Garden Q&A: Don’t worry about this giant beetle and coping with blossom end rot in tomatoes
By Ellen Nibali
Aug 01, 2019 | 7:00 AM
Found this big boy in the lawn, already dead. Don’t know what to make of him. He’s so big, but does that equate to bad?
Hercules beetles are the largest insects on the East Coast and, like their fabled namesake, they are strong. They can push the lid off a terrarium and take off. Both sexes are shiny and beautifully marked, but only males have the two horns. In the tropics, they grow even bigger horns and compete for females, squeaking and wielding horns.
Our Hercules beetles (Dynastes tityus) feed harmlessly on tree sap and lay eggs in rotting wood. The resulting larvae (grubs) can be even bigger than adults — another astonishing sight. The grubs feed on decomposing wood or organic matter. Since they don’t live in lawns gnawing grass roots, there is no cause for concern.
Adults are attracted to light at night. If one shows up, be sure to conserve it by escorting to a natural spot, preferably with a nice rotting tree stump. Without our insects with a taste for decay, we’d be up to our eyeballs in rotting matter.
I’m getting blossom end rot on my tomatoes, even though I did a soil test two years ago and added lime to raise the pH to the right level. Shouldn’t the lime last for several years?
Blossom end rot is a common nutritional disorder of tomatoes, as well as pepper, eggplant, squash and watermelon. It occurs when plant roots don’t pick up enough calcium for leaves, stems and fruits.
Excessive rainfall could have leached some of the lime you added out of the root zone. It’s always a good idea to mix a small handful of lime into the planting hole when you plant tomatoes. A foliar calcium spray may help now.
Blossom end rot is most typically caused by insufficient and irregular watering. Keep your plant evenly well-watered during hot, dry periods.
University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.