Dealing with Japanese Beetles in your Garden

Get rid of Japanese beetles by following these tips before they wreak havoc on your yard!

 

After spending hours planning your garden, planting it, and giving it the love and care it deserves, it can be quite the heartbreak when you see your plants not doing as well as you had hoped. Sometimes even if with proper care, sneaky pests wreak havoc on our precious plants.

One of the most destructive (yet nearly indestructible itself) is the Japanese beetle. And while they are seemingly invincible, with their tough outer shells, we know a few ways to target these pests before they leave you with little more than skeletal remains of plants.

What are Japanese Beetles?

Japanese beetles are native to Japan and were accidentally introduced to the United States about 100 years ago through air travel. They have been regularly spotted in Iowa backyards since the 1990s.

A species of scarab beetles, Japanese beetles have a distinctive look, with metallic green heads, copper bodies, and tufts of white hair along each side of the abdomen. They are about half an inch in length.

Adults lay eggs in the grass around June, and then the eggs hatch into white c-shaped grubs, or larvae, that stay underground for about 10 months until they become adults in spring.

What does Japanese Beetle Damage Look Like?

The grubs feed on grass roots, leaving weak, brown patches of grass by the time the pests fly away as adults. Plus, the grubs are a food source for wildlife that can smell the larvae just below the soil. As animals hunt for the grubs, they may tear up your yard, leaving your garden ripped to shreds.

As adults, Japanese beetles eat leaves and petals, starting from the outside and making their way in. But they don’t eat the whole thing—rather, they leave behind the veins, creating lacy, skeletonized patterns on the leaves. Adults fly in packs all summer until around mid-September as they hunt for plants that catch their eyes, which is unfortunately most plants.

How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles

Since Japanese beetles have such hard shells, this makes them difficult to kill. But don’t lose hope! There are some ways to control these devilish beetles in your yard without using harmful chemicals, which is beneficial if you focus on organic gardening

  • Remove beetles by handpicking them. We didn’t say pest control would be fun. If you weren’t able to target the beetles while in their grub stage, then you can hand pick them off the plants. Have a bucket with soap and water nearby. Early in the morning, when the beetles are extra sluggish, give your plants a quick shake to make the beetles fall off. Put on a pair of gardening gloves, pick off the remaining beetles, and then toss them into the bucket.
  • Put out some beetle traps. Japanese beetle traps use aromatic lures to attract the pests. But, since they are releasing these desirable smells, beetles from beyond your yard could make their way over. If you use traps, put them far away from the plants that the beetles have been eating so that they go straight to the trap rather than the leaves of your favorite plants.
  • Grow plants Japanese beetles avoid. While these beetles aren’t nearly as picky as our kids when it comes to what to eat, they tend to avoid certain plants. To naturally repel Japanese beetles in Bettendorf, include some of the following plants in your garden: Catnip, Chives, Chrysanthemums, Geraniums, Larkspurs, Leeks, Marigolds, Onions, or Rue.
  • Spray with a labeled insecticide.  We like to recommend all natural sprays like Neem or Captain Jack’s Dead bug brew. Many gardeners also find great success with old fashioned sprays like Sevin.  Read label instructions on all sprays before you use them. 

When you first see a Japanese beetle or the damage it has done, you may feel a bit helpless. You put so much hard work into your yard! But do not worry—there are many ways to target these beetles without harming helpful pollinators. If you have any more questions about Japanese beetles or other garden pests, stop by Wallace’s Garden Center or get in touch.

 

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