How to get rid of Japanese beetles?

One of the summertime pests gardeners fear the most is Japanese beetles. And one of the major reasons for their fears is the adult beetle’s extremely large appetite.

Adults can feed on plants for as long as six weeks, damaging their foliage and roots in the process. The situation gets worse when they invade in large numbers, as the damage can be more extensive.

If you’re a gardener with a Japanese beetle infestation and you’re tired of having your fruit plants being destroyed by these pesky insects, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this piece, I will be giving you useful tips on how to get rid of Japanese beetles!

About Japanese Beetles

How to get rid of Japanese beetles

The first step in knowing how to get rid of Japanese beetles is understanding their characteristics and habits. With this knowledge, getting rid of them will be a lot easier for you, and you may not even need to call the pest control service for help.

Japanese beetles love eating almost any type of plant. These include perennial hibiscus, roses, raspberry bushes, and any fruiting plant you can think of.

When they invade in large numbers, they will damage your plants in no time, and due to their feeding habits, they may begin to eat plants that they don’t fancy to get their fill. So don’t be surprised if you find that they’ve eaten up your purple cornflower plants or canna leaves during their invasion.

These pests originated from Japan, and they were first sighted in North America around 1916. They are about ⅜ inches long and hey have copper-colored bodies.

You can find them in pretty much every state in the United States during the summer seasons, although they are more prominent in Mississippi. Adult beetles have a much more aggressive appetite than their larvae, as they can feed on over 300 varieties of garden and ornamental plants.

Will Japanese Beetles Invade Your Home?

As I have mentioned earlier, Japanese beetles consume a lot of plants when they appear in large numbers. If they have eaten all they can from your yard, they may turn their attention to your indoor plants. Indeed, the plants you have indoors will not be enough to feed a large beetle population, but it could suffice for a handful.

Home invasion isn’t common, but it can happen as the beetles go around in search of food.

How to Tell If You Have A Japanese Beetle Infestation

Another vital step in knowing how to get rid of Japanese beetles is identifying the damage they cause. Keep in mind that many insect pests can invade your lawn, so knowing which will allow you to apply the right treatment.

Coincidentally, most pest grubs leave the same marks on your garden plants — damaged foliage and roots. You can also confirm their presence by actually seeing them in your yard.

How to get rid of Japanese beetles

Luckily, Japanese beetles are not shy insects, so they don’t bother hiding. They are comfortable being out in the open as they feed. If you indeed have a Japanese beetle infestation, then you’ll see them chewing away at your garden plants.

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How to Get Rid of Them

Now that you understand the habits of Japanese beetles, you can begin making plans to get rid of the grubs. If you do not like to go near bugs, you can hire a pest control service to eliminate Japanese beetles.

However, if you don’t mind facing these grubs yourself, follow the DIY tips below to get rid of them.

1. Pick them up by hand

Thankfully, a Japanese beetle is large enough to be handpicked. They aren’t shy, too, so you can always see them chewing away at your garden plants during their active periods.

Before you begin handpicking Japanese beetles, get a bucket of soapy water, then head out to your garden in search of them.

Put on a pair of rubber gloves, then look around your trees to see if you’ll spot any Japanese beetle. Please pick them up one by one and dump them in the bucket of soapy water. They won’t be able to escape, as the jar will be too slippery for them to climb out thanks to the soapy water. The more they struggle to get out, the more they get exhausted, and they will eventually drown.

You can catch a Japanese beetle at any time of the day, but entomologists advise that you go out in search of them early in the evening, between 5 pm and 7 pm, as that is when the beetles are most active. They are less active in the early morning, so that won’t be the best time to hunt adult beetle.

If the Japanese beetle grubs invade in large numbers, then hand-picking them yourself may take ages. Don’t fret. There’s a solution to this too, as you can get friends and family members to help you out.

Kids like games, so you can turn to handpick the Japanese beetle grubs into a fun activity by getting them involved (that’s if you have kids). Have them strap on their gloves and join you in the garden; the person who collects the most Japanese beetles wins the game.

Please note that a Japanese beetle doesn’t bite humans. They are only interested in plants, so your kids will be safe at all times.

Once you’ve picked up as many as you can, you can safely dispose of the beetles.

2. Set jars of dead beetles around your garden

A Japanese beetle hates the smell of other dead beetles, so if you’ve caught a good number of them in jars, then throwing them away may be a waste. Instead, you can use the smell of rotting beetles as repellents, which will deter them from coming close to your plants.

All you have to do is set the jars around your garden plants. Once they perceive the smell, they will cease coming close.

It isn’t clear why these pests stay away from their rotting peers.

