Wednesday

Get Rid of Japanese Beetles With a Homemade Repellent

Just a gentle reminder that you should be on the lookout for Japanese beetles in your garden around this time. Once you spot a couple, act quickly. These first visitors are scouts that can make all the difference in how many beetles will be snacking on your plants this summer. The picture says it all.

Advance scout beetles mark territories as good feeding grounds for others to follow. Once marked, your garden will be considered a Japanese beetle buffet. To avoid being on the menu, catch and kill these first beetles and use them to repel any others that happen your way.

I wrote an article about making an easy homemade Japanese beetle repellent last season. You can read it at: Control Japanese Beetles Naturally

This method really does work for me, and I've gotten some great feedback from others about it too. What started me on a quest for a homemade solution was an article I read at Consumer Reports that gave a poor rating to conventional Japanese beetle traps.

A note before you head over to my article and recipe: It's critical that you catch the first Japanese beetle scouts before they have a chance to spread the word about your tasty garden. It may sound silly, but it's true. This is one instance where timing is everything.

If you're too late to catch the early scouts this year, there's still hope. If you keep killing every beetle you see, you'll be reducing the population that will deposit grubs on your property for next year; so even if this year's roses look a bit "lacy", next year you'll have fewer beetles to worry about.

Other things you might consider:

Next year put down a nematode preparation. Nematodes are microscopic, beneficial worms that kill Japanese beetle grubs before they come out of the ground. Milky spore works in a similar way. Nematodes and milky spore are safe and will help get your garden off to a good start next spring. So even though this year may seem hopeless, next year is bound to be better.

Employ plants Japanese beetles avoid.  There are some plants these beetles steer clear of.  They include: members of the garlic and onion family, catnip, tansy, peppermint and rue.  All these herbs have strong, non-flowery fragrances.  You may want to experiment with them and possibly others as well.

In some studies, Japanese beetles were repelled  using essential oils, but the research is still ongoing.  Cedar oil was particularly effective. (That may mean that even adding a little cedar mulch around your roses could be beneficial.)

Learn more about Japanese Beetle control methods with my updated post. There's a lot to learn and consider: What You Need to Know to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles

Good luck,

Sara

38 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:16:00 AM

    Gee, that's REALLY helpful after the fact (why else would I be here reading articles on ways to repel and control beetles?). You also act as if people have nothing better to do than stare at their gardens all spring looking for so-called scout beetles. What I need is a way to keep the darn things off my new raspberry bushes. The bugs have no appeared in large numbers in this area for 20 years, but the year I decide to plant raspberry bushes and blueberry ones, they have a full blown invasion in NE Ohio. Fortunately, for the blueberry plants they have a natural resistance, but the raspberry plants are getting pummeled. But telling me I SHOULD have killed those 'scouts' a few months ago is worthless information for this year.

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  2. I know it's frustrating. The first two years I lived in the Midwest were a nightmare in the garden because of the green menace.

    Time appears to be a factor for you, but one of your best bets is go out in the garden early in the morning and manually pick the beetles off your shrubs and dump them in a bucket of soapy water. After a few mornings, you'll see a drop in beetle visitors on your berry bushes.

    I get thousands of site visitors at this time of year because Japanese beetles are such persistent and difficult pests to eradicate. If you find a late season solution, please share.

    Sara

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  3. Anonymous1:06:00 PM

    My green beans are COVERED in these stupid beetles. I went on vacation for a week and returned home to an entire tree in my front yard being infested with these things! I'm glad I'm not the only person in NE Ohio with these issues! I've read that killing some of them and leaving them in a can helps keep the beetles away. It sounds silly, but I'm going to give it a try...

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  4. Anonymous12:25:00 PM

    I mixed a solution of equally dish washing soap and water and they seem to drop off like flies. I have them on one of my oak trees. I have never seem them in my area before. East Texas.

