Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of me feeding the beetles to the chickens. But believe me when I tell you they COME RUNNING for them! I can't just put out a bowl (or even several bowls) because they fight over those beetles! So, instead, I cast out handfuls in all directions so that everyone has a shot at getting some. (Similarly, I spread the navy beans out in lots of small piles because I can't cast them like I do the beetles.) **NOTE-November 2014: I now have photos of the chickens eating beetles! Here is the link to that page/section.**
So as you can see, the time it takes me to collect the beetles in the summer helps to lower my feed bill in addition to providing some variety to the chickens' diet during the winter.
Truly a blessing.
Oh, in case any of you were wondering about my neighbor's crops... they are modern ag-folk. I can't say for certain that they do or don't use GMO seed, but I highly suspect they do... it's the norm, unfortunately. One of my neighbors was using a crop duster to spread insecticide and that is devastating to my setup. I'm TRULY hoping that by luring and trapping, he won't need to do that any more... that the number of beetles he sees is not high enough to make him pay for insecticides and especially not a crop duster. One of these days, I'm going to get up the courage to talk to them about this and maybe expand my traps along more of their fields... to help them AND me.
UPDATE: August 4, 2015
Japanese Beetle season is going hot and heavy (as of July 3). It started about 2 weeks earlier than last year. Today only 5 out of 17 traps were not full to overflowing. The hubby has been walking the traps with me in the evenings so he can hold a bucket with one of the freezer bags in it while I dumped the excess beetles into it so as to twist tie closed the regular bag.
I sure hated to leave all those beetles hanging out around the trap, but hopefully they will make their way into the fresh bag on the morrow.
The birds are happy, the freezer is officially full (as of July 19) and the chickens and turkeys are getting the excess beetles! There is a video on the Facebook page. I'm working on getting a YouTube account so I can link videos directly from this website.
It's a good thing that we have filled up the 22 cubic foot freezer with Japanese Beetles already (yes, there is a BIT of sarcasm there --- a very HEAVY year for the nasty critters) because the crop duster showed up on Thursday (July 16) to our north and this evening has been busy on the fields to our south. Fortunately, the winds have been light and from the direction that moves the residue away from our acreage.
I had thought that the peak time of beetles had passed (a week or two early) but it may just be dusting of pesticides that have reduced the population. Not to mention the population of any beneficial insects in the area.
The last time they dusted around us, we were without wild birds for two years... nothing for them to eat. Hopefully, our little farm was spared and the bird population will find lots to eat here.
Anyway, it makes me sad.
So far (8-4-15), I haven't noticed any reduction of insects or birds on the property due to the crop duster. I registered us on the DriftWatch website because of the honeybees... perhaps that is why. I certainly hope so.
UPDATE: August 3, 2016
From the June 23 Status Report: The Japanese Beetles (JB) are back with a vengeance! The early hot weather brought them out a couple of weeks early and I appear to have missed the slow build up period and got the traps/bags out just in time. Hopefully, this will get them out of the way a few weeks early as well. I can dream, can't I? LOL
Since I don't have chickens to feed the beetles to and my freezer is FULL of beef FOR SALE... I'm working out how to dispose of the things. My most recent thoughts are to stun them in the freezer for a couple of days and then pour them into a bucket and put neem oil/soapy water over them and cover that for a day or two. It SHOULD drown the hungry critters. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm also planning to use some to make a "tea" to spray on plants as a repellant, will also let you know how THAT goes.
New Routine: I should also share with you that some critter (raccoon, opossum... your guess is as good as mine) really ticked me off by shredding several of the bags that I left on overnight. Brand new bags! Grrr. They were obviously going for the beetles which is great, but don't ruin my traps! Since I couldn't do anything about the critter, I had to change my routine regarding collecting bagged beetles.
Every evening once the shadows were long and the air cooler (less JB active and flying), I made the rounds and took off the bags no matter how many JB were in them... leaving just the yellow vanes with the lure (ouch -- but remember the JB is not active in the dark, so not likely to be lured during that time). In the morning, early, while the air was still cool and shadows long, I put up empty bags. This meant instead of walking my traps once a day, I got to walk them twice a day.
I left the full bags in the freezer overnight and dumped them into the umbrella bags in the morning and then washed those newly emptied bags and left them drying on the clothes line to be used the next day (like usual).
To Lure/Trap or Not? I started out this year putting up lure/traps JUST on the acreage around the fruit crops. I debated about putting them up at all and here's why I decided to put them up: you can only trap 50 to 60 percent of the beetles that come up out of the ground (or that are lured from somewhere else) and that means there would be lots of beetles already in the ground from 2015 on my farm.
I ended up with 17 lure/traps and probably because I missed the initial build up, the traps were overflowing almost immediately. I have discovered new research that discusses the signal chemicals/pheronomes that early beetles leave on the plants they find so that other beetles can easily find the food source. By trapping the EARLY beetles (or picking them off the plants or however you remove them), you minimize the mass migration later. Or conversely, if you DON'T remove those early beetles, be ready for the mass migration to visit your plants. And so now I know why, even WITH the traps, the mass migrations of Japanese Beetles inundated my plants. AAGGGHHH!
The stream of consciousness that went through my mind went something like this....
