(japanese) beetle juice

beetle-soupOK, SO I’M A HOMICIDAL MANIAC AT THE MOMENT. What are you busy offing in your version of Trouble in Paradise?

Besides drowning Japanese beetles in bowls of soapy water, I have my eye on some rabbits who seem to be working their way through the place. Wish my neighbor, Herb, who has a knack for trapping every manner of thing, hadn’t gone to Maine for the summer. Herb? Oh, Herb?

With the Japanese beetles, I’m long past the beetle-bag phase of my gardening career. I think that those lures just attract more beetles, and are just plain ugly. I lure them instead to their death-by-drowning by leaving in some appealing plants I wouldn’t normally grow, like a volunteer hollyhock that just sprouted in the vegetable garden.

The beetles really love it, and it seems to keep them out of the nearby climbing rose. Each day I visit the hollyhock and knock a handful more into the soup, as I do at a particular patch of ferns they really love that look like hell, all rusty-brown and tattered, but act as the trap I desire. (What plants are your beetles feasting on, either unfortunate choices or ones like my lone hollyhock that you’re using as a decoy?)

The way to reduce the beetles population, if it’s possible at all, is to reduce the population of grubs they come from, with natural inoculants like nematodes or Milky Spore. We’ve talked about this a little on the Forums, in a thread about moles (who love the grubs that become the beetles…one big chain of garden havoc).

So tell us now, truthfully: What is in your sight lines for getting real, real gone?

August 1, 2008


  1. says

    I’m with you Margaret.. the Japanese Beetles are just out of control. Shouldn’t they be gone by now?! I’ve had my ‘beetle soup’ going for some time. They’ve practically destroyed my Wisteria (it looks like leafy lace) and have even taken to some Geraniums. Short of the ‘shake into soap’ method, I’m not sure what else to do. Right now, I’m just trying to keep them off my roses and that alone is a struggle! Death to the Japanese Beetle!

  2. Amy Harris says

    I used Milky Spore treatment consistently for several years, and my Japanese Beetle population is much reduced. And I agree — the drowning in soapy water is the most effective method. I’m firmly convinced that traps just pull in all your neighbors beetles — which then have a good munch before settling down in the yellow bag.

    If you want a sacrificial plant as a lure, the beetles love soy beans. Must remind them of home….

    I’ve become very ambivalent about deer. Yes, they are absolutely lovely, and very peaceful to watch, but must they eat anything and everything not fenced?? We live adjacent to 55 acres of woods. You’d think they could find something to eat besides ALL the day lilies and most of the hostas!

  3. Melinda says

    I’m trying to work myself up to drown some tomato hornworms. I spotted one last night as I wandered through the garden after being away for a week. NASTY!!! I can at least use the 105 degree weather as an excuse for being squeamish, right?

  4. says

    I use an organic spray made by Espoma to kill an occasional Japanese beetle.

    I am having the worst aphid problem on my nasturtiums. The Espoma spray is supposed to work on aphids as well, which it does. But then more aphids arrive. I think I am in need of some lady bugs, because I am having to spray so much that the leaves have stains from the spray.

  5. says

    @Kenn: Mine seem to think they are staying indefinitely, too. No signs of departure (except into the soapy drink).

    @Amy: Was just talking re: soybeans and how they are also a great aphid magnet last night w/garden pals at dinner (nice topic of dinner conversation, huh?). As for deer, I invested in an 8-foot wire fence maybe 8 or 9 years ago, thank goodness. I don’t think anything but serious fencing is an antidote to deer.

    @Melinda: OK, I will confess: They freak me out, too. My sister and my niece routinely go hunting for theirs and drown them, but I always get squeamish. So prehistoric, so giant!

    @Fern: With the aphids, I just hose things down with the sprayer nozzle over and over and over. Usually I win, but sometimes (like on a honeysuckle last year)…forget it.

