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MSU Extension Service

Home Grown is an educational, entertaining, question-answer column seen weekly in "News from the Genesee MSUE Office," a weekly newsletter for Genesee County Master Gardeners. Special thanks to the Genesee, Oakland and Livingston county MSU Extension offices for providing this service.

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2004 Editions

2005 Editions Jan - Jun

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HOME GROWN 308

For a couple of nights last week, I heard something weird outside at night. It was dark and about nine or ten oíclock and there was this intense buzzing coming from the top of one of my trees. It sounded like hundreds of insects. I think it was bees or wasps but I couldnít see them. Iím really nervous about what they are doing.

Could those insects be plotting revenge for all the cans of Raid and little boys jumping on ants on the sidewalk? This wasnít a war party; it was a date-and-mate party. Your unseen insects are European Chafers. They gather after dark to get down to that perpetuation of the species stuff. They look like small tan June Bugs and are about three-fourths of an inch long. At dusk, they fly to tall objects, like trees or chimneys. Then the party begins. Iím already anticipating the next question. Are they eating my trees or doing something to my house if I hear them around the chimney? No, they do no feeding or masonry work as adults. The worst they can muster is doing a bit of leaf ripping with their feet as they hang out in the trees or being dumb and falling down the chimney. The possible threat is not by the adult beetle. It would come from their yet to be born children. Mommy Chafer will land on grassy areas and lay her eggs. Her children will hatch in mid to late July and begin to feed on the roots of the grass. Grubs? Grass damage? Well, hereís our main lawn damager. When you are aware of mating swarms, this is a good indication of what to come. Itís certainly not guaranteed, but there is a real possibility of getting lawn damage in the late summer and fall. When the kiddies graze the roots off your grass, you can end up with dead patches of turf. This is the time to treat for grubs if you choose to. Look at the local stores for a lawn product that contains Imidacloprid. It comes in products like Bayer Season Long Grub Control or Grubex. The active ingredient is crucial to controlling European Chafers. Other active ingredients wonít give the same results. Follow 
their directions. Fear not the parent but their myriad offspring.

Since I retired this year, I decided to take better care of my fruit trees. I want to have enough fruit for the kids and the grand kids. At the end of June, I began finding small fruit on the ground. Every day, there were more. Iíve taken better care of these trees than ever before. I am spraying them and trying to do a good job. I think that they will all fall off. So what happened?

You retired. The same stuff has been going on ever since the trees were old enough to bear fruit. You just didnít notice it because you had so many other things to do. This ďproblemĒ is so common it even has its own name: June drop. The trees bloom. The happy bees and other insects flap about pollinating the flowers. The flowers become fruit. But being careless bees that donít take their job seriously enough, some didnít get pollinated. If the weather was especially cold or windy, their work could be even more haphazard. The tree begins making all the flowers into fruit, even the unpollinated ones. By the end of June or early July, the tree realizes that some were not pollinated and dumps them. Those selfish trees are in this only for themselves. They want to make seeds and the fruit is just incidental. If the fruit wasnít fertilized, it gets thrown overboard. Relax and realize that there should still be plenty of fruit left for the family. If every fruit grew to adulthood, there would lots and lots of tiny fruit. A bit of thinning is not a bad thing.

Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture
Agent 517/546-3950

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