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Japanese Beetles Poised To Tear Up Local Gardens

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CHATHAM COUNTY, N.C. — They are just now starting to emerge and are ready to tear up your garden. But are they June bugs or Japanese beetles?

"They're not very energetic today," Chatham County Extension Agent Al Cooke said as he picked a bug off a leaf. "But here's our baby."

"Our baby" is a Japanese beetle. First seen in America about 1916, they've been chomping on leaves and flowers ever since. They often are called June bugs by mistake.

"They come out in June," Cooke said. "I guess part of the problem with common names is they are applied kind of randomly. One person's June bug is another person's Japanese beetle."

Japanese beetles

have a voracious appetite, and they are hard to get rid of. Pesticides only work for a short period and can kill bugs that help your yard.

"You can hand pick them," Cooke said, "which is fairly satisfying for some people because you get to squash them or drop them in a jar of soapy water, or something like that."

There are "bug bags" sold in hardware and garden stores designed to capture beetles. But the bait can attract more beetles then the trap can capture.

Dr. Dave Stephan, a bug expert with North Carolina State University, said it may be better to just save your money than buy one of those traps.

"You'll end up just having more beetles in your yard than you might have had without the trap," Stephan said.

According to Stephan, true June bugs actually come out in July. They're much larger than Japanese beetles and don't do much damage to plants.

Because of all the recent rain in the area, the plants that beetles feed on are thriving. But the rain also has spawned more diseases that kill the beetles.


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