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Pests undeterred by dry, hot weather
Published: Sunday, July 08, 2012, 1:18 PM
By John Hogan | The Grand Rapids Press MLive.com
Comparisons are being made between this summer and the drought-plagued summer of 1988, when lawns died, eggs fried on asphalt and box fans were hot.
A Japanese beetle munches on a leaf.
Despite eight days in the 90s, including 97 degrees in Grand Rapids on June 28, most areas of Michigan averaged anywhere from 1.8 degrees (Jackson) to 2.9 degrees (Detroit) above normal for the month.
Rainfall doesn’t look that bad either — at least on paper. Most areas of southern Michigan had a rainfall deficit ranging from 1.03 inches in Jackson to 2.24 inches in Flint. For rain lovers, the place to be was Gaylord. The Alpine Village recorded 5.46 inches of precipitation, nearly 2.4 inches above average.
Still, we are feeling the stress. Adding to the misery index are the influx of insects and weeds.
Michigan’s Air Force
If you’ve vacationed in Michigan, no doubt you’ve seen postcards featuring blood-sucking mosquitoes under the title Michigan’s Air Force. And let’s not discount orange construction barrels tagged as the state tree.
Without much rain, mosquitoes are laying eggs in stagnant water. Favorite haunts include ponds, gutters, pool covers, coolers and flower pots — just about any place where sprinkler or rain water has collected.
Drain standing water and empty and clean birdbaths and pet water dishes at least once or twice a week.
A more visual nemesis are European chafer beetles, which usually emerge from the ground this time of year.
Sure, Japanese beetles get the headlines, but the European chafer beetle — discovered in nursery stock in the United States in 1940, thrives in lawns that are not watered.
Japanese beetles, conversely, prefer to lay eggs in lawns that are well-watered, such as golf courses.
“The European chafer grub is slightly larger than the Japanese beetle grub and feeds later into the fall and starts feeding again earlier in the spring,’’ said Dave Smitley, an entomologist with Michigan State University.
Chafer grubs feed on grass roots from August to November and from March to early May before emerging as the clumsy, brown beetles you will see bouncing off the side of the house or congregating near treetops at dusk.
“Turf damage caused by grub-feeding injury to roots is most severe under drought conditions when water-stressed plants cannot grow new roots to replace injured ones,’’ Smitley said. “The damage is typically observed when the turf fails to turn green in the early spring. In heavily infested areas, entire lawns may turn brown and die during prolonged periods of dry weather in the fall or spring.’’
European chafer and Japanese beetles lay most of their eggs in July, but Japanese beetles continue laying eggs into August, with eggs hatching about 10 days later.
Japanese beetle grubs begin feeding on turf roots from August through late October, when they will be fully grown. They spend the winter about 2 to 6 inches below the soil surface and resume feeding in spring.
Damage from Japanese beetle grubs might appear in home lawns from mid-September to November or from March to early May, Smitley said.
More unnerving than the drone of an unseen mosquito flying near your head are ghastly appearing earwigs in the kitchen sink or bathtub.
They’re a nuisance, to be sure — inside and outside. You find them in piles of beach towels left on the laundry room floor, curled up beneath garden hoses and falling out of mailboxes.
Though generally benign, a healthy concentration of earwigs can damage plants, but not to the extent you would expect based on appearances.
They consume algae, mosses, insects, mites and plants, be they flowers or vegetables.
Rather than launching a chemical assault, set out rolls of newspaper in shrubs, mulch and other areas with high concentrations. They’ll seek shelter beneath the pages, making disposal as simple as rolling up the paper and tossing it on the bonfire — assuming there’s not a drought-induced burning ban.