  6. Melinda says

    Nothing freaking me out this side of the world at the moment as its winter and my garden is safe except for the possums that like to visit and check out if signs of spring growth are on their way so the can start oa nibble on!
    They are protected so you cannot kill them or catch and remove them and to tell the truth – they are so cute I couldn’t hurt them at all but I wish my two dogs could scare them off! Nuh!

  7. Tammy says

    I don’t have Japanese Beatles here (knock on wood) but am overrun with snails and pillbugs which are also being given a soapy bath. Why are snails and pillbugs soooooo prolific, while lady bugs and other good guys are few and far between?

    Margaret, I know you are a proponent of mulching, but because of these two fiends I tend to shy away from mulching. Any thoughts?

  8. says

    Welcome, Melinda, from the quiet side of “town” where nobody’s munching anything right now. Haven’t dealt w/possum damage, though have them here for sure. Visit again soon.

    @Tammy: So your “soup” has different ingredients? Sounds very savory. As for mulching, I use fine-textured composted stable bedding (bits of wood somewhere between shavings and small chips that have been used in stalls and then mucked out and aged). I don’t think I have any more slugs than without, and definitely have healthier soil, fewer weeds, more moisture retention. I think someday I will remember to put out traps of beer for the slugs, too…good thing you reminded me.

  9. says

    We’ve had “The Beetle Bucket of Doom” going for almost two months at this point, mostly for the Japanese beetles, but also for the Green June beetles. I’m planning to start milky spore this fall. We used to use the beetle traps, but my 80-something gardening neighbor talked me out of them a couple of years ago. And she’s right, I don’t hand pick any more without the traps than I did when we used them.

  10. Bob Newman says

    I followed your suggestion Margaret and went out each Saturday and Sunday morning (I am a ‘weekender’) with a bucket of soapy water to drown the Japanese Beetles; never ending task. I used the traps last year and this year I didn’t. The fact is that the beetles love my rosa rugosa bushes; what can I say, except that I love them as well. We are in this to the death!

    Amy, my propery also ajoins a large wooded track, but the deer used to stop by for breakfast and lunch on a regular basis. For the past two years, I’ve not had a visitor although they come right up to the edge and look longingly at my daylilies and hosta. My defense is Milorganite fertilizer; I don’t own stock in this company but I should get some as I buy enough of it. I broadcast it every two weeks; some folks don’t like the aroma, maybe, I’ve just gotten used to it. Check it out and see if you can as well..

  11. Melinda says

    I am in Australia so our possums are different to yours. We have two species that visit – ringtails and brushtails. Both , sadly love to eat and their fav in my garden is roses! I have over 60 rose bushes here and they love to get the climbers the most – easy. So, as its winter they are checking out if my birches are sprouting – then it will be on ! If only I could get those dogs to chase them out but …… they are spoilt .LOL

  12. Christina says

    I knock the Japanese beetles into the soapy water too – I find it especially rewarding when they’re too busy you-know-whatting to notice me sneaking up & then plop! into the drink… My kids used to enjoy stomping on the hornworms (gross, eh?), a good additional use of the mud boots – but they just do so much damage, so quickly (the hornworms, not – usually – the kids) that I’ve taken to using Dipel (only pesticide-ish product I use) on the tomatoes/peppers and have gotten a lot more to harvest since…

  13. says

    Welcome, Christina. Is THAT what he beetles are doing piled on top of each other all the time? :) Oh, my. Yes, Dipel is one of the great inventions. Good tip! Good for all caterpillar issues.

    @Bob: Milorganite is another good idea, thanks for mentioning. It does smell funky, but hey, it seems to repel unwanted herbivores like deer. Thanks.

    @Melinda: I will go look up your possums vs. ours. So interesting, isn’t it? And 60 rose bushes…wow. You would be inundated with Japanese beetles were you here with those 60 right now.

  14. Deborah McDowell says

    I feel the same way about the deer.

