Getting Rid of Japanese Beetles
Are you experiencing an infestation of Japanese beetles? I am. It’s gross. They are destroying my raspberries, blackberries, roses, and banana trees. And they are EVERYWHERE. So, if you are like me, you are trying to implement a safe, natural homemade remedy to get rid of them.
These invasive species eat over 300 types of ornamental plants, fruits, vegetables, trees and shrubs. They are not discrete. They are not hard to identify. They are not alone. And their damage is unmistakable.
the Japanese Beetle life cycle
First let’s talk about the Japanese beetle life cycle. I wouldn’t put you through this if it didn’t help understand the solutions I will suggest. When you start to see Japanese beetles, you are seeing the later part of the bug’s lifecycle. This is one place to stop your infestation but understanding a Japanese beetle’s life cycle offers more opportunities to prevent mass infestations and skeletization of your plants in early summer.
Eggs begin to develop into grubs which feed underground on grass roots. They are moving toward the pupae stage. (Hint- if you are seeing patches of dead grass, you may be feeding Japanese beetle grubs.)
After the larvae fully develops, it becomes a pupa, preparing to become a rose-munching adult.
Hello Hell. These Japanese beetles are coming up from the ground, releasing pheromones, mating and eating simultaneously all over your blackberries and raspberries. And when they get their fill of debauchery, the females head to the ground in the afternoon to lay more eggs.
how to get rid of Japanese Beetles
I normally like to let nature sort things out and don’t do too much pest control. I certainly don’t use chemical pesticides because I grow food. And I don’t want to eat pesticides. But these beetles are invasive and truly destructive. They don’t have a lot of natural predators. So, it’s up to us to find ways to get rid of them, deter them and stop their life cycle to prevent mass destruction of our ornamentals, shrubs, fruit trees and vegetable plants.
I’m going to be honest here. These are not perfect methods. They are no going to make these beetles disappear after a day. You need to add persistence, dedication and a killer instinct to the equation to really launch an effective attack against these insatiable, relentless mini-beasts. And I warn you- you may lose your ever-loving mind first. But pro-activity is a weapon of choice against insanity. And if you try a few of these methods, you may make some headway.
Below are a few pesticide-free ways to get rid of Japanese beetles, in their adult stage- usually early to mid-summer:
adult Japanese Beetles
Japanese Beetle traps:
These traps have a unique blend of floral scent and pheromones to attract beetles. They are set up so that the beetles can find the bag, crawl in, but not find their way out. These fill up fast and get really gross when you think about the loads of beetle cadavers stacking up, but it is one way to trap them. It also doesn’t involve pesticides or spraying directly on your plants, which can burn the leaves in the sunlight, stressing them as much as being munched on by thousands of bugs.
The one thing I don’t like about this is the promise of sex and food in my yard. It’s basically just calling them in. So, I would recommend putting it on the corners of your property, drawing them outward instead of in towards your house or garden.
Get a bucket and add water and soap. This is the most effective way, honestly. I put on gloves and knock the beetles into the soap bubbles. Dump the water far from your garden and yard, as dying and dead beetles may still release pheromones. (Relentless, even in death.) I think this is the most effective in this stage. But it is also the most labor-intensive and intimate approach. If you are squeamish about bugs flying around you, it’s a tough battleground.
There are plenty of Japanese beetle sprays on the market. I don’t trust that many of them are safe though.
Neem Oil: I have used Neem Oil, and it can be effective when used right away, at the first sign of Japanese beetle infestations.
Cedar plank tea: Pour hot water over cedar planks and soak them overnight. Make sure they are submerged. Then pour the water into a sprayer and spray it all over your roses and raspberries and whatever else they are destroying.
Cedar Oil spray: I’ve done this- it’s an expensive solution if you are spraying a lot, but the beetles really get a move on when the spray hits them. Just add cedar essential oil to water. I feel safe eating my raspberries afterwards too. Results here are mixed for me- they seem to stay off for several hours after being sprayed, but they are likely to come back the following day or even in the afternoon if I spray in the morning. This is where the persistence on your part is needed.
pupae and adult stage- late spring throughout the summer:
Harvest plants before they are overripe: Discourage Japanese beetles from coming to party at your place. Beetles are drawn to dying plants, so remove any diseased, overripe or dying parts of plants and take them away from your yard.
egg laying and larvae stage -late summer through fall:
Beneficial nematodes. These small worms are underground saviors. They make their way into soil-dwelling grubs like Japanese beetle grubs and release bacteria that will kill its host. It’s a green, natural, out of sight solution for getting rid of these invasive beetles. You can actually buy these at local home and garden stores. And you don’t have to witness any of nature’s tragedies. You just let them free and they take care of the rest.
Dish soap: Spray your lawn with a soap mixture to get those larvae to come up from the soil. If you have a bird-friendly lawn, you will be laying out a buffet for them. And reducing the number of the next generation. Look for dead grass. It may be a sign of munched-on roots.
other quick thoughts:
Some people say ‘just don’t grow the plants that they like.’ If you just don’t like the beetles, that’s a fine solution. But, for me, it isn’t that I don’t like the beetles. It’s that I like the plants they are destroying. Depending on your motivations here, this might be an option for you. But if you are growing particular plants because you like them, then this feels like an anti-solution. And I apologize for bringing it up.
One last thing to note: Do NOT crush Japanese beetles. Don’t step on them. That releases the females’ pheromones, which attracts more beetles. Difficult little things, aren’t they?
Let me know in the comments if ANYTHING has worked for you. We’d all be grateful to hear it! And at least combat our insanity with another promising effort.