Beetlemania

Pronunciation: /biːt(ə)lˈmeɪnɪə/ noun: the intense destructive feeding frenzy directed toward shrubs, bushes, and all other greenery in your yard, as manifested by the Japanese Beetle.

The beetles are back, but not with the cool hair and rocking music that we would be okay with (side note: as if the Beatles ever truly left). They are back in droves of shiny, green-eating, reproducing machines, also known as the Japanese Beetle. If you have never experienced these small beetles, you can count yourself among the lucky few, as their spread seems to be getting greater throughout the Niagara Region each year. These little guys will skeletonize leaves in the blink of an eye and can make their way through entire bushes in just a matter of days. We don’t want to instill too much fear in you about these pests, however, we get more calls from distressed customers about these beetles than anything else.

What is the Japanese beetle and what exactly do they do?japanese beetle
Like the name implies, the Japanese Beetle is native to Japan. They were imported into the United States supposedly in 1916 and have slowly spread throughout North America. The Japanese Beetle is about 1 cm long with a shiny, metallic-green body and bronze-colored outer wings. It begins feeding on plants in June/July. They are attracted to sweet smelling plants, which will become apparent as you see them on plants such as roses, lindens and grapes. It eats the tender tissues between the veins of leaves until all that’s left of the leaves are the brown, skeletal remains.

Our little piece of advice: Don’t stress. While they can make your prized rose bush or linden tree look like it’s on its last legs, we assure you that Japanese Beetles on their own will not kill your plants in one season. It is only through recurring defoliation, or if the plant is already stressed, along with the beetle damage, that your plant could meet its untimely demise. Keep your plants healthy with a proper watering and fertilizing regimen. In general, the healthier the tree is, the more resilient it will be towards pest damage. That being said, here are some other things you can do once Japanese Beetle season hits.

1) Keep an eye on your plants in late June and July for these beetles. Check roses and other flowers that are blossoming- their enticing scent will make these beetles feel like they are in hog heaven! If you notice one, pick it up and stomp on it or put it into a bucket full of soapy water. These beetles are quite dopey and will not bite, making them super easy to remove from the plant. If you only notice one or two of these beetles you may be tempted to just ignore them, but keep in mind that they only live for two things: to eat and to reproduce. Both male and female beetles produce a strong pheromone to attract other beetles. If you have one, you will have many more in no time.

2) If you have too many beetles to hand-pick off your plants, you can spray them heavily with insecticidal soap. You have to hit the beetle directly with this spray in order to kill them and will see them drop to the ground after a thorough spraying. This can be done any time you see the beetles.

3) Although they are starting to get a bad rap, Japanese Beetle traps have proved to be effective around the Niagara region. The only problem with these traps is that unfortunately, most people do not use them correctly. The trap works by using male and female beetle pheromones to attract the beetles. Japanese beetles are such dopey little flyers that they hit the plastic close to the pheromone and fall into the  trap. The trick is to NOT put up a trap unless you see more than a couple of beetles on your plants. You may get lucky, and get little to no beetles this season, but if you put up a trap too early, you could potentially attract ones that wouldn’t have normally found your garden.

The second most important thing to know about the traps is that they should NOT be hung in a tree or close to your flower beds! Like we said, these beetles are dopey flyers and do not have the best aim. If they smell the pheromones of the trap and happen to land on the leaf right beside it instead, they will begin to feast and will not leave the food to go into the trap. It is best to place the trap away from your gardens and beloved trees only after you start noticing the beetles. They are best placed in the middle of your yard, they must be at least 10′ away from your beloved plants. Once the traps are up, you will notice that they fill quickly. Once full, it’s best to place the bag/chamber (depending on the style of your trap) in soapy water to kill all of the beetles before throwing them out.

4) Last but not least, you can help keep the beetle population down by controlling their larva form, commonly known as the dreaded grub. They will be in the soil late August or September (it depends on the season) and are white, fat, c- shaped grubs. At this stage, they feed on the roots of your grass and can devastate your lawn. The best method of control for these grubs is Nematodes. Nematodes should be applied in August or September to kill any grubs. If you miss this fall application, you can spray nematodes in spring to kill any overwintering grubs.

You might want to try this: Pour yourself a nice glass of wine and stroll around your garden, not only admiring the plants, but also checking for beetles. On a nice summer evening it’s a great relaxing break. Good luck!