It may be the smell, or they could take the dead beetles as a sign of danger. I’m sure you wouldn’t care much what their reasons are; as long as dead beetles keep them away, then you can use that to your advantage.

3. Use Japanese beetle traps

Another effective means of getting rid of Japanese beetles is to use Japanese beetle traps. Although many have argued that the traps attract beetles to your yard and that they can only catch about 75% of the invading beetles, leaving the other 25% to roam free and feed on your garden plants.

However, others have argued that the beetles will invade anyway, whether you set traps or not, so why not catch them when they do?

With this in mind, getting a store-bought Japanese beetle trap will do you a lot of good with Japanese beetle control. Experts advise that you set the beetle traps early in the season, so you can catch the adult beetles long before they can reproduce and grow their population.

It is also advised that the traps be set about 50 feet away from your plants, just so the invading beetles will consider the trap the first option before they get to your garden.

Of course, you can’t get all the beetles in one day (unless they invade in very small numbers), so you will need to empty the trap and reset them regularly throughout the season.

The best part about this Japanese beetle population control method is that you can use them as food for your poultry or pond animals (if you have any). Birds and fish love bugs, so that Japanese beetles will make a good, healthy treat for them.

If you’d rather have a DIY beetle trap rather than a store purchased one, then you can get empty bowls and fill them up with a mixture of water and organic dishwashing soap. Set the bowls around the areas where you expect them to invade from or around your garden, then wait for them to crawl in

Don’t worry about the beetles not entering the traps because they will. Japanese beetles are crawlers, and just like other bugs, will crawl around or into spaces around them, including the beetle trap.

Soapy bowls will be hard for the beetles to escape from, and they will die in a matter of days if they cannot get out to eat.

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4. Make a Japanese beetle spray

When I say Japanese beetle spray, I’m not talking about a water and soap solution. What I mean is making a solution with the dead beetles themselves.

We’ve already discussed how Japanese beetles hate the rotting smell of dead beetles, and while setting bowls of dead beetles around your garden can be effective, another option would be to liquefy the beetles and spray them all over your garden trees.

A lot of you will find this method of Japanese beetle control disgusting, as the thought of squishing dead beetles can be a turn-off. But the fact remains that it is a great way to get rid of Japanese beetles naturally.

If you have an old blender that you no longer use, then dump the beetles you have previously caught in and add some water. Blend them until the beetles have become liquid.

Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and apply it all over your trees, especially on the plants they love eating the most. This serves as an ideal Japanese beetle repellent, even though it’s disgusting!

5. Use organic pesticides

One of the best natural remedies for Japanese beetle infestation is neem oil organic insecticides. They work well against adults and will not hurt your plants.

This is a good way to get rid of beetles naturally, so I advise you to desist from using systemic pesticides on the soil. This is because the active ingredients are suspected to be responsible for honey bee collapse disorder.

Organic pesticides can also kill Japanese beetle larvae, and you can buy the oil pesticides from a pest control store in your area.

6. Use other plants as decoys

If you want to remove Japanese beetles from your trees naturally, you can use other plants as decoys. These plants should be placed far away from where your prized crops are planted so that the beetles will be distracted by them and stay away from your fruits.

Examples of good beetle bait include –

  • African marigold
  • Knotweed
  • Borage
  • Evening primrose

Of course, the pests will search for more food after eating the decoys, which means they will turn their attention back to your fruit trees, but there’s something you can do to prevent that from happening.

While they are busy with the decoys, you can handpick them there and use their remains as deterrents. We’ve already discussed how dead and rotting beetles act as deterrents to the living ones and how they can help control Japanese beetles naturally.

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7. Use other plant deterrents

Even though beetles can eat almost any plant, there are still some that irritate them. These include:

  • Garlic
  • Catnip
  • Odorless marigolds
  • Chives
  • White geranium
  • Tansy
  • Rue

These can be planted alongside your prized fruits to keep Japanese beetles away.

8. Use beneficial nematodes

Soil-dwelling nematodes are great natural predators to grubs. They are microscopic worms that love to feed on adult and Japanese beetle larvae, and you can use them to treat an infestation.

One of the best species of nematodes to use for this purpose is the Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, and you can purchase them from shops that specialize in selling beneficial insects.

You can scatter these beneficial insects around your trees during the fall and spring seasons and leave them to do their jobs.

9. Use beetle-eating birds

As hungry as these grubs are, they make a good meal for other natural predators, including some bird species. Among the best bird species you can use to kill Japanese beetles include:

  • Robins
  • Cardinals
  • Catbirds
  • Crows
  • Starlings

Of course, you’ll have to attract the birds down to your garden for them to see and eat the beetles, but that can be easily done. All you need to attract them is to provide a birdbath or a birdhouse in your garden. You can also install a bird feeder close to the soil surface of your garden to attract birds.

