but my experience with Japanese Beetles was worth telling with the hope that similarly applied to Gypsy Moth eradication might be helpful to others.

nicola michael c. Tauraso, M.D.
Director, Tauraso Medical Clinic
Formerly, Director, Taurus Estates Botanical Garden

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