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Farmer Fred tackles No. 1 turf pest

Fred and Debbie meet the beetles on latest podcast

Illustration of Japanese and green June bug beetles
A Japanese beetle, left, is much smaller than most people think.
It also is incredibly destructive. (Photos courtesy California
Department of Food and Agriculture)

Every summer, Sacramento gardeners look onto the Internet with alarm after spotting a shiny greenish beetle somewhere in their garden. Was it a Japanese beetle? Or a (much bigger) green June beetle? Or another lookalike scarab, a Figeater beetle?

Fortunately for us, it’s almost never a Japanese beetle, a scourge of the East Coast and Midwest. But in June 2020, 19 confirmed Japanese beetles (eight in Arden-Arcade, 11 in Rancho Cordova) were found in Sacramento County. That’s kept county agricultural authorities on alert: Besides eating more than 250 crops, Japanese beetles are the nation’s No 1 turf pest.

Local gardening experts "Farmer Fred" Hoffman and Sacramento Digs Gardening’s Debbie Arrington discussed the challenges of Japanese beetles during Fred’s latest podcast. Listen to it here:

Fred’s podcast is an online continuation of his popular radio broadcasts.

This beetle talk was spurred by a listener in Indiana who watched in horror this summer as her roses and hardy hibiscus were skeletonized. This was an annual problem. The question: How to stop the cycle?

Fred also discussed this problem in his “Garden Basics with Farmer Fred Newsletter.” Read it here:

Japanese beetle on a leaf
Keep an eye out for Japanese beetles, which are more coppery
than green.

Here’s how Sacramento County agriculture officials describe the Japanese beetle:

“Adults feed on the foliage and fruits of several hundred species of fruit trees, ornamental trees, shrubs, vines and field and vegetable crops. Among the plants most commonly damaged are apple, pears, cherries, corn, grapes, roses and turfgrass. Adults leave behind skeletonized leaves and large, irregular holes. The grubs develop in soil, feeding on the roots of various plants and grasses and often destroying turf in lawns, parks, golf courses and pastures.”

Japanese beetles, which measure under half an inch, look more coppery than brilliant green. In Sacramento, they’re often confused with two much larger, metallic-green summer insects: green June beetle (a.k.a June bug) and figeater beetle.

Usually appearing in (you guessed it) June, the green June beetle measures an inch long and feeds on decaying fruit or other organic matter. Native to the Southwest and Mexico, the figeater is even bigger, about 1-1/4 inches, and emerge from July through September. Both like to hang out in compost piles and mulch.

California ag officials ask homeowners to stay on the look out for Japanese beetles. If you suspect Japanese beetles in your garden, contact the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office 916-875-6603 or California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Pest Hotline at 800-491-1899.


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For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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