2016 marks 100 years since the Japanese beetle invaded N. America

New Era, July 11, 1919, p2.
New Era, July 11, 1919, p2.

And guess where the pests made landfall after their trip across the ocean.

Riverton, NJ.

Yeah, you could google that. Riverton’s Wikipedia page mentions it under HISTORY. “In 1916, Japanese beetles, now a widespread insect pest in the United States, were first discovered in a nursery near Riverton.”

Apparently, they arrived in the grub stage some years prior, as they snuggled in the root balls of some iris plants imported from Japan bound for Dreer’s Nursery.

In the “We get letters” section on page 4 of the Oct. 2015 GN I introduced readers to Ken Frank, a Philadelphia physician who lives in “old” center
city Philadelphia.

Ken had inquired through this website if someone could show him where Dreer’s Nursery was when he would be visiting Riverton in July.

Would I? Yessss.

My wife Linda and I met Ken and his wife Sue at the Light Rail Station in mid-July and we gave them the fifty-cent tour.

Ecology of Center City Philadelphia by Kenneth D. Frank
Ecology of Center City Philadelphia by Kenneth D. Frank

A lot has happened since then.

His 29 chapter book, Ecology of Center City, Philadelphia, which takes a historical approach in examining the natural history of downtown Philadelphia, is now available in paperback and as a free PDF online.

Ken will speak at a meeting of  the American Entomological Society in the library of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Dec. 2, about the centennial of the North American introduction of the Japanese beetle.  The meeting starts at 7pm.

The Riverton contingent of Ken’s cheering section will consist of Nancy and Bill Hall, Jeannie Francis, my wife Linda, and me.

Bill Hall recalls some details about Japanese beetles in Riverton – says he used to be paid a bounty for catching them by the quart jarful.

Jeannie is a Master Gardener who not only has first-hand experience in dealing with the pests, she had relatives who worked at Dreers and knows some family stories passed to her about the beetles.

Get used to it because you can be sure it will occur to someone in this Centennial Year of the critter’s discovery in Riverton that it would be cute to have the story on the six o’clock news.

The meeting is free and open to the public. Enter the Academy through the door on 19th Street near the corner with Cherry Street, and the security guard will direct you to the meeting room. One parking lot that is close is on 19th Street, just across Cherry Street where the Academy is located. Find directions here.

If you have experience with battling Japanese beetles near here or can pass along a beetle anecdote, let me know below or comment on Facebook. – JMc

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John McCormick

Teacher at Riverton School 1974-2019, author, amateur historian, Historical Society of Riverton Board Member 2007-2023, newsletter editor 2007-2023, website editor 2011-2023

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