If there’s one thing every gardener loathes, it’s a pest. Especially the kind that is both destructive and difficult to control.
The Japanese beetle is a perfect example.
Don’t be fooled by its attractive colors, this bug is so destructive it can ruin your entire garden. And that is why it is important that you know how to get rid of Japanese beetles.
But what exactly is this pest and how did it find itself on American soil?
Getting Acquainted with the Japanese Beetle
Japanese beetles are a small invasive species of bugs that carry a big threat to plant life. That’s because they eat most kinds of plants from your rose bush to your grapevine.
While they are one of the biggest threats to crops in the Eastern and Midwestern United States, they are a relatively new species in the region.
Before finding its way to the Americas, the Japanese beetle was mainly confined to the islands of Japan. It was kept in check by its natural predators and isolated by the large bodies of water surrounding the islands.
Unfortunately, all that changed in the 1900s when, despite laws against it, people brought in plants rooted in soil. It is believed that the Japanese beetle entered America as grubs in the soil. The Japanese beetle population exploded, and all early efforts to keep them in check were dropped. It was just too prolific of a breeder to keep up with.
Identifying the Japanese Beetle
Japanese Beetles are easy to identify, thanks to their unique colors. They feature metallic blue-green heads, copper backs, and tan wings. They also have small white hairs lining each side of the abdomen. These are distinctive color patterns you won’t find in any other beetle. Japanese beetles like to move and feed in small groups, making them a bigger danger to your plants.
In order to know how to get rid of Japanese beetles, you not only have to be able to identify them, but you’ll also need to understand their breeding cycle.
Japanese beetles lay their eggs in the soil, usually in June. The eggs then develop into white grubs that have brown heads, 6 legs, and reaching sizes of up to ¾ inch in length.
The grubs will remain in the soil for about 10 months, overwintering and growing in the soil. And yes, they will be feeding on your plant’s roots. This is the longest part of the Japanese beetle’s life cycle.
They will then emerge from the soil around June as adult beetles and continue feeding on your plants, this time on the leaves, bulbs, and flowers. For the next 40 days or so, the only thing the Japanese beetle will do is feed and mate.
How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles – And the Complications Involved
Because it lacks a natural predator, the Japanese beetle is a bit difficult to control. That, and the fact that most pesticides don’t work makes this pest a terrible menace. So how can you control the Japanese beetle infestation in your garden?
1.Japanese Beetle Traps
Because of their destructive nature, different types of traps have been invented specifically to capture Japanese beetles. These usually comprise a pair of crossed walls and a bag or plastic container underneath to capture the beetles. These traps are baited with a floral scent, pheromone, and sometimes both.
The problem with most of these traps is that they attract a lot of Japanese beetles, even those from afar off. Isn’t that a good thing? It would have been a great thing if all those Japanese beetles ended up in the traps.
Unfortunately, most of the beetles end up on the plants near the trap. This ultimately means more damage to your garden than how it would have been done without the trap.
Does this mean you do away with the trap then? Not at all. Read on and you’ll see how to get rid of Japanese beetles using traps in conjunction with other methods.
You can also make your own DIY Japanese beetle traps using a fruit cocktail. To do this, simply open a can of fruit cocktail and let it sit for a week so that it can ferment. Get a light-colored pail and use some bricks to create an elevated platform upon which you will place the fermented fruit cocktail. Next, fill the pail with water until it barely reaches the top of the can of fruit cocktail.
Like the commercial traps, this trap will attract the Japanese beetle. When it comes to feeding on the fruit cocktail, it will fall into the water and drown.
The advantage with this trap is that the beetles will head for the can, and the pail will give them more room to land near the bait, therefore increasing the chance of the beetles being captured.
Use Their Greed Against Them
As already mentioned, Japanese beetles feed on more than 300 plant species. One of their favorites are geraniums, particularly the blossoms. Unfortunately for them though, geraniums are an intoxicant for them. Once they eat them, they get dizzy and fall off the plants, allowing you to easily collect them and dispose of them.
This means by planting geraniums close to your valuable plants, you can actually reduce the damage that Japanese beetles can cause on them. You can also plant geraniums around your Japanese beetle traps in order to make the traps more efficient. The trap will attract and capture some beetles while the geraniums will incapacitate the ones that escape the trap.
Those are methods that can be used to combat adult beetles. Let’s take a look at some methods that can be used to fight them at the grub stage.
Spray Your lawn with a Soap Solution
For this method, dilute 2 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing soap in 1 gallon of water to use per 1,000 square feet. Spray the lawn with this solution. This will force the grubs to come to the surface where the birds will quickly swoop down on them and have themselves a good feast. Do this at least once a week until no more grubs surface.
Use Milky Spore
During the larvae stage, the Japanese beetle is very susceptible to a disease called milky spore disease. To get rid of the larvae, you can introduce this fungal disease into your lawn to help kill them off. The larvae will ingest the spores as they feed in the soil and get mortally sick.
However, for this method to be effective, the spore count must be up for 2 to 3 years. The good news is that the spores remain viable in the soil for many years. The bad news is that this is an expensive treatment, as you will have to treat the soil within a 5/8th of a mile radius for good control.
Employ the Use of Nematodes
Nematodes are a parasitic type of worm that you can introduce to your soil when the grubs are small. These help control the larvae population. This method works best when the lawn is irrigated before and after application.
How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles – It Calls for Strategic Planning
Because of the hardy nature of the Japanese beetle, fighting it requires that you have a good strategy in place. This means you can’t rely on one type of control method if you want to win the battle. More often than not, you will have to use a combination of the methods outlined above in order to see effective results.
Whether you see immediate results or not, you will have to be patient and as resilient as the Japanese beetle itself. Failure to do so will result in your garden being overrun and ultimately destroyed.
If you are facing a Japanese beetle infestation, know that this is war, and in a war, you do whatever it takes to win. So, go out there, set your different types of traps and engage the Japanese beetle until you emerge victorious.