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  5. Anonymous6:15:00 PM

    Does anyone know if these japanese bettles start out in the spring as tiny flying bugs. I see them (many) on my Hollyhock now. They are impossible to catch as they fly like mosquitos. Are they the youngsters of the big bettles? or some other kind of insect? The MO Botanical Garden recomment brushing them off into a pail of soapy water, but they fly away too quickly.

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    1. I always spray the beetles with water before I remove them. They can't fly with wet wings. Also, if you go out first thing in the morning, it's not warm enough for them to fly and you can get many then. I can get dozens if I act first thing in the morning, even on really warm days.

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  6. It's a little early for Japanese beetles, so I think you're probably being plagued by something else. Take a look at this site to see photos of some likely candidates: http://www.uark.edu/ua/arthmuse/gallery.html

    Hope this helps.

    Sara

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    1. Anonymous1:52:00 PM

      Hi: I have tried the eco-friendly pesticides on these bugs and it doesn't work. These pesticides are full of soap and other stuff which they claim will work. NOT!! A good rain and it's all off the raspberry bushes. I have manually squished these bugs to no end and I still get millions of them the next year. I have killed the scouts as you say and they still come. We need the old pesticides to get rid of these bugs as we are just wasting our time with the eco-friendly stuff. I have actually sprayed the soapy pesticide right onto these bugs and they just keep on eating as if nothing is bothering them.

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  7. Anonymous6:24:00 PM

    I like how, to the first commenter, it's all YOUR fault that she didn't start looking for a solution to her beetle problem until after she was already infested, even though according to her this has been a problem in her area for years.

    Thanks for the tips. I saw the first scout today and went looking for ideas immediately rather than waiting until it is too late like I usually do. Glad I found your blog. By the way, I didn't stand around staring at my garden all spring looking for that beetle, I just happened upon it.

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  8. It pays to be lucky!

    Sara

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  9. Anonymous9:19:00 AM

    Glad I found your blog.

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  10. Anonymous7:33:00 PM

    The neighbor across the street has rose bushes, the next door neighbor has grape vines and fruit trees, and the backyard neighbors have japanes maple trees. Now WE have Japanese Beetles on our snowball tree, some vines, and our nice new Hydrangea bush! How can we compete with the neighbors' attractants to those pests??! We are trying JB traps and they seem to be working -- somewhat -- but I am really worried about the future

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  11. Anonymous2:35:00 PM

    I have just noticed an infestation of these in my yard. First my rose bush was attacked - and now my frut trees and my beans and pepper plants. What a nuisance. Wish I knew about them earlier, thinking these were friendly insects. I will try out the soap water solution and hope they go somewhere else. I already sprinkled some bug b gon on the plants.

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  12. Anonymous4:29:00 PM

    They really like beans and snow peas.... They will not eat cucumber or tomatoes.. I have raspberries in my yard away from my vegie garden but they do not touch them..
    I have been flicking them into a container with water and letting them drown in a bucket of soapy water.. I see maybe a few daily..

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  13. Anonymous2:17:00 PM

    I just sprayed a heavy solution of ammonia,dish soap,and a bit of water on a million of them bugs and a lot died but they seemed to want to attack me. I kept going back and forth between my beans and raspberries spraying the hell out of them. They come in as fast as you kill them. I wonder if you wet the plants and spray diatomacious powder with pyryteum if that residue will kill the new comers? Anyone ever try that?

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  14. Anonymous9:18:00 AM

    My grandmother used to pick them off her roses and squash them right between her fingers. Then she flicked them into the beds saying they were a warning for the other beetles. I'm gonna get those stinkin' scouts this year. Impale them on toothpicks and set them about my garden of death. Mwahahahaha!

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  15. I'll be listening for your war cry!!!

    Sara

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  16. Anonymous11:02:00 PM

    Hahaaa toothpicks..funny :) these stupid beetles are eating my raspberry bush and calla lily. Very frustrating.

