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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gardening: Bumble beetle more novelty than pest, easy to control

The bumble flower beetle has been making an appearance in local gardens. It favors decaying fruit and organic matter and is not considered a major pest right now.  (Utah Sate University Extension)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

It is safe to say that tomato season, such as it was, is over for this year. Our night temperatures are into the 40s and rumors of frost are rumbling. So cut back your plants to force the energy into fruit ripening and stage the frost covers in the garden. Partially red fruit can be picked and stored as a single layer in cardboard boxes to finish ripening.

The WSU Master Gardener Plant Clinic has received a few samples of an unusual bug recently. Called a bumble flower beetle, the beetle and its grub larvae are usually found in or near fermenting and/or decomposing organic material like overripe fruit or plants that have sweet sap or other decaying organic matter. The good news is the beetle is more of a curiosity than a real pest and is controlled by cleaning up fruit and organic debris in the garden.

The adult beetle is a half-inch long and wide with yellowish-brown to cinnamon-colored outer wings with irregular rows of small black rectangular spots. The beetle’s head and body are hairy. When disturbed, the beetle may emit a pungent chlorine-like odor. The beetle gets its name from its habit of flying low to the ground with a loud buzzing that resembles a bumble bee.

The larvae are white with a dark head. The adult beetles overwinter in organic debris such as decaying wood, old hay, leafy mulches or compost piles becoming active in late spring through September. Larvae are laid in this material and emerge as adults in July and early August to feed on ripening crops and debris.

The good thing is the bumble flower beetle is not considered a major pest. While they will cause some damage on living plants, they are more interested in decaying material. Thus, the best method of control is to handpick them off the plants and clean up decaying plant and fruit material to remove their food source. There are no chemical control methods listed by the Washington Department of Agriculture for this beetle.

For all you beekeepers out there, the Washington State Beekeepers Association is hosting a conference on Oct. 1- 2 in person and virtually at the Washington State University Honey Bee and Pollinator Research, Extension, and Education Station in Othello, Washington. Topics to be covered include several presentations on pest and varroa mite management, challenges of urban beekeeping, winter survival tips, swarm catching tips, integrated pest management in hives, honeybee nutrition, reading brood frames and current review of research being done at the WSU research station.

Saturday evening will feature a no-host Hierophant Mead Bar for sampling local honey-based meads and a dinner and auction to support the work of the WASBA and the research station. Motel space is limited in the area, but there will be space for RVs and camping. For those who don’t want to travel to Othello, the conference will provide a virtual link to all the sessions. Cost is $95 for in-person attendance and $75 for virtual.