Concord Grapes: 1 Japanese Beetles: 0
If you live anywhere in the Northeast of the US and you love growing grapes, then you should be familiar with a little thing called Popillia japonica. Oh, I’m sorry, I mean Japanese beetles. Yes, those lovely darlings that come visit my garden every summer. In droves!
Hundreds of them descend on my Concord grapes. Not on the grapes themselves but they were all over the leaves. Every last inch of them. Here’s what my grapes looked like after a beautiful mid-summer shower. Lovely bunches waiting to ripen and look at those leaves! Full and glistening.
See the holes in the leaves and how they’ve turned brown? Not good. Sure, the grapes are untouched and I’m happy about that. Can you sense a “BUT” coming on? There are 2 BUTS actually.
1. The grapes are now exposed to the elements. If the grapes get too wet, they can grow mold and fungus. If they get too much sun, they can be dry and tough. Birds also love grapes and now they can clearly see them.
2. The energy and sugars that would have gone into ripening the grapes are now directed toward leaf regeneration. The grapes could be less sweet than expected with some bunches not ripening at all.
I didn’t want either of these happening so here is what I did. First I headed to my local garden center and scoured the shelves for the meanest, most potent Japanese beetle pesticide there was. When you see hundreds of beetles like I did, it sends you into a panic! I found a few bottles (5 actually), headed for the counter fully intending to race through the checkout, head home, and start a-sprayin’. Those beetles would have had nothing on me. I was armed and very dangerous. Then my rational side got the better of me. In other words, I did not want pesticide-laced grapes. That’s not the kind of dangerous I was hoping for. And my arms were aching from holding the heavy bottles while waiting in line. But that’s not the point!
So, I put the bottles back, headed to another aisle, and instead, picked up a few beetle traps. They consisted of pheromone pads strategically placed in a plastic casing. I’d heard that they work by attracting the beetles. Wait…am I going to attract MORE beetles? Sheesh, can’t catch a break. But it was better than picking them off 1 by 1. I set up 3 traps and within a few hours, there they were! Now what could I do with all of those darn bugs. Aha! The Chickens!
OK, so I have a few chickens in the back yard and I tried the beetles out on them. MY CHICKENS LOVED THEM! Free food and no pesticides. I had hit the jackpot. Sorta. It turns out that by the end of the day, there were about 100 beetles in the traps. My 3 hens could not keep up. The “excess” got churned in the compost.
So there you have it. Economical, simple, and safe pest control for your grapes. Here’s a shot of some of my grapes. Perfectly sweet bunches with the smoothest bluish-purple skin.