If you are a regular reader of this column, you probably remember my hissy fit last year when the Viburnum Leaf Beetle showed up, practically on my doorstep.
By the time I discovered the devastation, it left nothing but skeletonized, lacy remnants, and what were formerly beautiful, large leaves had long disappeared. Not only that, but having all these maggot-like baby beetles just outside my bedroom window gave me the creeps.
I had no clue what was going on and that was the reason for my tantrum. I felt we hadn't been given enough warning as to the devastation these newly introduced insects would cause. Later, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the nasty Viburnum Leaf Beetle. From then on, the VLB became my new nemesis, far eclipsing the Japanese Beetle and the even more annoying weed, Hairy Galinsoga, as the scourge of my garden.
I am mentioning this now because April is here and although spring has yet to emerge, pretty much everything else will continue to act as though it has. The birds are singing in the trees and foraging in the remnants of last fall's debris for nesting materials. Leaf buds are swelling on the trees, the Koi are rising to the surface of the pond from winter hibernation and the frogs are coming out of hiding. Whether the sky wants to admit it or not, spring is here and every gardener knows that April is the busiest month.
To my amazement, my viburnum managed to survive last year's infestation. Had someone told me this in mid-July last year, I wouldn't have believed it. Not only were the leaves totally stripped after their first growth, but once the larvae crawled down to the soil to pupate, it wasn't long after the adult beetles emerged. In between generations, the Viburnum managed to regrow its leaves, and just when I thought it was safe, the adult beetles stripped it clean a second time. I expected the shrub to simply die. I gave my husband the thumbs-up to get out his chain saw, but instead of taking the shrub down to the ground, he only gave it a heavy pruning. Before the end of summer, I was surprised to see the shrub had regrown its leaves for a third time. It was insisting on survival. Nothing in my garden has ever wanted to live this badly.
In between snow and rain and cold temperatures this spring, I have been checking the undersides of the few remaining branches for those tell-tale sewing-stitch egg holes carved out by adult beetles last summer. The beetles deposit their eggs in the holes and seal them with sawdust to keep the eggs safe over winter. Adult beetles prefer tender, young branches for egg-laying, but if desperate, they will use older, tougher branches. After the husband's heavy pruning, only older branches remain. Although it is unlikely any egg cases survived the pruning, I'm not taking any chances.
If you have Viburnum in your garden, now is the time to go on a search and destroy mission for larvae egg deposits. Look on the undersides of branches for their signs, and if you find them, prune them out now. Don't wait for a warm day, just do it. Before the end of the month, start keeping a close watch for larvae on Viburnum leaves. As soon as they start showing up, take no prisoners and show no mercy.
There aren't many excuses that are acceptable, but if, let's say, you end up in the hospital with a broken femur or get stranded on a deserted island while taking a spring cruise and you miss the larvae emerging from their holes, remember that in order to pupate, they must crawl down the shrub's trunk to get to the ground. Unlike Japanese beetles, they do not drop to the ground. Smear the trunk with petroleum jelly or other sticky substance to make it impossible for them to complete their cycle.