Volkswagens in Love.By T.W. Burger.
The flower garden was going pretty well until recently, when I noted that a number of leaves had gone to lace, as though putting on airs. Japanese
As a kid, I always thought Japanese beetles were kind of pretty, like small jewels.
That was then. This is now.
Now, there they were, uncountable clusters of them. I swear, on quiet afternoons I can hear them chewing.
So, what to do? I have no experience in these matters. A friend suggested a new kind of trap, the nature of which I still find vaguely disquieting.
Apparently, bug scientists have come up with bait for these traps that not only attracts the beetles, but fills them with desire. No, not desire; raw, drooling lust is more like it.
"It's really simple," my friend said. "The beetles are fooled into this mating frenzy, and then they fall into this trap and can't get out."
Frankly, it sounded an awful lot like my life during my 20s and 30s. But, putting my queasiness aside, I got some of the traps and placed them in strategic positions around my garden.
It is a scene I find nearly impossible to describe without leaping far beyond the boundaries of good taste. Think of an armored office Christmas party, or an orgy of animated beans. Think of Volkswagens in Love.
The idea behind the traps is that there is this little thing that holds the bait, some little sponge or something sopping with lust-making beetle pheromone juice. The beetles, thoroughly porcupined by Cupid's arrows, clamber all over the upper part of the trap and, in this case, the branch to which it is tied, cheerfully greeting and getting to know 20 and 30 of their
best friends, one after the other.
Finally, exhausted, they fall into an hourglass-shaped plastic bag, from which there is no escape.
They don't stop, um, greeting one another in the bag either. I made the mistake of picking one of the bags up in my cupped hand when it must have had a couple hundred beetles in it. I will probably have nightmares.
But, nightmares aside, the traps worked. Sure enough, the cannas, the ones that haven't already been turned into brown doilies, are standing in the sunshine un-munched and peaceful.
The question arose of what to do with this embarrassment of beetles once they have greeted themselves to death. Remembering that someone I know swears they make great fish bait, I took a squirming bagful to the back yard and dumped them into Marsh Creek.
A shimmering wad of Japanese beetles plopped into the water and bobbed to the surface, separating as they made it to the surface. A few managed to drag themselves up onto the bank, there perhaps to reflect on what must have seemed a remarkable day. The remainder of the flotilla paddled around in the grip of the main current, swinging out into the broad body of the creek above the dam. It was still the hot part of the day, so the big fish had not yet started feeding,but a few smaller fish began to thin the numbers of the convoy, some of whom seemed to be merely waving their legs around drunkenly.
Perhaps they still thought they were at the party.
The galaxy of dizzy jewels drifted out of perception. It would be twilight soon. I did not think they would be swimming for long. The thought struck me as I headed back up the hill that whatever substance so love-struck the beetles might make its way into the fish population of the creek. By that time the next day, Marsh Creek could be filled to the brim with randy bass, lovesick carp, and catfish inclined to compose bad verse. What have I done? I thought.
I went to the tree to sling the plastic bag back under the bait. The leaves on the branch above bore a darkly shimmering mass of very friendly beetles.
"The wages of sin is death!" I yelled.
Nobody listened. Nobody ever does.
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