Once these birds are attracted down to your garden, they will sight the bugs and eat them too. Starlings, in particular, love walking around the yard, and they are expert diggers, so they are the ones that will most likely find the grubs around your garden soil.

10. Use tachinid flies

Adult tachinid flies aren’t particularly interested in eating Japanese beetles, but their larvae will never pass up the opportunity.

Adult tachinids prefer to feed on nectar, which is why they go for sweet flowers like fennel, dill, mint, gomphrena, and sweet clover. However, their young larvae prefer beetle flesh.

Tachinid flies are known to lay their eggs on the heads of Japanese beetles, and when the eggs hatch, the young larvae bore through the heads of the adult beetles and eat them from inside. This is a great natural remedy to kill Japanese beetles, so you can go to a store that sells beneficial insects and use them to get rid of Japanese beetles.

11. Do not over-water your lawn

Japanese beetles like moist soil, as it is perfect for them to lay and develop their eggs. With this in mind, I advise that you limit the amount of water you sprinkle around your garden, especially during the beetle season.

During this period, your garden grass may wither, but it is temporary and far better than having Japanese beetles destroy your fruit plants.

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What Is A Natural Way to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles?

There are many natural options you can use to kill Japanese beetles. Let’s take a look at some of them.

1. Use predators

Several bird species love to eat beetles, and they will help you get rid of them if you can attract them to your yard. All you need to attract these birds are bird feeders with grain in them and birdbaths. Nematodes can also be used as a natural remedy against these pests.

2. Garlic

Planting garlic around your fruit trees is also a great way to deter Japanese beetles from coming close to them. You can also make a garlic solution and spray it around your yard. Most pest insects hate the smell of garlic, so it can be used to keep them away.

To make the solution, blend a few garlic cloves with some water and pour them into a spray bottle. Shake the spray bottle thoroughly to achieve a good blend, then visit your lawn and spray the solution over your trees.

The garlic smell will fade away after a few days, so be sure to make another solution and reapply as required.

3. Use neem oil

Like garlic, Japanese beetles hate neem oil, so they stay away from areas where it has been applied. You can buy a bottle of neem oil and apply it around your trees to keep them away.

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FAQs

How Do You Get Rid of Japanese Beetles Permanently?

Killing the beetles is one thing, but keeping them away is another. It doesn’t make sense to go through all the trouble only to have them return, possibly in large numbers. So, here’s what you can do to keep Japanese beetles away permanently.

1. Install netting

Fixing mesh nets around your trees is a great way to keep beetles away. They aren’t particularly good diggers, so they can’t get around the net by burrowing under. Remember that the mesh nets have to be tightly woven so the spaces will be too small for the beetles to crawl through.

As an extra precaution, you can dig the net into the ground at least a few inches, as this will keep other burrowing pests away.

2. Plant garlic around your lawn

Having a barrier of garlic around your trees is a great way to keep Japanese beetles away permanently. These pests hate the smell of garlic (as most pest insects do), so having a garlic plant fence around your prized fruit plants will do the trick.

3. Plant chives

Chives have the same effect on Japs, so you can also use that to keep them away permanently. Plant some around your trees, and the smell will irritate the grubs and deter them from coming close.

4. Use pyrethrin

Pyrethrin can kill beetles in your yard. The good news is, it is completely safe to use around your fruit trees. This beetle killer can be bought from pest control stores near you, and I advise you read the instructions on the package before you apply for the best results.

Will Soapy Water Kill Japanese Beetles?

Yes, soapy water can be used to drown Japanese beetles. Just mix 3 to 4 tablespoons of dish soap with a quart of water into a spray bottle, then apply directly on the beetles as you spot them around your lawn.

Will Vinegar Kill Japanese Beetles?

Apple cider vinegar can kill Japanese beetles.

All you need to do is mix equal parts with water inside a bucket and dump the beetles you have handpicked inside. They will die in a matter of minutes. Apple cider vinegar contains acids that the beetles can’t stand, which is responsible for killing them.

Final Words

Japanese beetles can be very destructive during the summer season, as they have an incredibly large appetite. They can eat almost any kind of plant, although some plants like garlic and chives deter them.

Thankfully, treating a beetle infestation is easy.

Just follow the simple tips provided in this article, and your trees will be fine.

And if you’re the type who’s uncomfortable around insects, then you can hire a pest control professional to exterminate them.

Last but not least, do not use chemical pesticides against the bugs, as the active agents in the insecticide can equally harm your garden plants. If you must use pesticides, then use organic variants.

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