(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?

  1. margaret says:

    Welcome, Louise. So you are besieged on all fronts…and the locusts are coming. I am heading under the bed now, I think. Eek.

  2. margaret says:

    Thanks, Nancy. Good reminder to look for the parasitic braconid wasp eggs and not destroy them. I found a photo from Univ of MN in case people haven’t seen this before. (Scroll down a bit once you get there.)

  3. Nancy says:

    After gardening in New York for 25 years I am making over a garden in my new home in CT. So many Japanese beetles! I’ve never seen anything like it. In NY I applied milky spore a couple years in a row about a decade ago and that was pretty much the end of my beetle problem. I’m hoping I’ll have the same luck in the new location. As for hornworms, I’ll just add that if they already have little white eggs adhered to their backs, they are doomed anyway because when the wasp eggs hatch, those worms are lunch! When you kill a hornworm with wasp eggs on it, you are also killing the parasite that will protect your garden from future hornworms. Better to relocate the hornworm to a distant part of the yard and let nature take its course. On the other hand, if no eggs are present, then stomp away!

  4. kass says:

    I also lve to get a bunch of them having an orgy- I use the soapy water too.

    Do you know what the name is of the beautiful perrenial blooming now- very old fashioned- single bloom- almost like a giant rose of sharon flower- the greens are almost bush like- but dies down completely in the winter. The flowers are enormous and the colors – hot pink and red – is spectacular.I’d love to buy more but can’t remember the name and they are a little hard to find.

  5. kass says:

    PS I cant elieve that horrible looking hornworm comes from hummingbird moths- I have so many of those moths right now. That must be why my potatoe that Ive been growing in a tire has been dessimated- in what seems like overnight!

  6. margaret says:

    @Donna: And I thought the Cape was a restful, bucolic spot for quiet vacationing. Nope, it’s ‘Call of the Wild’ combined with a shoot-em-up Western! I have to say I love to hear the young coyote broods all singing across the road from me.

    @Nancy: I know the garden you are talking about. I suspect those are crape myrtles. As for your magnolia scale, safest route will be horticultural oil application coming up pretty soon (see info from Ohio State as a reference).

  7. Donna Oglesby says:

    Rabbits and chipmunks in record numbers thanks to an extended hunting season on coyote last year. Hunters took 600 coyotes on Cape Cod according to the local paper. One man killed 14 in our town alone. The house cats may be safer this year, but the hostas are not. Our neighbor terminates the visiting rabbits with a pellet gun. So, we encourage our dog to chase the rabbits into his yard!

  8. Nancy says:

    I have a plant ID question too. Driving to work down the West Side Highway in NYC there is a public garden that admirably seems to always be in bloom all summer long. Right now among other floral offerings, there are several lilac-sized shrubs covered in pink pyramid shaped blossoms (much like lilacs, in fact). What shrub blooms like that in August?

    Also, I forgot to mention in my earlier post that I have spent a couple of sessions peeling scale from the magnolia tree in my yard in CT. Magnolias are new to me. I wonder if I should be spraying them with horticultural oil or something to prevent scale, and when?

  9. Andrew Ritchie says:

    A recent arrival in Ottawa is the emerald ash borer. The city has ‘innoculated’ dozens of ash, but they’re so persistent.

  10. joyce says:

    Very strange, but I haven’t seen any Japanese Beetles this year, and this is Baltimore where we have every pest known to man.(Tomorrow the garden will probably be overrun because I just said that).

    However, this is the first year my phlox have been so decimated by what appears to be a red-orange beetle that starts out looking like an aphid that runs around at warp speed, then grows to the size of a small lightning bug with tall mosquito legs. NOTHING kills it. I’ve tried so much stuff on it its a wonder I haven’t expired.
    Can someone help me please?????

  11. Donna Oglesby says:


    The wild east perhaps but the 600 is the percent increase in coyotes killed on the cape this year not the number of coyotes. My mistake. “Across Cape Cod, coyote killings also jumped, with 144 pelts checked in this year compared to 86 during the 2006-07 season.” The details are here.

