Trap draws beetles, which eat their fill in their rush to die

Garden Q&A

July 21, 1996

My purple-leaf plum tree is swarming with Japanese beetles. My neighbors have a beetle trap, but I have the beetles. Should I get one, too?

No! The attractant in the traps is a powerful sex hormone, luring adult beetles from miles around to your area. On the way to the traps, the beetles are eating the leaves on your tree.

Suggest to your neighbors that they might remove their traps or, at the least, place them a distance from valuable landscape plants.

Try to resist the temptation to use a broad-spectrum residual insecticide, which will kill beneficial insects along with the Japanese beetles.

On a smaller plant, hand-pick them early in the morning and drop them into a can of soap water.

I've noticed that my cucumber plants are wilting even though I give them plenty of water. What causes this?

The main cause of wilting cucumbers at this time of the year is a disease called bacterial wilt. The disease enters the plant when striped or spotted cucumber beetles feed on the plants' leaves, stems or fruit. The beetles are about a quarter-inch long, yellow to black, with either three stripes or black spots on their backs.

You can determine whether or not your plants have this disease with a simple test. If the wilting on the foliage does not recover after watering in the evening, take a knife and cut across an affected branch. Hold the cut ends together and pull them apart. If you see strings of white sappy ooze, your plant is affected by tTC bacterial wilt.

Pull up the infected plants. It's not too late to replant cucumbers. Look for such varieties as "H-19 Little Leaf" or "Saladin." They resist bacterial wilt.

To keep cucumber beetles from your plants, cover them with a fabric called floating row cover -- a spun bond, polyester fabric. Remove the row cover after blooms appear. At the end of the season, destroy any garden debris so the beetles won't have a place to spend the winter. Till the soil after the weather turns cold.

The tips of my grass blades all turn white and look shredded after I mow my lawn. What am I doing wrong?

The main culprit is a dull mower blade. A dull blade will not cut the grass cleanly and as a result will cause the tip to shred, giving an overall whitish cast to the lawn. A dull blade not only affects the appearance but may also damage the tips enough to enable turf diseases to gain entry. The solution is as easy as sharpening or blade replacement.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these or other gardening questions, call the center's toll-free hot line at (800) 342-2507 to talk with a horticultural consultant or listen to tapes covering the most common garden problems.

Checklist

Avoid cultivating wet soil to prevent compaction.

Remove any severely diseased or blighted plants promptly from the garden to prevent disease spread.

Prune all spring flowering trees and shrubs.

Monitor for slug and millipede pests during wet weather.

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