Pests are ravaging my Purpleleaf Sandcherry

ssahmedJuly 21, 2007

For the past 2 or 3 weeks now, my beautiful Purpleleaf Sandcherry (which was bought and planted almost 6 weeks ago) has been under attack by a specific type of bug/pest:

The pests ravaging my Purpleleaf Sandcherry

Can you identify exactly what type of bug/pest this is so that I can get the appropriate pesticide for it? I tried one Safer's pesticide that I had from last year but it didn't work at all. Then I borrowed BugX from a friend but I am not sure that has made any difference as today morning I saw three more of these bugs.

Between this bug's attack and a fungus, my purpleleaf sandcherry is in miserable shape. Right after we planted it it underwent a vigorous stage of growth and we were extremely pleased. But now its looking visibly miserable!

Also, please feel free to recommend any home-brew organic fungicide and/or pesticide to try on my sandcherry. I am not thrilled at the idea of getting a chemical pesticide.


Salman Ahmed

Here is a link that might be useful: Pictures of the bugs

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I can't quite see the bugs, but can offer some ideas.

One solution I tried last year was a couple of pieces off a clove of garlic really mashed (I have a small baby food processor which does the job nicely) in a blender, add some water - about two to three cups, and some vegetable oil, about 2 tbsps. Blend really well.
Set on the stove on low for some time - a couple of hours. Sieve the water into a spray bottle, making sure no tiny pieces of garlic get into it. You can add 1 tbsp of soap - not detergent - as well. Spray any plants which tend to be affected by aphids, thrips, etc. You can throw the garlic pulp right in the gardens if you wish.

This year I planted garlic everywhere in the gardens. The aphids population is nearly gone. I've only seen a few on the Eupatorium and they are not happy there. The garlic is so far barely noticeable and has also kept the deers at bay since I planted it right in the middle of some footings and they won't risk even tasting the stuff. Usually my Lupine footings get badly affected by aphids, but there's NONE on the Lupines this year. Yippee!!

Rose slugs are another matter. The population has gone down, but I'm still fighting with them. The birds are helping though, so I have feeders all over the yard which I sometimes leave empty for a day or two so they can feed naturally off the plants.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 7:08PM
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halaeva(z6 Toronto)

Hi Salman;
The bug looks like Japanese Beatle.Isn'it? I search Google for images and it looks the same.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 8:53PM
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halaeva(z6 Toronto)

Please excuse my spelling.I meant: Japanese Beetle.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 9:05PM
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Hi Hala,

You are the winner! I checked Google images and it is indeed the Japanese Beetle.

Now I just have to find some home-brew organic recipe for keeping these nasty pests away.

Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 12:04PM
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I recognized it immediately as a Japanese beetle. The best ways to deal with these creatures is through handpicking, spot spraying them with a pyrethium based pesticide (pyrethium is derived from chrysanthemums) and setting beetle traps.

Can you describe the fungus infestation? If it's mildew, you can blame the wet weather conditions we've been having.

More specifically, if a plant gets many infections, it also is a sign that the plant itself isn't healthy. Can you describe how you maintain the plant?

However, bottomline, no worries. These problems are treatable and correctable. It's only the transitional year since this is a newly planted shrub. Once the roots are healthy - you will have a nice lush shrub. This winter do mulch the bottom for more protection but remove it the following spring.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 9:40AM
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hoyess(z5 ON Can)


you indeed have Japanese Beetle and welcome to the scourge of the Purpleleaf Sandcherry. I have 16 sandcherries in my yard (2+ acres) and the japanese beetles get them every year. I'm sorry to say the "safe" insecticides don't work. Malathion and seven will work but the problem is you have to apply every 10 days and after a heavy rain all summer as these pests linger all summer. They are heaviest for two periods: late June to mid-July and mid-August to September. Between July and August the adults are burrowing into the lawns to lay eggs for round two.

