We are all bugged by something or other, and this time of year the bugging seems to reach a crescendo. Wasps, slugs and beetles are generally no more than minor nuisances until someone gets stung or your prized hosta is devoured overnight. In the past we have reached for a bottle of spray to do the job – a shot of elixir that eliminates the ‘problem’ so that we can get back to what we were oing. This is the dawning of a new age in household pest control and we have options. Like trapping the suckers.
Take the #1 outdoor insect pest of them all. It doesn’t matter if you are a gardener; wasps pose a threat to anyone that enjoys the out of doors this time of year. Wasps can be aggressive and when they sting, it hurts. I know. Unlike the gentle honey bee a wasp does not lose its stinger when it strikes. It just loses a layer off of the stinger which will grow back another day. A bee dies after it delivers a sting so it makes sense that they are much less intent on striking you than that nasty wasp. Wasps love sweet things, food in various stages of decomposition and meat. They nest where they are protected from the sun and wind, often under a soffit or an outdoor table and the like. That is the bad news. The good news is that they are easy to trap. All you need is some fruit juice and a trap. In recent years we have seen many new-fangled bottles and boxes designed to attract and kill wasps. In my experience none work better than the old fashioned bottle with tapered holes. Fashioned after the minnow trap, once in the bottle a wasp cannot get out. It buzzes around in the bottle until it dies. Your job is to fill the bottle with fresh fruit juice and a bit of sugar and to keep it clean. This time of year that could be a weekly task. Hardly onerous for the results. I have had good luck with the trap pictured here by Green Earth.
The holes in your hosta did not just happen. They are generally the result of hungry slugs that enjoy chewing on the tender leaves of your precious ‘Plantain Lilies’. The way to minimize slugs (I hesitate to suggest that you will ‘eliminate’ them) is to use a Slug Saloon. At a weak attempt at humour this slug trap comes with a yeast powder preparation that attracts the slugs to the shallow green container, they fall in while getting their sustenance and bingo, one drowned slug. When you run out of the powder you can use beer. Thus the name ‘Slug Saloon’. My friend Denis Flanagan suggests that the saloon is not altogether necessary as the more beer that he drinks the less he cares about his slugs. No doubt he speaks from a depth of experience. Another way to prevent slug holes in your hosta is to plant slug-resistant varieties like ‘Patriot’, ‘Liberty’ and ‘Camelot’. Useful only to readers yet to plant hosta, I realize.
The scourge of Japanese beetles is being felt from the Niagara peninsula through to Toronto. Just a few years ago this pest was restricted to areas well south of here but global warming has changed that. Japanese beetles have arrived with the opossum, on the back of milder winters. For people in denial about global warming, I guess the Japanese beetle has not shown up in their gardens just yet. The question of course that most people ask is how to kill them. The answer is that you don’t. You trap them. The professionals in the pest control business figured out how to use the sex habits of the Japanese beetles against them. Much like the slug’s propensity for beer, we now have traps that employ the power of floral and pheromone lures for the adult beetles. If you can eliminate the adults there will be no more babies. And the population of Japanese beetles declines sharply and quickly. The Japanese beetle trap is an odd looking thing. When you bring one home from the retailer I encourage you to read the label, rather than just hang the unit in a tree near your prized roses. Little details like placing the pheromone capsule in the right way will make the difference between trapped beetles and a waste of your time and money. Like so many effective solutions to ‘pests’ the solution is usually simple and kind of fun. When your kids get home from school show them how successful you have been at trapping the insect pests around your home and garden.