Do you wake up to skeletonized plants, wondering what could possibly be chewing your leaves down to their literal veins? Notice odd brown patches in your lawn, that no fertilizer can seem to clear? If so, chances are you’ve been beset by the Japanese Beetle. Read on for some tips on identifying and handling these crop-destroying pests.
As mentioned, this invasive species’ main calling card is on the leaves of plants it decimates, eating all the greenery in between the veins. Certain other bugs closely mimic these feeding habits however, such as Mexican Bean beetles, so it’s best to identify them by appearance as well. Japanese Beetles are on the small side, about half the size of a June Bug, with green heads and spines, and copper colored wings with white dots along the edges. Word is, the little buggers (pun fully intended) hitched a ride over in 1916 as grubs in the soil of Japanese iris roots. From there, and their initial sighting in New Jersey, they’ve spread like wildfire, now occupying almost every state east of the Mississippi and north of Florida. Further, they are even sporadically found to its west.
The beetles generally lay their eggs in June, which turn into white grubs with brown heads and six legs. These spend around 10 months underground, the stage in which they can turn your lawn brown as they feed on the roots of your grass. The following May-June, these grubs emerge to feed, usually attacking plants in groups. While their total lifespan is only 40 days, they can cover considerable ground in that time, and are fully capable of destroying such crops as beans, grapes, raspberries and the like.
While regular watering and fertilizing can help reduce the damage of Japanese Beetles, if you’re really inundated chances are you need to separate them from your plants entirely.
Your most simple option is to install row covers in the eight-odd week feeding period of the beetles, which begins around mid-May in the south, and mid-June in the north. Then simply pick off any beetles that happen to come up under your covers, and you’re good!
Geraniums are like catnip for Japanese Beetles. Not only do they love them, but the chemicals in geraniums make them dizzy, causing them to fall off onto the ground. This makes the plants an effective, natural beetle trap. Plant some geraniums, then at night, go out and put plastic sheeting all around the base of the geraniums. The following morning (Japanese Beetles like to beat the heat of the day), go out and take a look at the plastic. Chances are, it will be covered in beetles. Gently shake any remaining beetles off the plants and onto the plastic, from which you can dump them into a bucket of soapy water, where they’ll drown. Planting geraniums nearest the plants you wish to protect the most, can add another layer of security.
Beetle Traps: Store Bought
While Japanese Beetle traps can be effective, they need to be placed as far as possible from your plants, unlike geraniums. This is because the key ingredients, such as eugenol and geraniol can attract Japanese Beetles from quite a distance. Some even worry that such traps can increase Japanese Beetle populations for this reason, but I have never found this to be the case. My personal favorite traps are the Bag-a-Bug, from Spectracide. Impervious to rain and inclement weather, these traps remove thousands of the beetles from my farm every year.
If you’d like to make your own, of course, all you’ll need is a few fruit juices. Pour the remains of a few nearly empty bottles of juice into an eight-to-10-ounce cup (I’d use a few juices, but specific type doesn’t matter), then sit that cup in the direct sun for a week or so to ferment. Once fermented, place the cup in a tinfoil tray or other receptacle, and fill it until the water reaches just below the top of the cup. The beetles will be drawn in by the sweet smell of the fermented juice, then fall into the water and drown, making a simple but effective trap. Station it about ten yards from whatever you’d like to dissuade the beetles from devouring.
Annihilating the Grubs
There are many ways to get rid of grubs, from milky spores to nematodes, but while effective, many of these strategies can be wildly expensive. The easiest way to combat grubs is to spray your lawn after it has been freshly mowed, with two tablespoons of liquid dishwasher detergent diluted in a gallon of water. As long as you’re not stingy with the solution, this will cause the grubs to surface, where they will be quickly polished off by birds.
While a little late to be preventative, I hope the above tips can be of assistance to any of yall currently struggling with the pests, and may help head them off next year. While there are certainly more ways to control Japanese Beetles, these are by far my favorite, and in my opinion, the most effective.
A humble homesteader based in an undisclosed location, Lars Drecker splits his time between tending his little slice of self-sustaining heaven, and bothering his neighbors to do his work for him. This is mainly the fault of a debilitating predilection for fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors. When not engaged in any of the above activities, you can normally find him broken down on the side of the road, in some piece of junk he just “fixed-up.”