July 18, 2023
Have you noticed some tiny, shiny bugs making a snack out of your beloved plants recently? These could be Japanese beetles and, although they might look harmless, they can cause quite a lot of damage. Don't fret! I have a few tips and tricks that can help protect your garden.
One simple and effective method to handle these pests is handpicking. Early in the morning, when beetles are buzzing around, grab a bucket filled with soapy water and start a fun little bug hunt. The beetles you find can be plucked off the plants and dropped in the bucket. We also use a 50/50 of vinegar and water when the dish soap runs out!
Remember to remove any damaged leaves! When leaves are damaged, the plant sends out a chemical compound that it is in distress and attracts more beetles!
Beetle traps can also be useful. These traps emit a fragrance, like a mix of flowers and beetle perfume, which is irresistible to these little bugs. However, remember to place them at a safe distance, around 30 feet away from your plants, to avoid inviting more beetles to the feast.
For a more organic approach, you could consider using neem oil. I like to call this the superhero solution, as it combats beetles at every life stage, from the tiniest eggs to full-grown adults. You can find this oil from brands like Bonide and Southern Ag or in spray bottle form.
Organic sprays such as PyGanic Gardening can be another layer of defense for your garden. Think of these sprays as a force field that keeps beetles away from your plants. Although organic, it does not know the bad bugs from the good bugs, so make sure not to spray when pollinators are feeding.
One of my favorite methods, though, involves Mother Nature's own tiny helpers. Beneficial nematodes, tiny worms, and a bacteria known as milky spore can be effective in tackling Japanese beetle grubs. Brands like BioLogic, St Gabriel Organics, Arbico Organics, and Nature's Good Guys are your best bet for these biological controls.
Did you know that birds can be a gardener's best friend? Species like grackles, starlings, cardinals, and sparrows are known to feast on Japanese beetles. A garden full of these birds will likely be less attractive to beetles!
Beetles, like us, have their favorite meals too. They're particularly attracted to plants like zinnias, basil, and forsythia. If you want to see fewer beetles, consider planting fewer of these plants.
A physical barrier you can consider is floating row covers. These covers, which are like a cozy blanket for your plants, allow sunlight and rain to pass through but keep the beetles away. Just ensure you remove them when your plants start to flower, to let the bees do their job.
Shake things up a bit by changing your beetle management strategies every year. This way, the beetles won't catch on to your methods. Combining different methods can also strengthen your plan!
Remember, each garden is unique, and what works best for you might be a mix of different strategies. The key is to stay patient, keep learning, and most importantly, continue to enjoy the beauty of your garden. Happy gardening, everyone!
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