Theeeeey’re heeeeeere… They are nasty bugs, and their sole purpose in life it to decimate your beloved plants. They are Japanese Beetles.
Ok, ok, I’m being a little overly dramatic here. I’m sure that technically Japanese beetles have some other purpose in the circle of life… but it doesn’t seem like it.
Right now Japanese beetles are everywhere, it’s hard to miss them. The adult beetles are oval with an iridescent brown/green body. They are 2-3 times the size of a lady bug. Japanese beetles can fly, and are usually very active during the day. Adult Japanese beetles damage plants by eating holes in the leaves and flowers, and quickly skeletonizing the foliage – they can decimate a small plant in a short time.
The lifespan of an adult Japanese beetle isn’t very long, adults are usually present for less than two months. Adult beetles lay eggs in the soil, and the larvae hibernate deep underground during the winter. Japanese beetles can do double damage; the larvae of Japanese beetles is a grub worm, which feeds on the roots of lawns and other grasses.
The plants that Japanese beetles seem to love the most in my garden are roses, hibiscus, zinnias, canna lilies and beans – but there are tons of other plants Japanese beetles will feed on too. I know they love grapevines, and that’s part of the reason we cover our grapevines every year. During the course of a summer, I see thousands of Japanese beetles in my garden. Thousands! They are out of control.
Organic Garden Pest Control of Japanese Beetles:
The key to controlling Japanese beetles in the garden organically is to stay on top of the problem. This time of year, I try to get out in the gardens at least once a day to do damage control. The best way to deal with the adult Japanese beetle is to hand pick them off the plants, and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. Gross, I know! But don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.
By the way, don’t just use water in your bucket, make sure to put soap in there too. The soap will kill the Japanese beetles quickly. Otherwise, they can swim for a really long time – like days. It doesn’t matter what type of liquid soap you use in the bucket, but use enough so that there’s some foam on top of the water.
The best time to hand pick Japanese beetles is early in the morning, or in the evening. Japanese beetles aren’t as active during these times of the day, so less of them will escape my wrath. Plus, I can’t stand doing it during the day when they’re buzzing around – Eek!
Hand picking the Japanese beetles sounds easier than it is because sometimes they hold on tight to the plant and won’t let go. Either that, or they will drop off the plant as soon as you disturb it, so you have to be quick with the bucket. I find it easier to clip off the leaf or flower they’re munching on and drop the whole thing into the bucket, bugs and all.
To make it a bit easier to hand pick the beetles, you can spray them with soapy water first. The soap will kill some of the Japanese beetles on contact, and the rest will be stunned and easier to drop into your bucket. I use Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild liquid soap for all of my organic garden pest control.
It’s a bit of work to pick off the Japanese beetles and drop them into a bucket of soapy water, but it’s easy enough that pesticides aren’t necessary… and it’s sooooo satisfying.
Hand picking the adult beetles is just one of the ways I control Japanese beetles in my garden. Here are a few other ways that will help you fight Japanese beetles in your garden organically…
- Beneficial Nematodes as Organic Pest Control
- Japanese Beetle Traps
- Eggshells as Organic Pest Control (if you don’t have access to eggshells, you can buy diatomaceous earth for pretty cheap and use that instead)
To learn more about controlling garden pests organically, click here.
How do you control Japanese beetles in your garden? Leave a comment below and tell me about your experiences.