Thursday, July 21, 2005

A Pause To Muse On Nature's Bounty

When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs of Ohio, there was a tremendous plague of Japanese beetles one summer, japanesebeetle-jdh so great that you couldn't walk from one back yard to the next without noticing how plants seemed to writhe under their weight. My dad's solution, back in those benighted days when no one wore bike helmets, was to send me and my friends off with Mason jars full of gasoline to grab every beetle we could find and plunk it in. Bizarrely, this didn't seem to slow them down much---they dogpaddled around that toxic soup like vacationers on their last day at the shore. When the jars were full, we dutifully brought them back so he could toss them, gas and all, on a brick barbecue at the edge of the yard, then stood around watching with delight as he lit the gasoline and all his troubles went up in smoke. This went on all day, and the neighborhood kids were falling all over themselves to get a jar and get in on the fun.

Now, I don't know what's happening in the rest of the country, but in the Philly area these little bastards are everywhere again. You stand in the poison aisle at Lowe's, listening to befuddled gardeners debating the virtues of various teratological compounds, and inevitably you'll hear the word "beetles". Every evening I come home to more skeletonized canna leaves and shredded hibiscus flowers. Nothing seems to work. I've been a big organic gardener in my time, but now I'm dreaming about gasoline pyres.

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