Kill rose chafers before they kill your plants

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I am finding all of these weird little bugs that are half-an-inch long, tan-green in color with reddish brown, spiny legs all over my yard. They have a dark stripe down the middle of their backs. They eat leaves and flowers and are heaped on top of each other. I have sprayed many times already with insecticidal soap but they do not die. What are these and how do I kill them?

Your happy munchers are called rose chafers. They don’t really chafe or rub; they eat and they eat more than just roses. These beetles feed on flower petals, leaving big, ragged holes. They also feed on leaves, eating between the big veins. Favorite menu items include grapes, fruit trees, hollyhocks, geraniums, iris, poppies, foxgloves, peonies and Virginia creeper. These tiny eating machines are also using their time to “procreate.” They have combined two urgent activities into their short lifespan.

Beetles, in general, are like armored M1 Abrams tanks. It takes a great deal of firepower to cause them damage. Insecticidal soap is like using a squirt gun to shoot at the tank. It does nothing. But insecticidal soap is a great product for the right pests. It is a mechanical killer that cuts through the protective waxy coating on soft-bodied insects and causes them to dehydrate rapidly. It is the ideal weapon for small caterpillars and larvae, aphids, spider mites or newly hatched four-lined plant bugs or squash bugs. Your target must have a soft body and the insecticidal soap must be applied directly to the pests.

Beetles have hard shells. All insecticidal soap does is clean them up. For them, you need to use bigger guns. Products that are effective are carbaryl with a brand name of Sevin and others and cyfluthrin with a brand name of Bayer Advanced Garden Multi-Insect Killer. Most years, you will get about four weeks of feeding with the middle two weeks being the most severe.

End their little orgies of food and fun immediately.

I am worried about all those diseases that tomatoes get. I really like tomatoes and have a number of them growing in my garden. How do I know if I have a tomato disease and how do I treat them? I am not excited about having to buy dozens of kinds of fungicides.

Your tomato wishes have been answered. The great news is that one fungicide will prevent all tomato diseases and the dosage and timing for spraying is identical. It is always better to prevent fungal diseases rather than to try to cure them. If you have had problems in the past or really don’t want to deal with diseased plants, start spraying plants to prevent a disease from ever happening.

All fungicides are preventatives. None can cure a fungal disease once it has begun. So the goal is to start before there is anything to regret. The time to begin spraying is the first week of July or when the tomato has small tomato fruits, whichever comes first.

The easiest product to find is one with the active ingredient of chlorothalonil. This can be found in Ortho’s Daconil or Vegetable Disease Control or Bonide’s Fungonil. There is a fungicide made for organic gardeners called Serenade made by Agraquest. This may only be available online or in very limited number of stores.

The tomato diseases you will prevent if you use one of these products are: early blight, late blight, anthracnose and Septoria leaf spot. All of them mark leaves differently and progress at different speeds. It may only take three days for a tomato plant to die from late blight but it may take several months for it to die from Septoria. For any fungicide that you choose, use a pressurized sprayer and not a hose end sprayer and follow the label directions.

Contact Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator, at (517) 546-3950.


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Gretchen Voyle is the MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator. She can be reached at (517) 546-3950.