Spawn of the Devil

About three years ago, the scourge known as Japanese Beetles invaded our yard.  These pretty little demons set up shop mainly on one of our grape plants, and happily started eating to their hearts content.

*Before we go any further, let me correct you if you are thinking that this post will announce secrets I have discovered to completely getting rid of Japanese Beetles.  The post is not about that.  Please.  If I discovered how to do that, you would already recognize my name, as I would have achieved world-wide fame and recognition, and I would be to busy attending parades in my honor to take the time to write this.  Now that that is clear, let us proceed.

Ahem.

So, Japanese Beetles.  I was very diligent about physically removing the obnoxious invaders from our yard, making multiple passes from plant to plant several times a day.  In the process, I even learned their patterns (in the heat they are jumpy, but more of the little buggers are out on the plants to get; in shade and cooler temps fewer are around, but they act pretty sleepy), their favorites (mainly plants that fruit, but they will also hang out on milkweed and coneflowers), and that they appear to like large group activities (nasty little fornicators).  Organic sprays were used, milky spore and nematodes were applied, and the handpicking continued. Time went on, seasons ended and began, and the process started again.

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These little nasties did not live long after this photo was taken. Yes, it made a difference.

This year I started my usual obsessive hand-picking sessions, but my enthusiasm quickly waned.  It has been a busy summer, and who wants to spend it walking around in circles with a bucket of soapy water, and I really did not think that I was impacting the Japanese Beetle population in our area.  The beetles kept coming back no matter what I did.  Considering that there are probably millions, nay, BILLIONS of these rampant leaf munchers in our area, my efforts were probably negligible.  With that in mind, I relaxed my efforts and hardly glanced at the grapes for almost a week.

Big mistake.  By taking a break from my seemingly futile efforts for less than seven days, those crazy little spawn of the devil ravaged our grapes, reducing over half of the leaves to mere skeletons of their former selves.

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Those lacy brown things?  The ones that should be shading the grapes?  They were nice green grape leaves before the insatiable little creatures moved in.

Huh, I thought.  The grapes never looked that bad in years past.  Just a few days off this year and that much damage was created?  So, you are saying that my efforts actually HAD made a difference?  I can impact for good by doing something small?  What seemed to be a LITTLE thing actually made a BIG difference?!?!

Ok, now I am leaning towards the cheesy inspirational post.  While normally the sappy inspiring messages are not my jam, I think this bit of sweetness is important.  I have seen – and felt – positive effects of small acts countless times in my own life. When I made the effort to tell a person I liked something about them (hair, clothes, singing voice, whatever), instead of keeping the thought to myself.  When I acknowledged a person’s idea or comment so they knew that they were heard.  When I remembered a detail about someone or asked for an update from the last time we talked.  When I cleaned up something that was not my trash, or brought something to the food shelf, or remembered and acknowledged a significant date, or made a habit of not purchasing or using single-use items (and recycling or composting as a second option), or did not engage with someone who wanted to pick an argument, or saying I am sorry instead of making an excuse…all of these small acts can make a big impact.  When someone thought of me before they thought of themselves, or they were nice or thoughtful or generous or silly or caring towards, at or for me, I have felt that warm glow (of course, acting in ways that are opposite of those actions above also impact others, but we will not get in depth about that negativity right now).

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Grape leaves showing different stages of damage…sigh…

So, yes, anonymous reader, little things have positive impact.  And the more they happen, the more they are likely to keep happening.  So make that effort.  Put a smile on a strangers face by acknowledging their cute shoes.  Smile in solidarity at that stressed out parent whose offspring is having a moment in public – and offer to help if they need it.  Wipe up the counter in the restroom after you wash your hands.  Apologize when you are in the wrong.  Do not let people gossip and spread stories about others around you.  Recycle your drink cup, and do not take that straw you do not actually need.  Let the person with fewer items go ahead of you in the check-out line. Throw away your trash, compost what you can, and put your shopping cart away nicely.  And if you come across a Japanese Beetle during your day, dispose of it for me, will you please?  You really will be making an impact for good…speaking from experience.

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