  12. Joey says:

    For me it is the gnats and mosquitos that drive me mad, especially the former whose little bites cause a rather uncomfortably intense sensation.

    It’s totally bonkers–in order for me to spend even five minutes in my New York City garden, I have to seriously douse myself in deep woods Off! Who’d have guessed NYC could be so wild?

  13. Eric says:

    I’ve got the bugs all right but it’s the squirrels and chipmunks that make me homicidal! The dirty little things eat squash and pumpkin blossoms… Grrr!!! I have the must gorgeous pumpkin vine with tons of blossoms but nary a fruit, just a bunch of bitten off stems. Of course, now it’s too late in the season anyhow. And they also eat tomatoes. Who knew? I’m totally for gun control but give me an air rifle and my neighbors consent (those pesky neighbors!) and I would happily go hunting. I’m really at the brink.

  14. joyce says:

    Joyce again here — I’ve learned a lot about Phlox Plant bugs in the last day or so…
    They have 2 generations per summer (joy), and they are difficult to get rid of. I will be off to the store soon to look for a systemic poison.

    Also learned that the reason there aren’t Japanese Beetles here this year is last year’s drought.

  15. margaret says:

    @Joyce: Good info that drought reduces beetle populations. Interesting.

    @Turling: Now we’re talkin’! Love your zeal…but the plastic explosives failed here against those damn large rodents. I am thinking heat-seeking missiles next; contracting with the military for some appropriate devices. I have woodchucks, not gophers per se, but the experience is very Caddyshack, yes.

  16. turling says:

    Squirrels are always an issue with the vegetable garden, but squirrel netting does the trick.

    Other then that, I have, what I believe, is the world’s smartest gopher trenching my lawn. I, truly believe, it is the same gopher from the Caddyshack movie. I’m thinking plastic explosives next.

  17. chris says:

    @ nancy (and margaret)

    that west side highway garden is at the 79th street entrance, which i use most every weekend on my way to the taconic…it is cared for by the same people, volunteers, who maintain a great garden in riverside park, jujst north of there…if you are city bound one weekend, do have a looksee

    re japanese bettle eradication, i have looked at the roots of certain brownish areas of my lawn for grubs and have found none, yet my edamame (which wasn’t intended as a decoy) betrays their presence…while i do shake and drown, i am looking for something a little more systematic…

    should i put nematodes and milky spore down just in and around the garden (500 sq ft) or do i have to apply to lawn (a couple of acres, some parts more heavily tended than others)…i was thinking the latter since i read that beetles like to lay their eggs in turf, but if anyone knows better please chime in

  18. Julia says:

    I confess; I’m a beetle-crusher too, from a long line of pest destroyers. Melinda, my father once attacked the tomato hornworms with a blow torch. I myself have trapped as many as five woodchucks in one season, but didn’t succeed in getting rid of them until I discovered industrial-strength smoke bombs. For bigger pests, nothing beats predators: cats will take care of the squirrel population, dogs deter woodchucks, and coyotes keep down the deer, at least in my neighborhood.
    Two questions about milky spore–when should it be applied? And what does one do about stinkbugs?–every year they invade my snapdragons.

  19. Nancy says:

    Thanks, Margaret for the info about Crape Myrtles (sigh) Guess I won’t be growing any of those on a hill in northern CT! Thanks to Chris, too for info about that garden. Funny, I used to live in that neighborhood back in the Dark Ages, until I moved to the burbs so I could garden.

    And thanks, Margaret, for your great photos of frogs. They’re so beautiful!

  20. margaret says:

    Welcome, Chris. I used to know some of the people who gardened that plot, but not anymore. Thanks for the info. As for grub-fighting, I got my nematodes to fight grubs at Gardens Alive (apply above 55 degrees, the info says; they won’t mail them to you unless it’s the right time) and as for Milky Spore, they have some thoughts about it there, too. I have heard good things and then “so-what” things about Milky Spore, so I am not certain what helped me reduce my grub situation (I used both). A very interesting topic, really (if it weren’t so gross).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.