If garden pests were music, Japanese beetles would arrive to the eerie creak of a fiddle and the rolling beat of a drum. The hollow whistle of the winds and the urgent discord of cymbals would announce their every step. Instead they sneak silently into my garden, their iridescent shells cloaked by morning shadows and sleep filled eyes. They devour roses and crawl deep into my Rose of Sharon blooms, ravaging the flowers with neat, circular bites. They hang from the leaves like jewels in an Ethiope's ear, heavy and full enough to make Shakespeare proud. They sway with the breeze but do not slip, their hunger sated only when their handiwork is done and the leaves resemble lace, the stems supporting a network of open space punctuated by rigid veins.
Shock and anger shake the sleep from my eyes and I run for my bucket of bleach water. Scooping them into my hand, they scramble and crawl across my palms before sliding to their death. Again and again this scene has played out in my garden, the beetles emerge as the victor, my garden the hapless victim, and I, the flailing fool.
Rose of SharonAct II
I stand in the pesticide row at the local garden store, contemplating my choices. So much death, so little time, and I feel my stomach twist and knot. I grab a bottle of systemic insecticide and thinking of the damage waiting at home, rationalize my choice, pay, and drive away. I mix, pour, apply. The soil reeks of chemicals and I avoid the garden, guilty and ashamed. The beetles die, the leaves grow back, but the garden is quiet. Birds avoid the Rose of Sharon and the butterflies are absent, the milkweed and parsley empty. I have created an oasis but poisoned the water.
My Abraham Darby rose is full of buds that will open to highly fragrant apricot pink blooms. This picture was taken today. The picture below is from summer 2012.
If being completely organic had a color it would be the blue of a can of milky spore and the chalky white of its powder. Brown beetles would be splashed with the green racing stripes of a swallowtail caterpillar and the ruby throat of a hummingbird. If words were replaced by emotions instead of evoking them, "garden" would feel like pure joy and the thrill of surprise. Long gone is the systemic insecticide poured at the base of my roses and Rose of Sharon. The role of the fool has been rewritten and my garden bursts with life. Bravo!! Bravo!!!
* A similar version of this post was originally published in September 2010. I stopped using pesticides in 2009 and applied milky spore to my lawn instead. The increase in wildlife was dramatic as was the significant decline in Japanese beetles. I no longer have any problems with beetles.