Thumbnail Mel Bellar (1)By Mel Bellar

I want to thank my friend and Gazette column colleague, Jack McShane, for not killing angry bumble bees for me. It is very thoughtful of him as we do need these native critters to pollinate our plants, especially since the non-native honey bee is in such danger and can’t “bee” counted on these days. I am not AS critter crazy as Jack, but I admire and value most of our critters and certainly applaud his vehemence against the use of pesticides (I hope that is an accurate representation of his feelings).

As a gardener and landscape professional I avoid using any chemicals, pesticides included, unless backed into a corner. My wife and I recently had to employ an exterminator to rid our log home of carpenter bees. Talk about angry bees! Yow, those guys were aggressive. Anyway, the only non-pesticide way to get rid of them (and save our home) that we could find was from the Web and included spraying WD-40 into all of the holes, stuffing them with steel wool and then caulking them. That was not happening, so we called Pestech and thankfully the bees have not returned.

Other than the deer J, my least favorite creature is the Japanese beetle, Popillia japonica “Newman”. These critters can drive me critter crazy as they turn my grape leaves into lace and ravage everything from roses, hollyhocks and queen of the prairie. When you talk to your kindred crazed, you will hear of many possible solutions ranging from killing the grubs in the ground or on the plants, to traps, to my preferred garden therapy method: squishing them between my fingers L.

There are numerous products for killing grubs (nascent beetles) including BT, milky spore and other beneficial nematodes. Suffice it to say, it takes some diligence, patience and limited property to make this work, and I don’t have enough words in this column to share my experiences in this area. I don’t really like dealing with sprays, organic or not, because I am always afraid they are going to do something bad to our beneficial insects but neem oil is used by many and I think is O.K.

The traps are supposed to kill about 75% of the beetles they attract, but they do attract more than you would have otherwise, so you have to put the traps at the edge of your property. My friend and owner of the Catskill Native Nursery says that the traps use a pheromone that attracts mostly male beetles, while the females go about their business of eating your plants and laying a gazillion eggs each day. As we all know these critters are ALWAYS copulating, so they do need males. The conclusion Diane drew was that the traps were very effective at capturing the less intelligent males. That is a great way to keep the gene pool strong! I truly think that the most effective way (and I have heard more than 2 trusted sources say they have eradicated their problem) is to religiously knock the beetles off into a can of soapy water or gasoline, and with enough persistence you can have an effect over time. I got all excited this year when I seemed to have enthusiastic expert, demonstrates the new technique at work.

Swing up Bussey Hollow to Charles and Cynthia Bonnes’s must-see estate: formal gardens, linked ponds, lovely view. Two gardens on Crescent Hill beckon: Linda and Peter Lederman’s tranquil Japanese garden and beautifully landscaped pond and an extraordinary display by a pro, the Gazette’s own Garden Therapist Mel and Peggy Bellar.

Susan Stetson says, “I had a thoroughly enjoyable day. Special thanks to Lynn who served refreshing lemonade and Tay [Home] cookies. A nice touch!”

The happy tour-ists, gracious gardeners, and the library all look forward to next year! ~