Attack of the Japanese Beetles!

Every year, like clockwork, I end up battling beetles.  They are the literal scourge of my weeping pussy willow and Japanese Beetles are the Worst!cherry trees as well as my beautiful roses.  I tend to blame the former occupants of our home who were not diligent in cleaning up animal feces as well as many in our neighborhood struggle to keep up.  The beetles like to lay their eggs in the waste.  Just another reason for responsible animal ownership!

Prevention is Better than Cure – Erasmus

I tend to live my life nearby this wisdom and when we first moved to our house, I methodically inoculated our soil with Milky Spore due to the aforementioned issues.  Milky Spore is the brand name under which a bacterium that infects the larval stage of the Japanese Beetle is sold, and I must say, the difference in our lawn in just a year was phenomenal.  The large, dead patches of lawn shrank and eventually disappeared.  Milky Spore is a win in my book, but I do think I need to reapply it as they recommend reapplication after a decade.

Killing the Adult Japanese Beetles

Once the beetles are in your garden and noshing on your vegetation, what do you do?  Well, I have tried nearly everything at this point, and I have found two things that work:  chemicals and hand picking.

I won’t use the chemical insecticides as they may have negative effects on humans and they are not specific in what they will kill.  Sevin in particular is noted to be harmful to bees and earthworms, two things I am careful to keep safe for the health of the garden.  Sevin works, but at a cost.

Hand-picking is the best method I have found for real control of the beetles.  It is hard work, but so is gardening.  I don’t think many of us get into gardening thinking it will be easy.  It isn’t, but it is relaxing and rewarding, so we do it.  Pest control is just another facet of puttering in the garden.  So, here are my tips for hand-picking:

  • Do it early in the morning when the beetles are cold and slow. They’re not speedy in the hot afternoon, but are more likely to fly away.
  • Fill a 1/2 gallon+ container with a wide mouth about halfway with a mix of water and dish soap.  Pick the beetles and drop them into the mixture.  I try to hold the container just below the area I’m picking as the beetles tend to just drop to the ground when disturbed; just let them drop into your mixture.
  • I tend to crush a few and throw them back onto or near the plant.  The smell of the dead beetles is said to warn others and they won’t come around.
  • Do it daily or twice daily if you can.

The Verdict

I’ve used lots of other sprays, especially insecticidal soaps with little luck and a lot of money spent.  The most frugal, safe and effective methods I have found are the Milky Spore and the hand-picking.

Enjoy the garden!


Marie Wheeler