Japanese beetles were accidentally brought to the United States around 1916. While not a problem in their native country, Japan, they are now found across more than half of the U.S. These beetles feed on more than 300 types of plants and can cause significant damage. If you suspect you have a Japanese beetle infestation and want to know the best ways to get rid of Japanese beetles, here are five steps to get you started.
1. KNOW YOUR ENEMY.
There are several species of beetles that could be mistaken for the Japanese beetle. Proper identification is the first step toward Japanese beetle control. Adult beetles can be one-third to one-half of an inch long and have tan, metallic wings and a dark greenish metallic head. They also have patches of white hair – two on the tip of their abdomens, and five lateral tufts down each side. They are typically found on plants. Larvae are found below grassy areas and are C-shaped.
2. KNOW WHAT THEY EAT.
If you want to know how to get rid of Japanese beetles naturally, look no further than the plants you choose to include in your garden or landscaping. Grubs eat the roots of grasses, and adults eat many common ornamental plants including roses, cherry and crabapple trees and marigolds. The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture's fact sheet on these beetles lists plants to use and plants to avoid if you are trying to get rid of Japanese beetles.
3. LOOK FOR WARNING SIGNS.
Japanese beetle larvae (grubs) eat the roots of grasses and certain other plants. Look for patches of dead grass and dig into the green grass around it to see if you have larvae present. Adults can fly several miles in search of new food sources. Plants eaten by adult Japanese beetles often have "lacelike" or skeletonized leaves due to the beetles eating the top layer of plant fiber. Trees that are preyed upon will often look like they have been burned, due to the feeding pattern of the beetles. These beetles feed in groups, starting at the top of a healthy plant and eating their way down.
4. PICK THE RIGHT CONTROL METHOD.
Japanese beetle treatment can take several forms. In addition to planting beetle-resistant flora in your yard, you can also use traps or chemical control to stop an infestation. Many products marketed as "natural ways to get rid of Japanese beetles" are proven to be ineffective.
For small infestations, picking the adult beetles off of plants by hand can help slow them down. Feeding beetles give off an attraction pheromone that brings more beetles to the plant. Shaking beetles off of plants and into soapy water is one of the best ways to kill Japanese beetles. Plants that are particularly vulnerable to attack can be covered with netting or mesh during peak insect feeding times.
There are two types of traps for Japanese beetles. The first uses the scent of geraniums or roses to draw in beetles, and the second couples this with a synthesized female beetle pheromone. While these traps do attract the beetles, they are typically only able to collect 50 to 75 percent of the beetles they draw to themselves. In fact, some experts suggest a trap only heightens your yard's draw for these pests and should not be used near plants that are known food sources for them.
Chemical methods range from insecticides that control the grubs to those that will take care of adult beetles. However, these methods should only be used as a last resort and care should be taken to use the correct type and dosage. Additionally, most of the insecticides marketed for Japanese beetle control cannot be sprayed during windy days, or where bees are present.
If you are able to get to the carcass, put on gloves and other protective gear before attempting to remove it. Rodents can carry diseases and viruses that are dangerous to humans. Seal the dead mouse in a plastic bag before disposing of it and thoroughly ventilate the affected area. Even if you’re wearing gloves, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
5. CONSULT AN EXPERT.
Beetle control often requires knowing the exact species, and proper identification can prove tricky. Japanese beetles can be confused with false Japanese beetles, rose chafers, masked chafers, May and June beetles and black turfgrass Ataenius beetles, all of which have similar appearances to the untrained eye. For help making a proper identification of the beetle invading your yard, and information on the best control methods, call a pest management professional.
Japanese beetle infestations can be quite serious. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, efforts to control them cost more than $460 million a year. Don't take chances when it comes to your yard and garden. Consult a pest management professional today if you suspect these beetles are present near your home.