In 1916 state agricultural inspectors discovered Japanese beetles in a venerable nursery in Riverton, New Jersey, near Philadelphia. Until then the species had not been known to inhabit North America. The nursery disputed that the beetle posed a serious threat and denounced the Federal Horticultural Board, the agency assigned to address the problem. It convinced government entomologists in charge of eradicating the beetle that the nursery was too profitable to destroy. The population of beetles exploded into a plague that disrupted the region's agriculture, transportation and commerce and despoiled its landscape. It instigated heavy use of lead arsenate, which sickened people and contaminated soil. The Japanese beetle endures as a reminder of the battle fought against government authority over nurseries.
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Vol. 126 • No. 3