This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In the plain, practical and excellent essay of Mr. Bennett on "Rose Growing in Winter," among the "Causes of Failure " which he gives, he fails to make any mention of the rose bug, probably for the reason that he has so far in his operations been exempt from it, or has overlooked it.
It is a well-known fact that probably not one gardener out of ten, whether florist or private gardener, who attempts to cultivate roses for their flower-beds during the Winter months have complete success; and I am led to believe from a pretty thorough investigation of the subject, by a correspondence with some of the best growers in six different States, and from what personal observations I have been able to make in a number of places where roses are grown in the vicinity of New York, that in a large majority of cases failure is traceable alone to the ravages of this insect. Its operations are so insiduous that it may be sapping the life-blood from your plants year after year, and if you are ignorant of its existence, you can hardly be blamed for not knowing what is doing the mischief. The perfect insect, as shown by engraving Fig. 1, is of a greyish stone color; it seems destitute of wings, at least I have never seen it fly, yet it is rapid in its movements when creeping on the stems or under the leaves of plants. The presence of the insect in this stage is not easily descerned, as it almost invariably shuns the light by getting under the leaves.
They are usually found at the highest points of the plants and usually in pairs, they can often best be noticed by the leaves showing where they have eaten them, but the injury to the leaves is trifling, the great havoc being by the grub, maggot, or larvae stage of the insect. How long they continue in the full developed stage we do not know, but observations show that after a time they crawl down the stem and deposit their eggs in the soil in which the plants are growing. When hatched they are of a bluish gray, and begin at once to feed on the roots of the plants, gradually growing larger and changing to almost a clear white, and of the size and shape as shown by Fig. 2. Mr. John May, the gardener in charge of Mr. Slaughter's rose growing establishment at Madison, X. J., which is probably the largest in the vicinity of New York, has given great attention to the rose bug, his roses for four or five years being much injured by it; but by persistent efforts in destroying the perfect insect, has now got entirely clear of it, so that his roses are now perfect models of health and vigor.
He says that he is "convinced that no substance will destroy the insect in the larvae state without at the same time injuring the plant." This has been the experience of all that we have heard of who have tried any such remedies, and the only advice that is given when there is indications that the plant is affected at the roots is to dig it up at once, or if grown in a pot throw it out, for you may just as well hope for health in a patient in the last stages of pulmonary consumption as to expect health from a plant with the rose grub feeding on its roots. The symptoms of the grub being at the roots are a partial stagnation of growth, weak pale shoots, and generally barren of flower buds. If these symptoms show in anything like a marked degree, if the plant is dug up and shaken, the insects in less or more numbers are almost certain to be found. The remedy is to carefully search for and destroy the perfect insect that is to be found under the leaves; these are by no means so numerous as the grubs, evidently showing that many of these in the larva? stage die, or at least do not come to the surface.
Complete destruction of the mature insect, which is easily accomplished by careful and persistent searching, is a certain remedy for the evil.
I am exceedingly glad to be able to state through the Monthly these important facts, for since the great desire for rose buds in the Winter months, hundreds of private gentlemen have put up greenhouses exclusively to have roses in Winter, and scores of florists have largely increased their areas of glass for the same purpose; and yet as I have said before that complete success has been far less common than failure, and scores of intelligent gardeners who may have failed in nothing else have been puzzled at their want of success in this, and in many instances have been discharged for such failures - failures that have been due to the ravages of this insidious enemy of which they know nothing.
An extensive florist from the interior of New York State sent me samples the other day of a grub that had been eating the roots of his geraniums, hibiscus and dracaenas, which on examination proved to be identical with the rose bug maggot. Professor Riley, now entomologist in the Department of Agriculture at Washington, writes me that it was first sent to him some years ago by Mr. Andrew Fuller, now of Ridge-wood, N. J., who had found it feeding on the roots of camellias. From the fact that his attention was first called to it by Mr. Fuller, Professor Riley has named it Aramigus Fulleri. Professor Riley has promised to send on a formal description of its class and general habits, which, when received, will be forwarded to you for publication.
Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
My Dear Sir : - In accordance with promise I herewith send you such facts as I have in my possession regarding the snout-beetle that is so destructive to your roses. I regret exceedingly that absence during a recent trip to the West has prevented my doing so earlier. First, regarding the habits of the insect, I take it that no person living can possibly have a better knowledge of them than yourself, for they have never yet been studied by entomologists. The first knowledge which I obtained of this insect was through our mutual friend Mr. A. S. Fuller, who sent me specimens in 1875, the species being then unde-scribed. In 1876 it was described under the name of Aramigus Fulleri by Dr. G. H. Horn, in the proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. xv. page 94. Mr. Fuller had found it in greenhouses and somewhat injurious to camellias. It seems to be quite wide-spread, occurring from the Atlantic at least as far West as Montana, and its habit of injuriously affecting roses and other greenhouse plants, must be looked upon as a comparatively recent acquirement. Such instances of newly-formed habits are constantly presenting themselves to me in my studies of insects.
The beetle seems to be purely American, and the genus Aramigus was in fact, erected for it and another species (Aramigus tesselatus) of about the same size but of a silvery white color, with faint green hue which I have found in Kansas upon the well known "resin weed." The beetle belongs to the same family and is pretty closely allied to a well-known European beetle (Otiorhynchus sulcatus, Fabr.), which is larger and darker in color, and is also very injurious to greenhouse plants, as well as to some grown out of doors. This species also occurs in this country, as I have specimens that were taken in Massachusetts. It is the habit of all these beetles, so far as their habits are known, to work in the roots of plants while in the larva state, just as your Aramigus does. The eggs are doubtless laid upon the roots by the female beetle, which burrows into the ground for this purpose. Upon inquiry I find that what is evidently this same beetle has been more or less injurious to roses in and about Washington, and that Mr. A. Jardin was obliged to give up the growth of Tea Roses here, a number of years ago, on account of its injuries. I hope before long to have an opportunity of studying more closely into its habits, and into the best mode of preventing its injuries.
When I have done so you will hear from me again. Until that time I shall be unable to make any suggestions of value.
I am, very truly yours, C. V. Riley.