|A Japanese beetle couple in the Brooklyn Bridge Park roses.
|The Japanese beetle, Popillia japonica. Pretty!
The first report of Japanese beetles in the United States was from a plant nursery in New Jersey in 1916. The insects quickly spread to the wild and we have been trying to eradicate them ever since. Adult Japanese beetles eat flowers, vegetable crops, fruit trees, and ornamental plants. They are famous for eating the soft flesh of leaves from between the veins and leaving behind leaf skeletons. They eat soft rose petals completely. As if that were not bad enough, the larval stage lives in the soil and eats grass roots, damaging lawns. A Japanese beetle larva is a white worm-like "grub" that is about an inch long at maturity; it has three pairs of tiny legs and a round brown head.
After mating, a female Japanese beetle lays eggs in the soil. She lands on the ground and digs a burrow a few inches deep. She lays a few eggs and then she feeds and lays intermittently until she has ensconced a few dozen eggs in the soil. The eggs hatch into larvae by midsummer. The larvae burrow around underground, eating grass roots. When cold weather comes the larvae dig deep in the soil to spend the winter inactive far below the surface. In spring they burrow back up to root level and eat and eat and eat. After a brief pupal stage they emerge as adults and dig themselves out of the ground.
The Japanese beetle life cycle takes a year. Ten months of that are spent underground. Summer is their time to shine; they have just two adult summer months to fly in the sunlight and eat roses.
But Japanese beetles are not the only insects that have moved into the new park. I found the blue-winged wasp pictured below sipping nectar from goldenrod flowers in the park's water garden. The blue-winged wasp in about an inch long. Its head, antennae, and legs are black. Most of its abdomen is reddish brown. Two bright yellow spots on the upper surface of the abdomen make it easy to identify.
|The blue-winged wasp, Scolia dubia.
This is almost enough to make me stop complaining about mosquito bites -- obviously some species have much bigger insect problems!
|Blue iridescent reflections give the blue-winged wasp its common name.