This week we've been battling a certifiable infestation. Beetles showed up by the dozen recently and have been munching their way through our field. Many of our crops have been affected (apparently the beetles are not picky eaters), although they do seem to have a sweet tooth and chow down on our basil and flowers the most vigorously.
After seeing the damage that the beetles were causing on our new beautiful cabbage heads and chard, we decided that we needed to figure out exactly who we were dealing with. After a little research into common Massachusetts pests we found it: the rose chafer. Known for its ability to make quick work of killing a rose bush, the rose chafer often emerges in June and chews on just about everything. Yikes.
We are handling the beetles using a few different organic pest management strategies. First, we removed the beetles that were on the crops already before they could do any more damage. This meant that we had to do a good old fashioned beetle smoosh. You can also kill them by drowning them into a bucket of soapy water. To protect the crops from any additional beetles coming to the all-you-can-eat buffet, we chose to continue to cover many of our crops with a light, white fabric called row cover.
Both of these solutions will help our crops this season, but to prevent this infestation from happening every year we may want to think about introducing beneficial nematodes, or microscopic worms, this fall to kill the grubs before next season. Luckily we seem to have avoided any major crop losses this spring by catching the beetles early, but it was alarming to see how much damage they could do in a short amount of time. Organic pest management can be tricky, but it's worth it to have food and soil that are free from chemical pesticides.