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  17. Anonymous5:24:00 PM

    Thanks i hold a dish of soapy water and pick the dang things as i pick my raspberries. . .it is very frustrating!!! i only had a few last year on my raspberries and it took me awhile to figure out what they were. well now i am getting pummeled this year- caught over 50 this morning!seems like more every day. i have a beautiful climbing shrub rose about 3 ft away from my raspberries and sure enough they are on those too but the darn things fly to the top where i can't reach them! my neighbor told me they put down some grub stuff on their lawn in the spring and it helped- they dont have any this year. i will have to find out exactly what it was. happy hunting! Pat

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  18. Hi,

    That grub stuff is probably nematodes -- microscopic worms that kill Japanese beetles in the larval stages when they're still in the ground. Last year, the beetles probably infiltrated your soil and that's why you have more this year than last -- they moved in. Kill as many adults as you can, and try applying beneficial nematodes to your soil for next season. You can find preparations at your local nursery or garden center.

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  19. Anonymous9:38:00 PM

    Research has shown that Geraniums in the garden kill Japanese Beetles Keep lots around. Researcher: R.E.K. Winter
    Thanks EA

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  20. Anonymous5:40:00 PM

    I have used my portable vacuumed those beetles off of my siding and it works like a charm! Spraying the bugs with soapy water where ever they are will also work.

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  21. Hey when you put the JB's in soapy water, are you then spraying the plants with the solution? I once read in organic gardening an article about catching the bugs, putting in blender with water, strain and spray, I did it and had no more bugs in my garden. My kids loved helping catching the bugs. I had an old blender just for the bugs. Gross, however, it was cost effective and chemical free!

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  22. Diana,

    If I catch them early enough in the season, I find that just leaving a bucket of soapy water and dead JBs where it will get good airflow is enough to alert the others to stay away. Then I don't have to make a bug smoothie -- which really is a little disgusting. The soap discourages mosquitoes, too. I just dump the bucket and start over every week through July (here in the Midwest).

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  23. Japanese beetles can be very frustrating, I know. Dangerous pesticides don't need to be the answer, though. If you're overwhelmed with Japanese beetles year after year, you probably have lots of beetle grubs overwintering in the soil around your plants. You may be able to get a handle on them with nematodes. Nematodes are microscopic worms that destroy Japanese beetle grubs before they emerge in spring and summer. Next year, try using bugs to kill bugs instead of using harsh chemicals.

    After reducing beetle populations in and around your house, you may be able to go back to gentler DIY methods of control like the one I discuss here. There are lots of different types of nematodes, some beneficial and some not. Use this season to make an assessment of the types of insects that are making life in the garden a nightmare for you. Ask your garden supply expert to recommend a nematode treatment for this fall that will take care of a number of nasty culprits in your soil. Good luck.

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  24. Anonymous12:21:00 PM

    MILKY SPORE applied in the fall should help a lot. It gets rid of the grubs and goes through the root system of your plant. If this takes, it's supposed to help for about ten years. I'm trying it! I'm spraying and picking, picking and spraying, but plan to use the Milky Spore stuff in August. It's strange that I hadn't noticed these pests till this year when my daughter purchased a new home with beautiful landscaping......Then......attack! Her rose bush went first and now they've started on the purple plum. We are at war!! Good luck, y'all. MaryAnn

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  25. Mary Ann,

    You're right, it's war! Every suggestion adds to the arsenal. Thanks for your tip.

    Sara

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  26. Anonymous9:26:00 AM

    Beatle traps attract more beetles...you will bring more beetles into your yard than your trap catches. It works with pheromones which is like a love attraction thing. I use this concoction: in blender, put a head of garlic cloves peeled, a hot pepper the red dried kind that are very hot and about 1 cup of water. Blend until it's purified thoroughly. Strain into a jar. Then add the mixture, about 2 TBl of dish soap, 2 Tbl of cooking oil (helps concoction to stick to leaves). Add about 1 Gallon of water to your sprayer. After picking off the adults, I spray the plants I want protected. NOTE: DO NOT SPRAY THIS DURING THE HEAT OF THE DAY...do early morning. The cooking oil will cook your plants. In the fall, spray the milky spore on the lawns to counteract the grubs that the beetles lay during the active season.

