Last week, we hosted a group of gardeners to learn about invasive bugs and slugs. The presentation is part of a series of enrichment activities for our Gaiety Hollow and Deepwood garden volunteers. However, we decided to open the presentation to a wider audience. Come Friday morning, we had cozy mixed group of our Conservancy garden volunteers as well as gardeners from Deepwood, Friends of Bush Gardens, and the Bug Group from the Marion County Master Gardeners. It was nice to see new faces at Gaiety Hollow and introduce them to the Lord & Schryver legacy.
Jim Labonte and Tom Valente, entomologists from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (DOA), led us through a lively presentation on pests in our gardens and parks. They also talked about threats–those looming on the horizon or knocking on our door.
Global trade is a wonderful thing, but it carries a terrible price in the form of damaging, invasive, exotic species,” LaBonte says. “It’s directly related to volume. The more you ship in, the greater the chance of getting something you don’t want.
Gardeners tend to share plants. We are learning the hard way that we are also sharing pests.
A hot topic was Japanese beetles. If you have lived in the Midwest or East Coast, you know the destruction caused by Japanese beetles. They seem to eat everything. Grapes. Hops. Cannabis. Roses. We do not want them in Oregon!
Turns out, they are already in western Portland. The Department of Agriculture is undertaking a huge suppression program this spring. They are trying to eradicate the beetles before it is too late.
How can you help?
- Urge your friends and family in Portland to participate in the suppression program. There are two open house events in early February.
- Don’t move plants with soil from the Portland area. (Japanese beetle eggs or larva may be in the soil.)
- Don’t bring plants from the Midwest or East Coast with soil. If you order plants, they must be bare root.
- Watch for damage in your own yard and alert the DOA immediately if you think you have the beetles.
We were also warned about the “Asian jumping worm“. Why should we be worried about this worm? It is such a good composter that it is destroying our soil structure and throwing off the natural system of our forests. It eats through the leaf litter so quickly that our native species of bugs and small mammals are losing their homes and food sources. Native trees and shrubs do not germinate as well in the new compost and it can cause erosion because the compost is easily washed away by rainfall.
This worm is already in the Salem area, but you can help stop its spread by not moving garden soil or compost.
- Wash soil off of plant roots before you give them away.
- If you receive plants from a friend or buy at a local plant sale, put down a sheet of plastic, clean off the soil, and put it in the trash.
- Don’t put potentially contaminated soil in the compost–it probably won’t get hot enough to kill the worms or eggs.
Now some possibly good news. You know the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug?
You’ve probably seen it wandering around your house in the fall. It also eats everything. The good news is that a parasitic wasp that attacks the stink bug’s eggs has found its way into the United States. We don’t know if the wasp will hurt other bugs, but at the moment it seems like good news to those of us who don’t like stink bugs.
Other good news. All those slugs in your garden? They are also invasive. You may squish them with impunity. If you don’t have the stomach for squishing, dropping them into a bucket of soapy water works as well.
Want to learn more? Visit the Sentinel Plant Network website.
The main take away from our gathering is the role of gardeners in both introducing or excluding invasive insects and other pests to our environment. We can either be the source of a new pest in Oregon or we can be the person who spots the signs of a threat and alerts the DOA. Keep your eyes open as you care for your garden, walk through the neighborhood, or stroll through a park.
Need an ID? The Dept. of Ag. is there to help you. You can send in photos online for identification. If you are lucky enough to live in Salem, you can also stop by the department in person.
Many, many thanks to both Tom Valente and Jim LaBonte for speaking to our group of gardeners! And thanks to everyone who joined us for a fun and educational morning.