Q. I'll be looking over my shoulder with trepidation as I quietly whisper my question: What happened to our yearly scourge of Japanese beetles? Did they remain underground because of the drought, only to multiply doubly for a grand and destructive appearance next summer?
-- Bonny Littekin, of Highland
A. If those bejeweled plant menaces didn't bug you this summer, you may be in luck, says Charles Giedeman, the News-Democrat's gardening expert. If you played your cards right, you may see fewer, not more, of the pests next year.
It's not that they didn't make an appearance this year. Experts throughout central and southern Illinois and Missouri reported that the destructive critters were out again in force just as they have been since 1916, when they first were found in this country at a nursery near Riverton, N.J. They emerged about three weeks early to go on their six-week feeding binge.
"We had them this year," Giedeman said of the beetles, which generally have only a one-year life cycle. "They started out pretty strong, and it looked pretty desperate."
But there may have been several factors around your property that conspired to deal them a dead beetle's hand this summer -- and, with luck, keep their population down again in 2013.
First, your particular botanical smorgasbord may not have been as appealing to the insects, which, ironically, are not as destructive in their native country, where they face many natural predators. Their favorites include such succulent fare as grapes, linden trees, roses and zinnias, so if you don't have many of these, you already were one step ahead.
Then, even if the beetles started munching on other plants out of desperation, the hot weather dealt them a second blow. During a drought, tannic acid builds up in tree leaves, producing a strong flavor attacking insects tend to shun. In addition, the foliage became dryer and coarser, making it even harder for the predators to nosh for nourishment.
"Hopefully, that may be one of the benefits that came out of this summer was that they didn't get all the way to the mating stage," Giedeman said. "So that could drop the population for next year."
And here's another kicker, he adds: When the grass goes dormant in the heat, it makes it harder for the females that did mate to find a suitable place to lay their eggs.
"Because when the eggs hatch, the larvae try to feed on the roots. If that grass plant went dormant, there's nothing succulent for the developing larvae to feed on. They have to have a real good feeding period and then they would go into the pupa stage. But if it went into the pupa stage way earlier and didn't eat enough, it's possibly not going to make it through the winter."
So, if you didn't water your lawn this summer, pat yourself on the back. Otherwise, it's probably too late to do anything about it.
"Some people like that lawn looking like a golf course, but if they're watering their lawns, they may find that the (beetle) population went up on their property," Giedeman said. "Other people say, 'I really enjoy it when it turns brown so I don't have to get out and mow.' That would cut the population down there, too."
Q. I have a trophy, for which I would love to have a display case built to show it off and to keep it free of dust, etc. I can't find anyone here who might build such a case, so I was thinking about contacting the people on "Tanked," the Animal Planet reality series that builds custom aquariums. Can you give me a contact address?
-- R.H., of O'Fallon
A. I can, but considering their popularity and celebrity, you may see your bank account tank like the Titanic as well. For example, their website lists a simple 90-gallon tank (48 inches by 18 by 24) for just shy of $1,600.
But if that doesn't sink your finances, you're welcome to contact Wayde King and Brett Raymer at Acrylic Tank Manufacturing at 6975 S. Decatur Blvd., Suite 130, Las Vegas, NV 89118 or call (702) 387-2016. You also can see their work at www.acrylicaquariums.com, where you can design your dream display case and ask for a quote.
Happy tanking, as they say.
What percentage of Americans have a tattoo?
Answer to Sunday's trivia: If you want two all-beef patties, special sauce and all the rest of that stuff in Moscow, you'd step up to the counter at McDonald's and order a Bolshoi Mak. Bolshoi -- as in the Bolshoi Ballet -- means big, great or large in Russian. That's what Russians asked for when McDonald's opened its first restaurant in Moscow in late 1988. Apparently, nothing was expected to be lost in the translation. At the time, company officials expected the restaurant to be the highest-volume McDonald's in the world, according to a story in the New York Times.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org.