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By late May, beetles begin damaging the leaves of flowers and vegetables. This year, a new, non-toxic beetle and grub control product may tip the balance in favor of gardeners. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Connolly )
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It may seem hard to get excited about something with a name like Bacillus thuringiensis galleriae. But if you’ve ever done battle with lawn grubs, you’ll understand completely. This natural soil- and foliage-dwelling microbe (the abbreviation is Btg) has shown a high degree of effectiveness against beetles and grubs. It has passed a variety of academic trials in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, and New York since 2006. This year, Btg will be on the market for grub and beetle control.
“Grub control is one of the holy grails for organic lawn care providers,” says Joe Magazzi, a UConn graduate in neurobiology and genetics who founded Green Earth Ag & Turf in Branford six years ago. Green Earth is one of the first in the country to distribute two new products based on Btg.
“These two products may be game changers for gardeners, landscapers, and farmers,” says Magazzi.
For lawn grubs, Btg is packaged in granular form as grubGONE!. For adult beetles, it is available as a foliar spray called beetleGONE!. The foliar spray is compliant with the USDA National Organic Program for organic crop production.
We have as many as eight species of grub-producing beetles gearing up right now for their annual cycle. First, the adult beetles eat the leaves on our flowers and veggies. Then, their soil-dwelling grub babies will hatch and eat grass roots. Crows and skunks will dig for tasty grub snacks. Moles, whose tunneling ability is the envy of civil engineers, will zip through the root zone on a grocery run. Then, the abandoned mole tunnels become superhighways for vegetarian voles on their way to lunch at the Grass Roots Café. It’s a jungle out there!
True, chemical grub killers are effective, but they come with significant warning labels for toxicity to other life forms, including pollinators, pets, and people.
Low-toxicity solutions are used in organic land care, but they are either difficult to use (beneficial nematodes) or not effective against the full range of grubs (milky spore).
Btg works against both the adult and grub forms of Japanese beetle, Oriental beetle, Asiatic garden beetle, European chafer, northern masked chafer, southern masked chafer, and May and June beetles. It is not genetically engineered. Like other Bt products, Btg produces crystalline proteins inside the scarab beetles and weevils that causes them to stop eating and die within a few days.
Bt products in general pose no risk to lady beetles, pollinators such as butterflies and bees, parasitoid wasps, aquatic animals, birds, and domestic pets. It is considered bee-safe by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a leading group in the battle to protect pollinating insects.
What about cost?
“Compared to some popular grub products, this is about 25 percent more for a single application,” says Magazzi, adding that a single annual application is all that’s needed.
“Compared to the expense of repairing a grub-infested lawn, the incremental expense is almost negligible.” Magazzi adds, “and you also get peace of mind about unwanted effects on pollinators and pets.”
The liquid form, beetleGONE!, is best used when adult beetles are active in the garden. In our area, that is usually late May through the middle of July. The granular grubGONE! is applied with a typical lawn spreader. Unused material can remain effective in the bag up to two years.
“It will be a great day when we can recommend a full suite of organic lawn care products,” says Magazzi. “And maybe we’re almost there.”
For more information on these products and grub control, visit Green Earth Ag & Turf’s website, www.greenearthagandturf.com, or call Joe Magazzi at 866-374-5101.
Kathy Connolly is a landscape designer, garden writer, and speaker from Old Saybrook. She will offer a seminar, “Grow Your Own Meadow: Large or Small,” on May 30 in Middlefield. For more information, visit www.speakingoflandscapes.com.
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