Here it is, the end of July, and every few days I’m going out to the garden to pick strawberries. It’s so strange! The day-neutral strawberries that I planted in April are bearing a lot of fruit. Information that I’d read said that the strawberries in the summer would be small but I’ve been very pleased with the size of the berries. Also the inflorescences of the plants are sturdy and often hold the fruit above the ground, something you almost never see in a June bearing strawberry.
The only insect problem I’ve had is the picnic beetle (Glischrochilus quadrisignatus). This beetle is one of a number of sap beetles that are drawn to overripe or fermented fruit. While I just learned the name of this beetle, I often saw it burrowing into the stem ends of overripe muskmelons when I was growing up.
One of the identifying characteristics of all sap beetles is their “knobbed” antennae. Picnic beetles are about 1/4″ long and black with four orange spots on the wing covers. When these beetles are disturbed they pull in their antennae and legs under their bodies and “play possum.” Once the perceived danger is gone, the antenna and legs re-emerge and the beetles go back to feeding.
Picnic beetles overwinter as adults in decaying organic matter. In the spring they lay eggs and the larva feed on plant materials and later pupate in the soil. New adults emerge in June and July. While this insect causes some damage to fruit, it’s more of a nuisance than anything else. Sanitation in the garden – removing any decaying or rotted fruit – will help to control them. I read that you can bait picnic beetles by sprinkling Sevin insecticide on a melon rind. The rind will attract the beetles and the Sevin will kill them.
If I was growing thousands of strawberries I might resort to the bait technique to control picnic beetles. But with 25 plants, the simplest thing to do is not let the strawberries get too ripe before picking them. Also, if the beetles have only eaten the tip of a berry, I’m more than happy to cut off the damaged part and use the rest of the fruit.
The day-neutral strawberries are exceeding my expectations. They bear much better than the old everbearing strawberries and they taste great. I can’t wait to report back on the September crop!