Beat the Beetles 

Morning glory leaves are not supposed to look like Swiss cheese. They’re not supposed to have holes all over the place. Rather, they should set a green and glorious stage for the fragile morning glory blossoms that wake with each new day.

Consider, too, the American hawthorn—a proud and fragrant tree known well to Nashville gardeners. Such a gorgeous plant should not convey sadness. It should not wilt. It should not be victimized. But even now, merciless hordes of insects are munching countless American hawthorns to near death.

Japanese beetle season is upon us. Nashville is therefore in danger.

Much as Philadelphians are waging a war on obesity—the mayor having called upon his citizens to put aside cheese steaks so the city can cast off 75 tons of excess blubber—Nashvillians should band together to ward off the green beetles who threaten everything they’ve nurtured, mulched, and composted all spring and summer.

The adult beetles, which will continue to cause damage until as late as September, are keenest on beans and corn. They will, however, eat almost anything green—tree and flower leaves and even our most prized tomato plants. Meanwhile, beetle larvae chew on roots of lawn grass, beets, and onions.

Given the gravity of the situation—no plot of Davidson County earth is safe, whether it’s the Cheekwood gardens or the rural site of the annual Joelton Civitan Possum Toss—the Nashville Scene is compelled to lead the charge against these ravaging beetles. We call for the following action:

♦ Given that the publicly traded Home Depot has weathered the nearly two-year stock market dip—because people are saving money by doing their own home improvement projects rather than hiring contractors—the Scene suggests each of its stores thank its customers by offering 90 percent discounts on its popular beetle-trapping Bag-a-Bug kits. Such a deal would be made possible if patrons bring in at least one mason jar of beetle carcasses as proof that they’ve put in some of their own time and elbow grease to eradicate the evil plant destroyer.

♦ Being the neighborhood mayor—and what’s more important to a neighborhood than homegrown tomatoes and squash?—Mayor Bill Purcell should appoint a blue-ribbon commission, chaired by Tennessean “dirt gardener” Catherine Darnell, to investigate the problem. Deputy Mayor Bill Phillips, he being the mayoral enforcer, will oversee the commission’s findings.

♦ Exploit East Nashville’s snake boom. Instead of having convicts sweep the hopelessly grimy Criminal Justice Center floors—which always look the same no matter how much 409 they use—Sheriff Gayle Ray should send the law-breakers across the Cumberland to trap snakes there. Then the convicts would redistribute the reptiles evenly across the county in hopes that the slithery ones would dine on the green beetles.

♦ The Davidson County Agricultural Extension Service should launch a public relations campaign against the beetle, enlisting a celebrity Tennessee Titan to be the face for the effort.

♦ Nashvillians should boycott New Jersey, which is, somewhat ironically, the “Garden State.” The Japanese beetle was accidentally introduced there from Japan in 1916 and now wreaks havoc all over the eastern United States.


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