    They are keeping me from my usual ardor and intimacy of my gardens. I’m even letting my vegetable gardens run amouk with weeds this year. Where I garden, in Columbia County,

    I had lymes again this year and though I love my 100 acres laden with patches of my lovely gardens, I am staying away this year.

    How do you all deal with the ticks?

    Oh for a close glimpse of a Japanese Beetle—-this year I am walking my dirt roads and sticking closer to the concrete of Hudson.

  15. islandexile says

    We live in what was a woods and still wants to be. The homesteaders hunted the deer, but almost no one has as our 55 square mile island (roughly twice the size of Manhattan) has reached a population of 4500. There are so many deer now that I only garden on our second story decks in huge pots. The deer are so voracious, eating almost everything they aren’t supposed to eat, that I sometimes fantasize they’ll find their way onto the decks – can deer fly?

  16. andrea says

    I am trying to hunt down every last japanese beetle ( love to crush ’em – what can I say) however, the constant screaming, shrieking noise of what must be hundreds of thousands of crickets is too much! Where did they come from all of a sudden? Five adjoining acres of wood’s were purchased and mowed down ;( perhaps they have taken over since nothing has yet to be built. Any thoughts on cricketocide?

  17. Melinda says

    Margaret, I get this black beetle called a hibiscus beetle. I am not sure they do much to the roses.
    What do those Japanese beetles do damage wise?

  18. says

    I live in Provence where there is a major snail infestation. Every plant everywhere is covered with small white snails. Snail poison works pretty well for a short time but I am out every morning picking them off my plants, putting them in a plastic bag which I toss in the garbage. I would need a gallon sized container of beer or salt to even make a dent in the snail population. I am thinking of taking a blow torch out when we cut back a lot of plants and torching the earth around everything that I can.

  19. Anna says

    But back to the rabbits you mentioned ever so briefly…what do you do about them? Trap them and then what? They had a tasty treat of my beautiful baby beet greens yesterday.

  20. says

    @Pam: Weevils are really destructive…we have black vine weevil and Taxus weevil in the region, and they are voracious.

    @Andrea: I have not taken to cricket-ocide, but do know friends who have tired of all the munching (and clamor).

    @Melinda: Apparently (according to Ohio State U.) Japanese beetles are one of the most major of landscape pests, affecting more than 300 plants and also turf in a big way. Have a read.

    @Linda: I like the extreme violence of your proposed approach. Sounds very satisfying: a blow torch!

    @Anna: Do you like hassenpfeffer? (Actually, I am a vegetarian, but I don’t think local farmers in my town who trap rabbits and woodchucks keep them as pets or anything.) Their populations are very cyclical; this is a bad year after a relatively mild winter and so they are out of control. The coyotes are happy about it, and I am not.

  21. Elaine says

    Thankfully, I haven’t had very many pests this year. Shhh…should I even be saying that?…However, I did find the BIGGEST UGLIEST hornworm on one of my Yellow Pear heirloom tomato plants, but you would have been proud of me – I plucked that ugly sucker right off and did a dance all over him!! I’m sure if anyone saw me they would have thought there was some kind of maniac in the yard – homicidal for sure.

  22. Louise says

    Ahh, rabbits. My garden was eaten down to a nub a few weeks ago. Yesterday, my daughter was back there and saw a full-sized bunny squeeze its way thru our inch by two-inch wire mesh fencing. Hard to believe…how’d he get his head thru there is what I’d like to know.
    So…after building the fence seven feet high to deter the deer (which took us about four years), we’re now buying even smaller mesh and putting that up. I call it “defensive gardening” (I also call it a pain.)
    My husband tells me he read about someone who set up a BB gun in the garden with a camera attached to his computer. He then shoots at invaders remotely. (Doesn’t kill them…just sends them scattering for the hills.)
    I am, sadly, sympathetic.
    By the way…it has been a bad Japanese beetle season…but what’s worse is that apparently in three or so years, it’s the 17-year locusts’ turn to eat everything in sight.
    Can’t wait.

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