Five gallons of death

That sounds pretty yucky.  And it should.  Hidden within this bucket are almost five full gallons of dead Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica).  These insects are serious herbivores and in significant numbers can render serious harm.

Five gallon bucket of Japanese beetle remains. Sniff at your own risk.

In the face of an outbreak of these fiendish little coleopterans one might choose to spray chemicals, deploy pheromone traps, or do nothing.  In the face of an outbreak in a breeding nursery where the Homo sapiens cross pollinators will be working more than six or seven hours every day the options are narrowed down.  Pheromone traps.

A solitary beetle defoliating a soybean leaf. Solitary is rare… these guys travels in groups.

Popillia japonica procreates with a vengeance.  Following a relatively mild winter they will hatch and descend upon the wealth of agricultural crops like corn and soybean in an imitation of the biblical locust.  In the area of Central Ohio where I’m working it appears the past winter was mild enough. So we placed a few pheromone traps.  These traps are essentially a plastic bag hanging from a plastic rigging that harbors a waxy paste laden with a chemical the beetles recognize as a sex pheromone.  And this stuff works.  Just attempting to put up one of these devices in a field harboring the insects will get you a sudden and unwelcome greeting by dozens of sex starved bugs.

And if their numbers are sufficient they can fill the hanging bag in a day.  One merely (merely belies the yuck factor… but I digress) replaces the bag when full so that future visitors have someplace to fall.  In the course of the first ten days with the traps up we collected enough beetles to fill the bucket.  And if you need a description of the fetid odor emanating from the bucket when one goes to add another bag of bugs… then either I’ve failed to emphasize ‘yuck’ sufficiently, or your curiosity for fetid odors is remarkably brave.  If the latter is the case, here is an open invitation for you to visit and I’ll indicate where the bucket is – but you’ll have to open it for yourself. I already know what to expect.

The rapidity with which we filled the bucket this summer, given the relatively small area we were drawing beetles from, gave us pause and sparked a bit of curiosity concerning how many of these shiny little munchers must be roaming the area.  A back of the envelope calculation: We sampled from approximately five acres.  We realize our area may not represent the whole Midwestern corn and soy belt of nearly 180 million acres… so let’s just have a peek at one fourth of the Ohio corn and soybean acreage (a random assumption, but the numbers to come should appear sufficiently sickening) – in 2016 there were 8.4 million acres of soy and corn in Ohio. One fourth is just over 2 million acres… and if one might expect 5 gallons of dead beetles from every five acres – a gallon per acre – then with sufficient trapping one could expect to harvest just over 2 million gallons of beetles.  Super yuck.

Next winter, as the temps here fall close to uncomfortable for some of my neighbors I may have to pull out the bucket and offer the complainers a chance to smell what happens when the temps don’t fall far enough.  Or perhaps I’ll show them this post first.  I’d rather not be incarcerated for felonious assualt.

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11 comments

  1. Wow! Question, can you reuse these traps? I bet they would be great chicken feed, talk about orange yolks.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The traps are good until the pheromone goo all evaporates. We put up three traps so far this summer and while the first has petered out the other two still have some pheromone and are still attracting beetles after about three weeks.

    As for chicken feed, I have spoken with a farmer who said his chickens absolutely love ’em. He throws the full bags into the freezer to kill the beetles (and this also likely prevents the smell development). He takes frozen beetles out to his chickens and they take care of it from there. By having them in the freezer he can dole them out at a rate the chickens can handle and he doesn’t have the decay issue – almost like baling hay if you want to look at it that way.

    The number of beetles we’ve trapped has slowed considerably (rate of beetles per day), and it is much nicer working in a nursery where damage to foliage is much reduced.

    A tip I should have mentioned in the post – once you install a trap, do go and wash with soap. The pheromone is very powerful and just the slightest amount on or around your person and you become the babe of the ball to these creeps.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes, I might have to some “esplaining” to Cindy, if I show up with that many babes following me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But stopping at the chicken house before going to the big house might make you some friends…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Do you have a source for the traps?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We get them at the local hardware store. Apparently they’re a big enough issue here in Central Ohio to justify stocking them. I can grab the box at work and see where ours have come from – but I’m guessing a quick Google peek will give you some guidance.

      Let me know if you have any trouble laying your hands on them. We are probably headed in your general direction to watch the eclipse and if they aren’t available locally I can bring a couple when we come down.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. BTW: We are not having as bad a year as you seem to be having.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, if you don’t have enough beetles then I suppose I could also offer to bring some of them 🙂
      But I would use the freezer technique because, well, the bucket is far too ripe now.

      Like

  6. Kris Weidenbenner · · Reply

    Do you have a neighbor that you do not care for. Reminds me of the paper bag with dog excrement…. Please do not transport. Specific waste hazard licenses may apply.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Don’t have any neighbors I dislike that much. Could drop it in Cincinnati – but the Cards drubbed that Reds yesterday, so even that seems like piling on.

    Remember those little black and white chickens that used to have the run of the barn lot? They might appreciate this goo.

    Liked by 1 person

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