Elm leaf beetles have hit Bathurst elm trees hard, particularly the famous elms of Rahamim.
Last year was a real struggle for the elms. We decided to try and save them from being completely destroyed by the beetles. As an alternative to injecting the trees with nasty chemicals which put bees in danger, we have sought all sorts of advice to find an organic solution to combat this problem.
With many plans in place for the growing season of the beetle and the tree, we were disheartened when our groundskeeper, Paul, informed us of the lack of leaves on the tree. We thought that we had lost the tree! However, a few weeks later than all of the other trees in the area, we were excited to see that it had sprouted leaves! Now we have another chance to trial a solution.
The traditional elders of the Bathurst area have suggested that spraying the tree with soapy water will work wonders. As they are so tall, we are still trying to figure out how to spray the upper branches.
After some other advice we have also decided to try encouraging ear-wigs under one of the trees, to see if they will help control the beetle.
Looking at the life-cycle of the beetle, we discovered that it is at its weakest point when at pupae stage, at and around the base of the tree. We have moved our chickens to the site where they will stay under the tree for a whole life-cycle of the beetle (about 6 weeks), and then we will move the chickens to the next tree.
One of the reasons the beetles have become so numerous at this time is because of climate change and variations to conditions that have enabled the beetle to thrive. A local Uniting Church has actually been closed down as a result of so many beetles seeking refuge there.
Stay tuned for further updates on our quest to save our Elms!