Friday, July 3, 2015

Bobbing for Beetles

It's summer time, the living is easy and my chickens are loving it. It's also time for gardening and dealing with the pests that come along with it. One reason I wanted chickens was to have a natural means to take care of the ticks and other bugs. One of the most infamous garden pests is the Japanese Beetle.

I read an idea in my Backyard Poultry Magazine (I know, you probably thought I read Cosmo) that I decided to modify and try to not only rid our yard from Japanese Beetles, but to also provide extra nutrition for our 18 hens and one roo.

From our friendly neighborhood Holdridge Home and Garden, I bought a beetle trap which works by suspending a pheromone attractor over a bag. Plastic supports hold the magic aphrodisiac in place, also keeping the bag open and wing inserts prevent the buggers from crawling back out. There's a zipper at the bottom of the bag for easy emptying. It's a clever invention in theory, but I wondered as I looked for a place to hang my beetle trap if it would really work. Doubts were quickly dispersed as Japanese Beetles started bombing me; I was blocking their flight paths toward their hearts' desire.

The magazine article suggested not allowing the bugs to collect in the bag as they become disgusting pretty fast in the summer sun and you want to feed live, healthy critters to your chickens. The author suspends his beetle trap over a ten gallon bucket, both hung over a hook. The beetles fly to the trap and fall through the open bag to the water below which effectly holds them hostage.

Trapped Beetles Await Their Fate in the Bag
Not having a hook already set up on our yard and too lazy to do anything about it, I came up with an alterative. Since the goal is to provide extra treats for the chickens, I had to have a way to serve the beetles without allowing them to fly away and escape the eager beaks. The beetles are very fast flyers and if they are just dumped out on the ground in front of the chickens, most will escape. I know, I tried it. So every day or so, I unzip the bottom of the beetle bag and let the day's catch drop into a waiting bowl of water. Beetles are not good swimmers so they cling to one another, forming little beetle rafts which also keeps them from getting away easily.

Water Bowl Waiting to Receive the Beetle Bounty from Above

I then take my water bowl of beetles and serve it to the waiting flock who devour them in about 30 seconds. Bobbing for beetles has now become part of our routine.