Nothing gives gardeners a mini-heart attack more than the thought of a Japanese beetle infestation. The pests are some of the most destructive and the worst thing is that they do not discriminate. The Japanese beetles will feed on any plant, leaving destruction in its wake.
The prolific pests are initially from Japan and are resilient breeders. That means it can take over your vegetable garden, and within a short period, leave it in ruins. There are over 300 species that the Japanese beetle feeds on, making it almost impossible to control. But there are still ways you can use to kick them out – nothing is quite impossible, with determination, and of course, the right knowledge.
How you Identify the Japanese Beetle
Japanese beetles are not that difficult to identify with their copper backs and blue-green heads. They have tan wings and abdomens lined with white hairs on every side. The pests are communal feeders, and you will typically find them in small groups munching on some plant.
Japanese beetles lay eggs in the soil which then become little grubs. The females lay eggs in the ground up to three inches down. These grubs remain in the soil for ten months, and emerge as adults ready to do some crop destruction, and prove their worth. It is surprising that the beetle’s lifecycle is only forty days, considering the much ground they cover.
The indiscriminate feeder loves beans, roses, raspberries, and grapes. They decimate most of the foliage on preferred varieties like raspberries. In such severe cases, you will find only the veins remaining. The Mexican bean beetles have the same signature destruction, but you can tell them apart by their appearance.
Meanwhile, the grubs destroy the lawn from beneath during their overwintering.
Control and Prevention of the Japanese Beetles
- Manual Control: if you need something done correctly, do it yourself. The adage could not be more accurate in the case of Japanese beetles. It might seem impractical, and time-consuming, but handpicking them and tossing in basin full water mixed with a spoon of liquid dishwashing soap to drown them, is effective.Alternatively, you can place a drop cloth on the ground and shake them off the plant in the morning when they are most active. You can then dump the pests in the bucketful of soapy water.
- Traps: you can use traps if you have a massive beetle infestation in your garden. However, the traps, which in most cases contain a potent attractant such as eugenol can attract all the beetles, as well as, other insects from neighboring farms, and yards. These insects may destroy favored plants on their way to the trap.
- Insecticides: before you can run to the stores and purchase any pesticide, first seek advice on the approved chemicals in your area. There may be restrictions in place to reduce pollutants. You can find Japanese beetle-specific pesticides you can use to exterminate the serial plant destroyers.
- Fruit Cocktail: these are even more effective than the traps. Typically, fruit cocktail is cans opened and left in the full glare of the sun to ferment, and placed on top of bricks. You then fill them with water to the brim and put them a short distance from the crops you want to protect.The beetles will not resist the sweet-smelling bait and will drown in the process. If there’s a downpour, and it dilutes the cocktail, you start over.
- Homemade Sprays: you can as well make your spray to remove the beetles from your yard. Blend a cup of vegetable oil and a teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent, and shake well. You then add the mixture to a quart of water.Add a cup of rubbing alcohol, and shake the resulting concoction, and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray at intervals of ten days on affected crops, and stand back to watch the results. Be careful not to damage the plants.
- Neem Oil: is ideal for roses and a quite effective control method. Typically, the adult beetles feed on the active ingredients in neem oil, passing it to their eggs. The resulting larvae then die prematurely.Neem is not good for the fishes, and you should use it when there are no rainstorms.
- Geraniums: the Japanese beetles somehow can’t resist the geraniums. They feed on it and immediately get drunk, falling over in the process. Your task will be to collect and drown them – it couldn’t be easier than this.You can plant a bunch of geraniums close to the crops you want to protect, but remember this control method is partly hands on.
They say that prevention is better than cure and it couldn’t be more practical than in dealing with pests like the Japanese beetles. You see, the traps and other control methods may not work in time to save a favored crop from pests.
- The first and easiest control method is selecting the crops that beetles will not be attracted to. Also when planting the favored crops, disperse them rather than grouping them.
- You can employ the services of parasitic wasp that are predators to the beetles. They will feed on the grubs but will not be effective in reducing the adult populations.
- The parasitic nematodes can do a decent job of dealing with the larvae. However, the control method is only valid when the grubs are young, and when you water the lawn before, and after application.
- Companion planting with such plants as garlic can be effective at keeping the pest at a safe distance.
- Introducing the milky fungal disease spore can work wonders on the grubs. The good thing about the spores is that they can remain active for years, with each new generation of larvae feeding on them and controlling the Japanese beetle populations in the process. However, this is quite an expensive control method as the lawn needs to be adequately saturated with the spores.