Pesky beetles can be easily removed from yard

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 27, 2008

By NELSON WYNN / Guest Columnist

Japanese beetles are 3/8-inch long, metallic green beetles with copper brown wings. They have five tufts of white hairs that project from under the wings on each side and a sixth pair at the tip of the abdomen that distinguishes them from similar beetles. These tufts of white hairs appear as white spots when looking down at the beetle.

Japanese beetles usually begin to emerge from the soil by late May or early June. Flights peak in late June and early July and taper off by late July. Japanese beetles feed on at least 300 species of plants, including roses, other flowers and ornamentals, fruit trees, grapes and even poison ivy. They usually feed in groups and prefer plants that are in the sun. Beetles feed on the upper surface of leaves, which results in a skeletonized appearance of damaged leaves. Beetles are daytime flyers and feeders.

There are various ways to control Japanese Beetles.

Non-chemical: Hand collecting Japanese beetles may not be the most effective method of control, but it can be used when beetles are less numerous. Simply drop the beetles into a solution of soapy water, where they will drown. A hand-held vacuum cleaner can also be used to remove beetles.

Beetle presence on plants tends to attract more beetles making their removal more critical. Planting less susceptible plants, such as boxwood, red maple, dogwood, holly, magnolia, oaks and lilac, may be another alternative. Avoid traps to catch beetles. In most home landscapes, using one or more traps may do more harm than good. Traps attract more beetles into the area, many of which do not make it to the traps.

Chemical: Carbaryl, such as registered formulations of Sevin, can be used by homeowners as well as by commercial applicators. If you use carbaryl for beetles or other insect pests, be sure to check for spider mites. A mite explosion on plants with a few mites often occurs after an initial use of carbaryl.

Other insecticides available for controlling Japanese beetles include acephate, cyfluthrin, imidacloprid and bifenthrin. Look for a product containing one of these ingredients and use products according to label directions. Make sure the particular insecticide is labeled for the plants you intend to treat. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed. Do not use pesticides on plants that are not listed on the label.

For more information, contact your county extension office, visit or look in your telephone directory under your county’s name to find contact information. You can also call our Master Gardener Helpline at 1-877-252-4769 (1-877-252-GROW)