There Are Beetles and Then There Are Japanese Beetles… MUCH Worse

Japanese beetles…. one of the most destructive and hated of all garden pests. If you don’t have to deal with them where you live count yourself very lucky but be warned, they’ll probably move in eventually. Just as their name implies, the Japanese beetle originated in Japan but they’ve been in the US for approximately 100 years. They gradually spread but many areas of the country weren’t infested with the little devil buggers until the last 10 or 15 years. We didn’t have them on the farm until the last 7 or 8 years and the area I lived in for the past 20 years (which is approximately 200 miles from the farm) doesn’t have them at all… yet.

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Japanese beetles on a grape leaf.

What do Japanese beetles do and what makes them so bad, you ask? For a 6 – 8 week period (from June – August) they feed on the foliage of trees, bushes, and plants. They also feed on the fruit of some fruit trees and bushes. They can defoliate a plant in days. A Japanese beetle infestation can stress a plant so badly that it can destroy any hope of a harvest and potentially kill the plant. In their native Japan they have natural predators so they don’t cause as much damage. Here in the US, they go unchecked and thrive since there’s nothing in our ecosystem that naturally controls them.

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Japanese beetles have nearly destroyed some of the ornamental plants on my grandma’s porch.

If you have them in your yard or garden there are things you can do. First, you can treat your lawn in the Fall and Spring when they’re in their grub stage. This should help reduce the beetle population during the Summer months when they’re in their feeding stage. Right now they’re in their feeding stage and we have thousands upon thousands of beetles feeding on plants around the farm including a lot of fruit trees and ornamental plants that we’ve planted. One thing we do is use traps called Bag-A-Bug traps. The jury is out on their effectiveness but we fill bags in a day or two so it’s hard to argue with that. Some people use pesticide sprays or powders but you have to be very careful with that. I would be cautious of eating fruit from plants treated with a pesticide and, most importantly, pesticides are very dangerous to the honey bee population.

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Here’s a full Bag-A-Bug trap, I fill two of the bags at my little homestead in a day or two.

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A grape leaf that has been completely eaten by the beetles and is dying.

I’ve discovered that my chickens and guineas love Japanese beetles. It’s tedious but when I have a few minutes to spare I’ll pick the beetles off a plant and feed them to my chicks. They love it! I’m hardly making a dent in the beetle population but it certainly isn’t hurting.

I saw a homemade beetle trap online that I want to try; it involves a can of fruit cocktail and a small pail of water. I’m going to give it a try (because at this point it can’t hurt anything), I’ll let you guys know how it goes.

If you’re dealing with Japanese beetles, good luck! Only five or six more weeks to go!

Cheers,

D

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