The Q&A Archives: Controlling beetles

Question: I planted about 30 Basil plants last spring that just about got devoured by beetles, starting around May and continuing until mid June. The beetles are nocturnal, brown, and had just about defoliated my foot high beautiful basil plants. I took one to the local garden center and they said it was not a Japanese Beetle, and were not sure of the origin. It seemed a little smaller than a Japanese beetle, and lacked the blue-green head coloration. I never did I.D. this culprit. I finally had to resort to chemical pesticide or lose the entire crop. Is there anything I can do about this for next season? I want to start a vegetable garden as well, but I am afraid of a similar result. I don't want to use pesticides again. Do most beetles come up from the soil below the plants? If so, can I treat the soil or disturb it now to kill the larvae? Michael Faraino Viginia Beach, VA

Answer: I'm not sure what exactly your beetle pest is; there are so many possibilities I'd need to see one. But one pest control method that might work for you is a row cover. As soon as you plant your basil, cover with a floating row cover -- these are made of a very lightweight fabric that can be left on the plants throughout the growing season. Secure the row cover around the bed by burying the edges in the soil. This should help exclude your pests.

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