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  27. Anonymous9:11:00 PM

    Thanks Sara, It seems you are ground zero for most of us. Last year I didn’t even know what a Japanese beetle even was or looked like – neither did my raspberries. Then I fell under siege, by mid July my plants could not produce – it was all they could do to survive. The JBs rotated from trees to raspberries (their favs) to roses to trees in my yard so I was out there three times a day harvesting bugs . The hottest time of day proved to be most ‘fruitful’. They did try to fly away but they are so clumsy they drop a little before acquiring flight so I try to place the bucket under them before approaching them with my other hand to herd them down. Their best defense is to drop to the ground and disappear (probably lay a few eggs) then climb back up the stem so I approach over above them with my herding hand to discourage them from flying away so they would drop into the bucket, If they did fly it was never very far. I found they like to be social and would hang in clusters so sometimes I got 2 to 5 in each approach. I always picked the bugs first because I never worried about the raspberries flying away.

    I harvested my first raspberries this year (North West Wisconsin) the other day with many more to come, I harvested my first dozen bugs today :( . Thanks to you the soap and water bucket is my preferred method, I don’t want to spray the plants to repel them just to come back ten times worse another day – I want to kill them from the start. Any JB that eye-balls my raspberries has already sentenced itself to death! Is it too late in the season to try the nematodes or do I have to wait for fall? How do I know which nematodes to use?

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  28. Sorry, you'll have to wait until fall. Check with your garden center for the right preparation. I do know that Heterorhabditis bacteriophora is effective, so keep it in mind as you read ingredient (targeted effectiveness) labels. Heterorhabditis bacteriophora also destroys cucumber beetles and bagworms (among other pests).

    Good luck,

    Sara

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  29. Anonymous5:49:00 PM

    Thank you so much! Wishing you a heavenly garden... :)

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  30. I use a long-stemmed butane lighter to burn the little bastards as they feed on our plants. I've killed hundreds that way, but it's an ongoing war, year after year. I may upgrade my weapon of choice to either a propane torch or electric fly swatter!

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  31. Michael,

    How wonderfully bloodthirsty of you! Technology can be sooo comforting. We should caution readers to use this technique with extreme caution -- if at all, though. If you're being serious, I must say that the sheer frustration of dealing with JBs can lead even the most civilized of us to violent extremes.

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  32. I, too, am at war with these little creeps. They have turned my beautiful grape vineyard leaves into what looks like production of screens for little screen doors. They eat all the green off the leaves and leave a very thin skeleton that looks like a net or screen material. Three trips a day to the vineyard to drown those things in a mixture of dish soap, bleach and water is giving results. At first there were countless dozens of them. That solution kills them very dead in about a minute. Not sure if the bleach is necessary. It does seem to speed up their demise. Now I find between six and maybe a dozen each trip. And their numbers are shrinking.

    I am treating the soil this fall to kill off next year's new population of the Japanese beetle.

    Ya, this is war. They have wings to fly and the ability to eat the leaves off my fruit plants. However, I have something more devastating than they can compete with. I have the Internet! :0)

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  33. We are soldiers in what we do.

    Sara

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  34. aha! Have just googled images of Japanese beetles. They are what I know as Bronze beetle, possibly the same as what others call Christmas beetles, the same size as the black beetles we get in our lawns. I've seen a few, but not many. Usually on the grass or on the paths, where I squish them with my shoe and leave them as a warning to other beetles.

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  35. I have used Seven Dust on the leaves of my plants that the beetles & deer like to eat! Seems to work for us!

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  36. I know this sounds crazy but they are in huge clusters on my blackberries eating everything in site so i'm gonna try fruit tree spray and see what happens!

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