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How To Get Rid of Japanese Beetles (No Insecticides)

Looking for a few great ways to get rid of Japanese beetles and eliminate them from invading your landscape and ruining your plants?

Japanese beetles begin to appear in late June to early July. What can start out with just a few scattered sightings of the green metallic and brown winged creatures can within just a day or two turn into hundreds of the pests visiting the plants in your landscape. And from there, it only gets worse!

Unfortunately, the visits aren’t friendly in nature. Once the beetles find a plant or plants to their liking, they can quickly chew holes in the foliage. And as more and more beetles congregate on the plants, the damage can be fast and severe.

On our Rooted In Nature properties, the beetles have always been especially fond of clematis and rose bushes. But their appetite for perennials, shrubs and bushes doesn’t end there. They also love forsythia, hibiscus, holly, fruit trees, lilacs, pine trees and a long, long list of additional plants.

Hand Picking

Ok. Hear us out. Hand picking beetles from plants may sound like such a tedious and hard task – but you might be surprised at just how easy, and more importantly, effective it is in getting beetles under control.

The more beetles you eliminate, the less long-term issues you will have. Beetles come out to dine, then bury down into the soil to lay the grub larva that becomes next year’s beetles. But the more you control now, the less that can make it into the soil to lay larva.

Although it may sound like a lot of work, it is actually quite easy to do. Simply fill a small pail with water and a few drops of dish soap. Then, walk around your plants and brush the beetles into the liquid. For us, doing this twice a day for about two weeks nearly eliminated the population.

We like to hand pick in the late morning and again in the afternoon when the beetles are most active. We have a lot of ground to cover, but even so, it still only took about 15 to 30 minutes for the first few days. After that, the population began to slow a bit and we could walk and pick in about ten minutes.

Without a doubt, hand picking is simply the easiest and most effective way to both protect your plants and eliminate the beetle population. Not just for the short term – but more importantly, for the long term! In the years after hand picking – our total population has declined dramatically. It certainly makes it easier and easier with each passing year.

What About Traps?

A big word of caution on using the beetle traps you may see in stores and on-line. Unfortunately, if you are using beetle bags or beetle traps in your yard, they most likely are causing more harm than good. Especially if your property is a few acres or less.

Japanese beetle traps work by emitting a scent that attracts beetles into an area. Although the traps do lure in large numbers of beetles into the bag, they unfortunately bring even more beetles to your yard. Ones that are heading to your plants and not the trap!

To properly protect plants, traps need to be placed far away from the plants you are trying to help. If not, they simply attract your neighbor’s beetles into your space as well. To be effective, beetle bags need to be placed at the edge of a property, acres away from where you are trying to lure them away from.

Unfortunately, in most cases, the average yard is just not big enough. The result? The bags actually attract even more beetles that can then mate, and lay more larvae in your soil to become an even bigger problem next year! Quite simply, for most situations – they are better to avoid.

Natural Spray Repellant

So what if the beetles are simply out of control and damaging plants quickly? That is where using an all-natural beetle spray made from cedar oil or wood can amazingly help protect your plants and keep damage to a minimum while you work to get the population under control.

Japanese beetles do not like the scent of cedar. And although it does not kill the beetles, it will make them leave the plants. Even better, it will keep them off for a while too!

The mixture is simple to make and can be applied to plants as a natural barrier to Japanese beetles. You can make it either with pure Eastern Red Cedar oil, or chunks or small pieces of Eastern Red Cedar wood if you are lucky enough to live where it grows.

For creating spray mix with oil, use 1.5 tablespoons of cedar oil for every 1 gallon of water. Since the oil is already in its purest form, there is no need to heat the water. Just mix thoroughly and you are ready to spray!

The real key to success to eliminate Japanese beetles is to get out there and remove them! By keeping the balance of nature in check by not spraying non-discriminatory insecticides, you will be amazed at how major infestations will become a thing of the past. Here is to keeping Japanese beetles away from your plants – naturally!

We work with residential and commercial lawns across Maryland - especially in Baltimore and Harford counties. Call us today at 443-846-0199 or email to learn more and schedule a consultation with our lawn care experts.

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