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Insect information roundup

By John Fulton

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[July 14, 2009]  Well, not a week has passed, and an insect similar in appearance to the Japanese beetle has made its annual appearance. No, you don't have monster Japanese beetles. That insect is the green June bug. These beetles are much larger than either June bugs or Japanese beetles. Most people are concerned that they have bumblebees because of the buzzing sound the beetles make when flying.

DonutsGreen June bugs are also called fig eaters. This is because they can eat soft-fleshed fruits such as grapes, plums, peaches and apricots. In their larval stage they are a grub, but they don't do a lot of turf damage like the normal June bug. They tend to be in places high in organic matter, such as flower beds, gardens, compost piles and under shrubs, so the grubs aren't turf pests.

As for control, there is probably none necessary unless you need to protect those soft- fleshed fruits. Then you should follow the recommended spray program so you don't cause problems with the fruit later on. The green June bug doesn't sting or bite, so you can put them in the nuisance pest category. The main damage they can do is fly into you, and that can hurt. On the bright side, you are probably already protecting things of value from the Japanese beetles, so you may be covered.

Cicada killer wasps

The cicada killer wasps will return shortly. They are actually considered beneficial insects because they control cicadas and katydids. This wasp gets its common name due to the fact that it hunts and supplies its nest chambers with a cicada, which becomes a food source for the young wasp. Cicada killers are a nuisance pest, especially when nesting in large numbers in a play area or near the house. People get concerned because the cicada killers resemble giant yellow jackets.

Cicada killers are about 2 inches long and black to red, with yellow banded markings on the abdomen. The head and transparent wings are reddish brown. They are not dangerous, but they are intimidating. Cicada killers are solitary wasps, with the female digging a 6- to 10-inch burrow (one-half inch in diameter) in the ground. A pile of soil typically surrounds the entrance. The female locates and stings a large insect such as a cicada or katydid and then brings it back to the burrow. She places the insect into a chamber and lays an egg on it; sometimes she puts two in a burrow but lays an egg on only one. She then covers the burrow, digs another and repeats the process. The egg hatches into a grublike, legless larva that consumes the paralyzed insect. Full-grown larvae overwinter in the burrow, pupate in the spring and emerge as adults during the summer, usually in July and August.

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Cicada killers are unlikely to sting a person. Wasp and bee stingers are modified egg-laying devices (ovipositors), so males are not able to sting. Females may sting if crushed, either by being stepped on with bare feet or grabbed with bare hands.

Cicada killers are more common in areas with bare soil, so mulching, planting ground covers or putting down sod can reduce problems. Applying permethrin or Sevin (some suggest the Sevin dust gives better control) to the burrowed area should kill females in high-traffic areas. Once females are gone, males leave. In home yards, sandboxes can be covered with a tarp when not in use, as this deters the wasps (and also keeps cats out). Sand below swings, jungle gyms or other playground equipment is a popular site for the cicada killer. Raking the sand may discourage the wasps, or you could use mulch instead of the sand. In extreme nuisance situations, treatment of burrowing areas with a pyrethroid insecticide or carbaryl may reduce problems.

Japanese beetle update

Numbers of Japanese beetles continue to increase. Trap captures have doubled in the last week. This would indicate peak emergence is at least 10 days to two weeks slower than normal. It also means the beetles will be with us for a longer time. The extended time means probable feeding through the end of August, with some beetles present until frost.

[By JOHN FULTON, University of Illinois Extension, Logan County]


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