The number of JB coming from elsewhere is probably much higher than the number that are coming out of the ground around my plants. Which SHOULD mean that if I take down the lure/traps, the number of JB ON my plants SHOULD be reduced. BUT, the call of the JB that there is food here is ALREADY on my plants, so I really need to trap as many of them as possible. How can I trap them without luring more? Would the traps work without the lures? Can I take that chance? I am running out of space in the freezer to kill the JB and don't know any other way to kill them once they are trapped.
Ultimately, I decided that if my fruit plants all die because of JB... then I will simply be out of the fruit farming business. What will be, will be. Which is why during the 2nd week of July (the JB having been around for about 6 weeks and some reduction of numbers in the traps) I took the LURES out of the traps and left the yellow vanes with the bags in place (still walking the traps at night to remove the bags and again in the morning to put out new bags). Surprisingly (or maybe not if the yellow plastic vanes had picked up some of the floral/pheronome lure chemicals), there were JB in the bags everyday for the next week. Not very many, but still, better than none.
Experimental "Tea" Repellent: During this week of no lure traps, I started removing JB from the freezer to make the experimental "tea" to use (hopefully) as a repellant. I left those JB in a bucket of water for three (3) days to "steep". I covered the bucket at night to reduce the possibility of a critter dumping it over. That "tea" certainly did attract flies and American Carrion Beetles! The decomp smell was obvious. I strained the beetles from the "tea" and put the liquid into the sprayer. I added a small amount of Basic H, some neem oil and some of the orchard nutrient mix I had made in the Spring (a little boost of enzymes surely couldn't hurt).
The strawberry plants and rhubarb were all but gone by this time, so since I obviously wouldn't be getting any more harvests from them this year, I used that bed as one of the test sites for the "tea". I also used a decorative bush that was inundated and the Basswood sapling closest to the house. I did the spraying very early in the morning for two (2) reasons: 1) the summer temps have been EXTREMELY HIGH and it's been HUMID as usual, so early morning was the lowest temps of the day and 2) the wind is usually at its calmest close to dawn.
That stuff smelled horrible!! I did my best to keep the spray off me. But the smell lingered in my sinuses even after my thorough shower and I was thankful to have incense to burn in the house.
I saturated the test sites and saw that the force of the spray did knock some of the JB off the plants, but not all of them. I continued to make the rounds of the test sites until the sprayer was empty. So basically, the "tea" had a chance to dry and then another spray was applied.
Once the sprayer was empty and as I was attempting to clean it out, I realized that there was still quite a bit of soap (Basic H) in it. So I simply filled the sprayer with water and used the soapy water on some additional plants as a second test. Those plants were: one of the Aronia berry bushes, a PawPaw tree, and the worst hit Gala Apple tree (only the Aronia berry had fruit). Is it possible there was still some "tea" in this mix? Of course, but it would have been such a small amount of residue.
Once again, I saturated the 2nd test sites and saw the same force of spray knock some of the JB off the plants. (I will admit to shaking these plants in an effort to remove the JB.) I also continued to make the rounds as before until the sprayer was empty.
This time, when I went to clean the sprayer, there was relatively no soap left. I used the handy, dandy Sals Suds to clean it and, yes, I did spray the soapy water on some other plants while getting it out of the the sprayer hose etc.
Here is what I learned from these sprayings: initially the number of JB on the "tea" test sites that were not shaken or sprayed off continued to eat. But after a couple of days, I noticed no NEW damage. And the number of JB did not increase on those plants.
I found the same to be true of the soapy water test sites.
So, was it the decomp tea? or was it the Basic H? Or was there just enough residue from the decomp tea in the Basic H?
Regardless, it occurs to me that I should make up a batch of the decomp tea before the 2017 season and spray strips of cloth to hang AROUND my plants (so as not to get it ON the plants) to use as a deterrent for those "scout" beetles. Then, I can use the Basic H alone to spray the plants during the first couple of weeks of the season as an additional deterrent.
How to Dispose without Freezing? The next thing I was experimenting with was how to dispose of JB using a minimum amount of freezer space (or none at all). I had some JB that had been in the freezer about seven (7) days (which is three (3) days shy of what the bug guys at Lincoln University say takes to kill them). Using 5-gal buckets with lids, I put a tablespoon of Basic H in, dumped the frozen JB in (about 3/4 full) and then filled the bucket with water. Because the JB were frozen, they did not initially float and the soapy water enveloped them. I put the lids on and left the sealed buckets outside for several days. When I removed the lids, the JB had floated to the top and there was NO movement. I put the lids back on and agitated the buckets to swish the soapy water over even the floating beetles and left them for another day or so. After about a week total, I was absolutely sure they were dead.
I already knew that the dead JB make excellent fertilizer. So I spent one morning hauling (in my 2-wheel cart) the buckets of JB and the soapy tea around my Aronia berry bushes and the big Crab Apple tree, spreading both the beetles and the soapy tea at the base and out to the drip lines.
I figure the JB eat my bushes etc, they can feed them as well!
The future and how to reduce the JB numbers for 2017: Research is very helpful. I already knew that moles feed on JB larvae. Well, surprise, surprise, there are LOTS of moles in the ground on my farm. I welcome them in moderation, but come on! Too much of anything is a problem. So I discovered that there are nematodes that ALSO feed on JB larvae and are beneficial additions to the soil. So, I am ordering enough to spray into the ground around all my fruit plants, trees, etc. and the nearby pastures. This is done during late August, early September to get the larvae at the appropriately yummy point of development.
Spring repellent and Fall nematodes appear to be my next best chance at controlling Japanese Beetles without poison and without poultry.
I'll let you know how it goes.