My solution this year to cut down on spraying has been to spray during the 'heaviest period' (you will know) and during the others to hand pick. This means I only spray two or three times a season. The beetles tend to cluster in groups and they tend to follow one another. So the more you have on a bush, the more you will get. Get a small pail and fill 2 inches with water with a bit of soap. Put the bucket under the leaf with the bugs on them, give the leaf a shake over the bucket and they will fall right in. I can walk my yard (check your roses too) which is quite large in 1/2 hour and debug all my shrubs easily this way. Do this twice a day if you can, early morning and evening. The bugs travel most on hot, still days so check then. This should keep the population down quite a bit.

Oh yes & I do not recommend traps. They work by attracting the beetles (in the same way some on a bush attract more) so all you end up doing is attracting them to your yard from your neighbours and those that don't go in the trap go to your plants. All your neighbours would need to put up traps as well for this to work effectively.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 10:12PM
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hope you conquer your beetle problem. My sandcherry bit the dust this year, too. But, my son was learning to cut the grass and plowed it down. here's hoping for a better bush next year.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 11:53PM
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I'd say please be careful about using chemical approaches, most especially anything like malathion which is a carcinogen. I say this with all due respect to your forms of gardening practice.

Now about beetle traps,these traps should not be placed near your favorite plants or even near the favorite plants. Obviously, your intention is to trap them, not to invite them to a banquet. So traps should be placed far from your plants and perhaps on the areas bordering your property. (perhaps the boulevard area) If adult beetles are in your neighbors yard, you can almost be certain, they will eventually reach your yard and as of now that yummy sand cherry is a huge attraction. So the more you set traps the better it is for your plant.

Second there are many approaches to controlling japanese beetle populations ---- here's a link to an informative website. But as I said, I'm wary about using pesticides and would prefer a non-chemical approach, even a biological (like nematodes) approach. If it's absolutely necessary, use precuations like gloves, long plastic sleeves, masks. Don't allow pets or children in the area.

You need to deal with the infestations at all the cycles of the beetle's life - from larvae form to adulthood.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 12:13PM
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Thanks to everyone for all your replies and the useful information.

Ianna: I did use a pyrethium based spray (BugX) and I think it did work in killing off the beetles that I could see. As for the fungus infestation, I can only describe it as being a white lacy or fibrous thing that appears on the new growth. It doesn't appear to be powdery in texture but appears to have a lace-like or even fibrous texture.

A day or so after spraying with BugX, I cut all the leaves that had the fungus like white stuff on it. I also sprayed the leaves of my sandcherry with a milk and water mixture (1 part 3.25% milk, 10 parts water) and that appeared to help for a day or so. But the white fungus like stuff has started to reappear so I am thinking of reapplying the milk-water mixture.

I am bit concerned as to why the fungus is reappearing. The plant DOES NOT appear to be very healthy.

Right after planting it over a month ago, I was taking care of it by watering it twice a day. Then I cut back to just once a day after the first 2-3 weeks.

Mulching around the plant is not really an option as I planted two different types of ground cover around the plant and both of these ground covers are doing well themselves. Also, there is a small (baby) purple maple growing right beside the bigger purpleleaf sandcherry, and we'd like the purple maple to remain nice and healthy for now so that perhaps we can move it elsewhere next spring.

I've been checking my sandcherry daily now and I haven't seen the Japanese beetles since but I am wondering if I should just go ahead and:

(1) remove all the eaten/damaged leaves
(2) treat any potential Japanese beetle grubs in the soil by using beneficial nematodes.

Honestly speaking, my purpleleaf sandcherry is looking sick and I am more that a little concerned about its health. We had high hopes for this - in fact we were pruning the leaves from the bottom/lower branches to try and encourage it to grow into a tree rather than as a shrub.

I plan on trying a garlic & hot pepper mixture on the sandcherry in the hopes of deterring the pesky beetles.

I am extremely surprised that almost of all the information on the Internet about the Purpleleaf Sandcherry makes NO MENTION WHATSOEVER about the problems posed by the pesky Japanese Beetle. Everywhere that I looked on the Internet, it said "is not affected by pests or disease". So I am very surprised to be experiencing this problem.

