June bugs, also known as June beetles or May beetles, invade lawns and gardens around the country in late May through June. In large enough numbers, these adult beetles cause visible damage to the plants on which they feed.
June bugs are members of the Scarabaeidae family and are thus all species of scarab beetle. Once considered a symbol of rebirth and still treasured for their beauty, these beetles are plump, poor fliers, and range in size up to about two inches.
Their bodies vary greatly in color, from a dull caramel to striped patterns, to brilliant metallic green.
Learn how to get rid of these bugs and you can protect your lawn, shrubs, and ripening fruit from these pests.
Preventive Measures Protect Your Landscape
Treat your lawn in the late summer and early fall
The most common sign June bugs have become a problem are large brown patches in the lawn where the turf can be easily lifted up. These dead spots are caused by June bug larva, which live underground, feeding on the roots of your grass. To inspect for these pests, cut out a section of the dead grass, turn it over, and look for white, C-shaped grubs. If you find no grubs, something else is killing your grass and these treatments won’t help.
Once you see adult June bugs, there’s little you can do to control the adult june bug infestation that season. This is why it’s important to take action early to kill June bug grubs before they can develop. Female June bugs start laying eggs, June bug larvae, in the soil as fall approaches. These eggs hatch into grubs that burrow further down into the soil where they spend the winter. That makes late part of summer and early fall the perfect time to treat your lawn with insecticide.
Insecticide is appropriate only if your lawn has suffered damage and you’re sure of the cause. A healthy lawn doesn’t need insecticide, even if a few grubs or adult June bugs are present.
To kill recently hatched grubs, choose an insecticide product that contains clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam or chlorantraniloprole. These products should be applied any time from late July to early September. Timing matters because these ingredients aren’t as effective if applied later in the fall when the grubs are larger. Apply the insecticide too early, however, and it will wash away before the grubs are even present.
Before you apply the product, protect bees and other beneficial pollinators by mowing your lawn to eliminate flowering weeds or other plants that might attract these helpful insects. After application, water the lawn thoroughly to ensure the insecticide reaches the grubs.
If you miss the late-summer window of opportunity
Applying a product containing carbaryl or trichlorfon later in fall is an alternative. While not as effective as late-summer treatments, these products can cut the grub population by up to 80 percent, minimizing risk of damage to your lawn. Not all insecticides are effective against grubs, so make sure the product you choose is formulated to kill them. Follow the application instructions exactly for optimal results.
Natural Options for Controlling June Bugs
Keep grass healthy
By knowing how to get rid of these bugs through natural methods, you may be able to completely avoid chemical insecticides and still enjoy a green lawn in spring. Start by keeping your grass healthy. A lawn with an irrigation system and good drainage will rarely suffer from this bug damage, even with as many as five grubs per square foot in the soil. Because June bugs prefer to lay eggs in short grass, mow your lawn high in the summer to further discourage these pests.
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring microbe, can be applied to the lawn to get rid of any of June bug larva present. This bacteria is harmless to people and pets, as well as most other insects. Beneficial nematodes, a type of worm, also get rid of June bug grubs naturally and can be applied directly to the lawn. Bt pesticides and beneficial nematodes are available at home and garden centers.
Invite June Bug Natural Predators
Frogs, toads, snakes, and bug-eating birds such as robins, sparrows, and even hawks feed on June bugs. So inviting these natural predators into your garden is one way to protect your plants. A water source helps draw frogs and toads, while snakes can be attracted with shelters such as a piece of plywood or corrugated metal left on the ground.
Using a trap
By trapping adult June bugs, you’ll cut down the population that could breed in your lawn. To make June bug traps, fill a jar or other open container with a few inches of vegetable oil. Above the jar, place a white light, such as a white incandescent or mercury vapor light, to attract the bugs. As the June bugs swarm around the light, some will fall into the oil.
While an uncontrolled infestation can cause widespread damage to your lawn and garden, getting rid of these pests isn’t especially difficult. Natural preventive measures are often enough, but when they aren’t, effective chemical insecticides are available for a little extra support.
Lights and Plants
The natural attraction of June bugs to light make them easy prey for a bug zapper. We highly recommend this one: Flowtron Bug Zapper.
June bugs are attracted to two major things: plants and light. Ensuring there are no shrubs too close to the house can deter a large number of pests. Make sure to temporarily remove any potted plants on your porch during an infestation to deter them. June bugs eat leaves on plants and trees.
Also, turn off your outside lights at night when not needed. Setting traps with a little LED light on them is a great way to get rid of June bugs at night when you have the main lights off.
Unlike many other bugs we cover, there’s no specific June bug repellent out there. You can use any beetle repellent effectively, and most homemade general bug repellents may also work.
Thankfully, adult June beetles don’t live for very long, so it’s often more about preventing them from breeding in your yard than it is to stop them from munching on your prize roses. Remember, grubs do more harm than the adults, so prevention is the best defense.