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.
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.
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.