Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) were first introduced from Japan into New Jersey probably around 1916. They have since spread throughout the eastern and midwestern United States and Canada. They are now monitored very closely as they threaten to invade the western states. Intensive eradication of newly found populations, as well as restricting the movement of certain commodities from infested states is slowing the spread of this destructive pest. Japanese beetles feed on more than 400 different tree, shrub, flower, fruit, vegetable, and crop plants. What makes this pest particularly problematic is that, in addition to its appetite for such a wide range of foods, it causes damage both in its immature (grub) stage as well as its adult stage.
How to identify Japanese beetles
- Approximately 1/3 to 1/2 inch long.
- Metallic green head and thorax (the area behind the head) with copper-brown wing covers.
- Sides of abdomen have five white patches of hairs, and tip of abdomen has two patches of white hair.
Larva (white grubs)
- C-shaped, white to cream-colored grubs with a distinct tan-colored head.
- Legs are easy to see.
- From 1/8 inch up to about one inch long.
- Japanese beetle grubs look like other white grubs and can only be positively distinguished by examining the pattern of spines and hairs on the underside of the tip of the abdomen.
The Effects of Japanese Beetles on the Environment
Japanese beetles eat the roots of the grass, killing them over time. In addition to the environmental effects, it costs the United States alone around $234 million per year from turf replacement and control efforts of Japanese beetle larva. If you find large brown spots on turf grass and can pull large clumps of grass out of the ground, you likely have Japanese beetle larva present.
Plants and Trees
Various plants can be damaged by Japanese beetles, but for the most part the damage is more cosmetic than permanent. Look for plants and trees which have leaves eaten, with only veins remaining. This an indicator of adult Japanese beetle presence. Trees also can look bad from Japanese beetle infestation, but usually survive.
Japanese beetles especially like apple, plum, apricot, cherry and peach tree fruit. They can destroy all the fruit from a tree or orchard if untreated. Large holes in fruit indicates the possible presence of the Japanese beetle.
How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles in the Garden
Fortunately, good horticultural practices, including watering and fertilizing, will reduce the impact of the damage caused by these beetles, but often times you simply need to get rid of them. Here are some ideas:
- Hand Pick: Japanese beetles are easy to see and are fairly easy to knock into a can of soapy water. The most effective way to get rid of these pests. Put them in a solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent and water, which will cause them to drown.
- Neem Oil: We also deter feeding by adult beetles by spraying plants with Neem oil. Neem oil and sprays containing potassium bicarbonate are somewhat effective, especially on roses. The adult beetles ingest a chemical in the neem oil and pass it on in their eggs, and the resulting larvae die before they become adults.
- Row Covers: Protect your plants from Japanese beetles with row covers during the 6- to 8-week feeding period that begins in mid- to late May in the southern U.S. and in mid- to late June in the North.
- Use a Dropcloth: Put down a dropcloth and, in the early morning when the beetles are most active, shake them off and dump them into a bucket of soapy water.
- Insecticides: If you wish to spray or dust with insecticides, speak to your local cooperative extension or garden center about approved insecticides in your area.
- Japanese Beetle Traps: Yellow target traps baited with a pheromone attractant work to control large numbers of beetles, but sometimes too well. Don’t place one near your garden or you’ll be pulling beetles in from all over town. If you want to try them, be sure to place traps far away from target plants so that the beetles do not land on your favored flowers and crops on their way to the traps.
- Use parasitic nematodes in lawns and garden beds for grub control.
- Plant geraniums nearby: Japanese beetles are attracted to geraniums. They eat the blossoms, promptly get dizzy from the natural chemicals in the geranium, fall off the plant, and permit you to dispose of them conveniently with a dustpan and brush.
- Nip rose buds and spray rose bushes: Note that insecticides will not fully protect roses, which unfold too fast and are especially attractive to beetles. When beetles are most abundant on roses, nip the buds and spray the bushes to protect the leaves. When the beetles become scarce, let the bushes bloom again.
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The beetle is attracted by the attractant and color on the cross vanes that simulates a giant raspberry flower, they fly into the cross vane, fall into the funnel-shaped catchment area and down into the holding bucket below.
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Almanac. (n. d.). How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles in the Garden. Retrieved February 19, 2022, from https://www.almanac.com/pest/japanese-beetles
Science Direct. (n. d.). Japanese Beetle. Retrieved February 19, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/japanese-beetle
Sciencing. (n. d.). The Effects of Japanese Beetles on the Environment. Retrieved February 19, 2022, from https://sciencing.com/the-effects-of-japanese-beetles-on-the-environment-12421710.html
University of Minnesota Extension. (n.d.). Japanese beetles in yards and gardens. Retrieved February 19, 2022, from https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden-insects/japanese-beetles