Is it really possible to get rid of Japanese beetles without using harsh pesticides? It is a question we were faced with some 6 years ago when suddenly, out of the blue, our little farm came under a large beetle attack.
We first noticed a few in the waning days of June on the blades of our ornamental grasses. Although they cause little damage to grasses, by week’s end, they had found our rose bushes and the leaves of our grape vines as well.
Unfortunately, as July arrived, they began launching a full-out attack on the grapes. Within a few days, there were hundreds upon hundreds of the shiny little pests everywhere, and they were chewing holes on every leaf they could find.
We knew at that point, if we didn’t take action immediately, the damage to the grape foliage would be severe. In fact, so much so that we were worried that we might not have much of a grape harvest at all.
Finding A Natural Solution – How To Get Rid of Japanese Beetles Naturally
We are adamant about keeping a chemical free setting at our farm. So grabbing the nearest commercial spray was simply not an option.
Although insecticides can certainly be effective in killing off the beetles, there are a lot of reasons to never introduce them into your landscape.
For us, it all starts with the fact that we don’t want chemicals touching anything that we will ever eat. But even more important, insecticides are non-discriminatory. That means that not only will they kill the beetles, but also the beneficial bugs and pollinators we rely on to help produce our other crops.
Adding to the issue, the beneficial insects that once helped keep the balance of pest populations in check no longer remain, opening the door for even more insect problems down the road.
It can be a vicious cycle for sure. And one we certainly didn’t want to invite into our landscape. Instead, we went into action quickly with a 3 pronged natural approach that worked like a charm. One of which was to not use one of the most common solution – beetle bags.
Not only did the 3 prong approach stop the infestation in it’s tracks that year, it has helped to reduce and almost eliminate the population in subsequent years.
How To Get Rid of Japanese Beetles Naturally
Our natural solution to Japanese beetle control came down to 3 simple methods :
- (1) Avoiding the use of Beetle traps
- (2) Hand picking the beetles into a soapy solution
- (3) Creating an effective deterrent spray from Eastern Red Cedar
#1 Avoid Using Beetle Traps – How To Keep Japanese Beetles Away Naturally
First and foremost, it’s important to realize that 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.
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 larva in your soil to become an even bigger problem next year! Quite simply, for most situations – they are better to avoid.
#2 Hand Picking – A Simple Solution That Works! How To Get Rid of Japanese Beetles Naturally
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.
Taking a pail of soapy water, we simply walk our property, brushing beetles into the liquid. That first year, we did this twice a day for a week. By the week’s end, we had already noticed a significant drop in their population.
We hand pick in the late morning or late afternoon when the beetles are most active. There were a few days in the beginning, we even picked twice a day. The interesting thing was, for just a bit of work, we kept the damage to plants minimal.
Yes, it took about 15 to 30 minutes for the first few days. But it really did work! And even better, with hand picking, there is no need to worry about harming beneficial insects in the process.
#3) All Natural Japanese Beetle Spray Recipe – How To Get Rid of Japanese Beetles
So what if the beetles are simply out of control when you start? That is where using an all-natural beetle spray made from cedar wood can really help keep damage down while you 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, and stay off of them for awhile too!
The mixture is easy to make, and can be applied to plants as a natural barrier to Japanese beetles. To make, we use 6 to 8 small pieces of Eastern Red Cedar wood. We cut the boards down to fit down into a 5 gallon bucket.
Next, we fill the bucket with hot water. If you don’t have access to cedar boards, you can also use a few ounces of cedar oil in the water. (Product Link : Eastern Red Cedar Oil)
A few teapots of boiling water will help over cold water to initially bring the oils out of the wood. Allow the mix to sit for a few days to soak in the cedar. We use a brick in top of the boards to keep them under the water. You can also stir a few times each day to help release more oil.
Spraying The Beetles – How To Get Rid of Japanese Beetles
To use in a sprayer, remove the wood and strain any loose particles. Apply the spray liberally to the leaves of plants and watch the beetles fly away! Again, this is a great short term solution to protect plants.
This will be effective for a few days if it does not rain or there is not a heavy dew. If the mixture is washed off, simply reapply to once again create an effective deterrent.
But the real key? Get out there and remove those beetles, and keep those inviting traps out of your yard. 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 and landscape – naturally! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
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