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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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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