If anyone has looked with horror to a group of flowers or plants that were completely mutilated by the invasive Japanese beetle, you know the destruction they can cause. Here I share how we were able to get rid of most of these insects without pesticides.
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5 Best Ways to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles Naturally
I am all about leaving well enough alone. Except for saving some insects or protecting them, I let nature be nature in my gardens.
I do not share this practice with the non-native, invasive Japanese beetle.
I have had major destruction of plants here, especially with my raspberry patch. I made it my job to get rid of them—all without pesticides, which I refuse to use on my property.
I’m sure you all know they start out as those white grubs that live in your soil. And I know they are just trying to live their lives, but they don’t belong here, which is why they take over.
They originated from northern Japan and were found in the United States in 1916. And now they destroy flowers and gardens everywhere. Let your place be one less area the Japanese beetle destroys.
1. Don’t use the beetle trap
You’ve seen them, I’m sure – the infamous Japanese beetle trap. You may have even used it. We have! And to our horror, we had gallons of them that we buried. Gross.
The Japanese beetle trap works by attracting them from miles around by placing their sex pheromone and a floral scent inside.
They come, they get trapped, and they die. They then make your place smell like death. Have I said how gross it is?
But if they actually worked, I could live with that. The problem with the trap is you are attracting droves of Japanese beetles onto your property that may never have even visited before.
Also, you will catch beneficial insects as well. And that’s not what you want to do.
But back to attracting them.
If the beetles see the other good things you have there like roses, hibiscus, raspberries, and a ton of other plants, they will send signals to all their buddies to come to this party place.
Because it’s a feast to them.
All from one little well-meaning Japanese beetle trap. Please don’t waste your money. It’s a good idea but honestly is counterintuitive.
2. Act Fast
Japanese beetles emerge from the ground in early summer and begin feeding on plants.
In the Midwest, this means around late June.
For you and me, this means acting fast. If you are aware of the beetle’s favorite places to feed, then begin watching for them.
The reason for this is because the first couple you see in your yard will be scouts. Like for real, they are scouting out good places to eat and breed.
If they find what they like and start eating, they will send out a signal by releasing certain chemical compounds that attract even more beetles.
If you find the first ones that enter your yard and dispose of them, they can’t send those signals or go and get their friends.
This keeps additional beetles out of your yard.
3. Soapy water
I dispose of Japanese beetles with a small bucket or Tupperware bowl (that I don’t mind throwing away) of soapy water.
I just put a big squirt of dish soap in there, add some water, and walk around the yard looking for these invasive creatures.
Any beetles I find, I will simply hold the bowl under them and touch them. 99% of them don’t fly away because their natural defense is to play dead if they feel threatened. So most of the will automatically fall into the soapy water themselves.
Honestly, and I know I’ll get some eye rolls, I feel bad for them. But I know the destruction they can cause, so it has to be done. They die almost right away.
I use Dawn dish soap on my dishes, so this is the soap I use.
However, DO NOT spray or apply any other dish soap but Palmolive to any plants, or it will kill them or burn the leaves.
So I do have a bottle of Palmolive and water to spray too if necessary. Although I am super careful of this method as I don’t want to spray any beneficial insects or any caterpillars.
Also, too much of this will still cause damage to your plant.
4. Remove their favorite plant for a couple of years
My Japanese beetle’s absolute favorite thing to eat and mate on was my rows of raspberry plants.
Their numbers were like that out of a plague, and I couldn’t keep up with them. Beetle traps only brought more in to feast on these poor plants.
So my husband and I made the decision to just tear them out for a couple of years. They were older anyway and could be replaced by a different variety.
That did it! It was the trick that dropped their numbers in my yard by the hundreds!
The ones that landed on my roses, hibiscus or any other plants they tried were very easy to drop in a soapy water bucket.
We do have a row of grapevines now, though, that they seem to enjoy. We are watching them very closely but do have a new way to possibly make the grape leaves taste horrible to them, naturally.
This “new, safe way” supposedly takes a season or two to really work. If it does, I will be sure to share the concoction with you!
5. Have a bird-friendly yard
Having a bird-friendly yard means having trees, shrubs, and plants that they can nest in, hide in, and find food.
It also means adding a water source and even a couple of well-placed nest boxes and feeders.
Having a bird-friendly yard will help ensure far fewer numbers of the Japanese beetle in your yard.
Some birds do eat them, but they won’t be able to keep up with an infestation of them. So utilizing each of these tips will, for sure, help keep your Japanese beetle numbers down.
Please note that it probably won’t happen right away, but it will happen. We removed those raspberry bushes a few years ago, and that was the big push for far lesser numbers.
But it’s still taken a couple of seasons to truly diminish their numbers.
Additional observations and tips.
Milky spores were noted to be “the thing” to use a few years ago. Supposedly the grubs would eat them and die. It was also said to take a couple of years to build up.
However, recent research shows that it isn’t as effective as once thought and takes much longer to work.
If you have acres of property in which the grubs may live, this could cost a fortune and take quite a lot of your time. We tried it one year near our garden, and that was it because it seemed like a downhill battle.
On our 10 acres, we also have moles. As annoying as their little tunnels might sometimes be, they are here mostly to eat these grubs. So I let them do their job.
Now that our Japanese beetle population is much lower, I see fewer tunnels produced by moles. Therefore, they move on to other yards, I assume.
Neem oil is also supposed to be effective and safe. To be honest, I have bought a bottle of this stuff but have never applied it, so I can’t say if this worked for us.
Personally, I just don’t like applying anything at all to leaves in the forms of oils, soaps, or anything else unless it’s deemed a garden emergency.
Because if it kills or repels the Japanese beetle, it will most likely kill or repel my beneficial insects as well.
These are the things that have worked for us, and I really hope this article will help you stop the destruction of these creatures on your property and plants. It is possible to do this without chemicals!
Do you have any other natural and pesticide-free methods you’ve used? Drop a comment below, and please share! 🙂