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What is bugging me today Japanese beetles


The warm months of summer bring these beasts to my gardens and I dread their arrival.  According to Wikipedia the species Popillia japonica isn’t much of a pest in Japan due to natural predators, that isn’t the case here in the states.  They were first discovered in the US in 1916 and thought to have hitched a ride on iris bulbs before commodity inspections began.   Each year, from late June to Mid July,  my roses, grapes, cannas, peas and many other plants take a lot of abuse from these little devils.  I have to beat them out to the raspberries as they love to suck the juice out of the ripe fruit before they can be picked.

Huge holes are chewed in the leaves of many of my plants and my roses blossoms are eaten before they can open.

I have seen many bug control items posted for sale to battle these notorious bugs and want to take a moment to discuss which has and/or hasn’t worked for me.

  • First and foremost the Japanese beetle traps that use pheromones to attract them to a simple bag trap system, this is a DO NOT USE recommendation.  The problem with this type of system is that the pheromones attracts the bugs to your yard from all over the neighborhood.  Of course some will be collected in the bag system but many more will munch their way across your yard before getting there.  The other disgusting thing about these traps is that you have to empty these bags often or the rotting bugs give off a horrid smell..
  • Harsh chemical controls are another DO NOT USE as they are harmful to the environment and the residue can be ingested by your pets and children who play in or around your gardens.  Here are a list of some of the chemicals available out there listed to control these pests.  Bayer Advanced Garden Multi-Insect Killer Concentrate,Carbaryl (Sevin),  Neem extract, Orthen,Ortho Bug-B-Gon Garden & Landscape Insect Killer Concentrate, Orthene Turf, Tree & Ornamental Insecticide, Spectracide® Bug Stop Multi-Purpose Insect Control Concentrate, Spectracide® Triazicide® Soil & Turf Insect Killer Concentrate to name a few..  My recommendation is to never use these harsh harmful chemicals.
  • Milky Spore bacterium is a way to attack the pest in the larval stage and can be very effective however the neighborhood you live in would need to get on board due to the bugs ability to fly.  How is works is that you spread the Milky Spore powder on your lawn and over the course of 1-5 years the bacterium grows, the feeding grubs ingest the bacterium while feeding on the roots of your lawn grass.  It will take the grub 7-21 days to die from the milky spore disease but when the beetle grubs die and decompose they will release billions more of the Milky Spore bacterium into the soil.
  • Liquid Rotenone/Pyrethrin spray, I use this spray as a last defense against the beetles that either have survived the milky spore bacterium or flew to my yard from other locations.  This is a canola oil and pyrethrin based spray that is safe to use and recommended for organic gardeners.  Pyrethrin is the powder of ground chrysanthemums seeds,it is toxic to fish and aquatics.  Rotenone is from the stems and roots of the like jewel vine, flame tree and lacepod.  While it is considered safe to use (due to it not remaining in the soil) it is still a pesticide, is non discriminate and will kill many other good bugs as well as bad.
  • My number one defense against the beetle is hand picking them early in the morning when they are clumsy from the cooler nights.  I put them into a container of soap water which they will drown in over the course of the day then dispose of them after the deed is done.  They are very clumsy and fall often so use a container with a large opening and place below the bugs and many will just drop right into your container when collecting.

The good news is that these beetles only feed from late June to mid July then will disappear into the soil to start the cycle over again.  Removing the masses of beetles is important as they release pheromones that call other bugs in to feed so the more you have the more you will see.  Good luck and happy beetle hunting..

This photo is of the Japanese Beetle grub..  I always dispose of the grub when I see them in the soil.  I have also seen birds, mostly crows, harvesting them out of our lawn, they leave a funnel shaped depression and are welcome to all the grubs they desire.  When you see lots of mole activity or even skunk dig marks that would also indicate you have a high grub infestation.  Even if you don’t care about plant damage, you may care all the holes in your yard; use Milky Spore to help remove the grubs from feeding on your lawn.

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2 Responses to What is bugging me today, Japanese beetles

  1. McKenzie says:

    Wow these seem very pesky! Thank you for sharing what works and doesn’t work on these things!

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