My mistake was not asking about the Purpleleaf Sandcherry on this forum! :)

Anyways, thanks for all the information - you've all been most helpful.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2007 at 1:44PM
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With regards to tackling the beetle, you seem to be on the right track. Killing off the adult beetles. As for addressing the grubs, I do believe it's too early to apply nematodes or any form of chemicals because I do believe they haven't reached this stage yet. I think this is done in spring when the grubs are just coming out (you can spot them because your lawn would have brown patches due to the larvae eating the roots of the grass). I had just returned from a trip to the States and discovered they have powder that can also be applied to kill off the grubs but I just didn't take down the name of the product. That tells you there's numerous ways to tackle this problem. As for the beetle's favorite meals, it loves just about everything. So once it appears, tackle it quickly.

Sandcherry itself is a wonderful plant. Several of my neighbors have them. All appear to be very healthy. I think in your case, it's a combination of factors that are working against it. It's a transplant and in the beginning it naturally needed daily watering to keep it healthy. However this summer has been wet. And so you should cut down on watering to 2x a week or so. If you prefer to water more often, make sure you lightly water. Overwatering leads to drowning... And that leads me to the next clue..

Fungus. - I've yet to see what you are talking about. I've seen the stringy type of fungus in the decaying wood matter in compost piles. I've not seen these on plants but I'll check on it and report my findings. However in the meantime, stop the overwatering. Which means, also no need to mulch. By the way, what are your ground covers?

Next, I need you to tell me the soil quality in your yard. I'm concerned that you have what's called hard pack clay. Have you tested it to see if water drains away well? Dig a hole and put water in there. Does it drain slow or fast? Time it. If it's slow then you can imagine your plant's roots is probably drowning in water. It it is, you need to rectify that by breaking the surrounding soil and digging in compost.

RE the half eaten leaves -- unless it;s so unsightly that you cannot stand them, leave them be. Their fine except that they are half eaten. They still perform by providing your tree with nutrients.

Re the fungus affected area - I'm curious, is an entire branch affected? or simply the leaf part. If it's the leaf part, remove the leaf and discard it. Don't throw it into your compost. If the entire branch is affected, that leads me to think that there's some rot going on and perhaps more like a systemic rot. In which case, you may need to remove the entire affected area and discard. Anyway before you doing anything, let me check around and get back to you.

And lastly, relax. View this as experimental and you are learning along the way.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2007 at 8:51PM
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Re fungus. Well, just got back from doing a quick research on sandcherries. Interestingly, and I didn't know this, sandcherries come from the rose family, same as apple trees. -- Hence these are susceptible to powdery mildew. Although you've described something fibrouslike - it's very likely powdery mildew. The good news is that this isn't likely going to kill your plant. Have you noticed any leaves wilting? I think your answer would be no. The fungus won't kill the plant but it may stress the plant to the point it won't survive winter - so continue the fungicide. Mildew appears when the weather has been wet, climate hot and humid and it appears where there isn't much air circulation. As with roses, I recommend that you have these plants in area where it's sunny, good drainage and good air circulation. Collect all the affected fallen leaves and discard it. Spray with fungicide specific to powdery mildew (check the internet for appropriate fungicides). I'd still suggest you check about water drainage in your area. The plant was likely not planted in the ideal spot. If it's any consolation, I planted my royal purple smoke bush in a south but really wet yard. It developed mildew. I transplanted it to another area and so far it's happy.

By the way, I also spotted a website that describe this plant to be a favorite of the japanese beetle. So better tackle those grubs next year.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2007 at 9:27PM
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hoyess(z5 ON Can)

Here is a very useful website on the life cycle of a japanese beetle and the grubs.

The beetles have been going back into the lawn over the last few weeks (hence the decline in population on your plants) and the grubs are now starting to form and at the surface of the soil. Now is a good time to control the population. This article seems to say summer control works better than spring control. Everything I have read says adult control should be done in May and again in late July early August. Ignore all the chemical information as this is a US site. Merit is available in Canada but only to licensed turf management companies not to homeowners. You might want to enquire if nematodes would work as well right now.

Here is a link that might be useful: life cycle of a japanese beetle

    Bookmark   July 28, 2007 at 9:52PM
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