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Attack of the hoplia beetles

What happened to this rose? Hoplia beetles attacked it. (Photos:
Debbie Arrington)
This pest loves to eat light-colored roses and other spring flowers

What’s eating your roses? If it’s early May in Sacramento, most likely you’ve been visited by hoplia beetles.

This pest loves light-colored roses, especially white, yellow, apricot or light pink. It chews round holes in the petals as it works its way to the tasty center. It likes the unopened buds, too. But it doesn’t eat rose leaves – just the flowers.

According to UC Cooperative Extension master gardeners, hoplia beetles also feed on the flowers of calla, citrus, irises, lilies, magnolia, olive, peonies, poppies and strawberries, and on the young leaves and fruit of almonds, grapes and peaches.

In other words, these beetles are hungry, destructive pests.

Members of the monkey beetle family, hoplias are common in our area from late March through May, depending on the weather. More than 300 species of hoplia are known. Our most common local hoplias are Hoplia callipyge . The adults are brown, oval and about 1/4 inch long.

The adult beetles can fly, which is how they made it to your roses. They over-winter in the larval or pupal stage underground in undisturbed areas, feeding on roots and decaying vegetation. They emerge from the soil as adult beetles with an appetite. After feeding for several weeks, they fly back to their nesting site to lay eggs.

This life cycle takes a full year, which is key to their control. They’re only a problem right now. By the end of May, they’ll have disappeared.

This hoplia was eating a rose Sunday in midtown Sacramento.
Because the beetle tunnels into the bloom, chemical pesticides are not effective – or necessary. The pesticide has to come in direct contact with the beetle to kill it. In addition, systemic insecticides aren’t effective because concentrations of the poison in the plant’s petals aren’t high enough to be effective.

When you see a rose or other flower with hoplias, cut off the whole bloom, drop it in a plastic bag, seal and dispose of it.

Or use the bucket method: Fill a 5-gallon bucket with soapy water. Then, shake flowers suspected of containing beetles over the bucket. The beetles will fall in and drown.

Hoplias are attracted to white, so try this trick: Fill white buckets (preferably 5-gallon) or other large containers with water; the important thing is that these containers are white. Add a few drops of detergent to the water to break surface tension. Place these beetle traps at several locations among your rose bushes. Thinking it's a giant white bloom, hoplias will fly into the white bucket and meet a watery death.

The other solution? Stick to red roses; hoplias don’t like red.

For more information on hoplia beetles, check out the UC Integrated Pest Management pest notes at:


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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