Organic solutions for Japanese Beetle control?

bcb77(7b)June 5, 2006

I planted a container herb garden in hanging window boxes along my deck railing. Now I've been overrun with japanese beetles. I must have brought the suckers in as stowaways in the herbs (bought at Walmart) or could they have been in the potting soil?? Either way, it's my first experience with them. I thought they were June bugs, but my Father-in-law informed me they were JB's. At first (like a dummy) I was flicking them off into my lawn instead of killing them. Now I'm worried I just spread them all over my other flowers and they'll eat my roses next.

They have eaten all my sweet basil (it looks like Skeletor now!) and I'm sure the tomato/other herbs are next. What can I do to kill these things? I want to stay organic because I plan on eating the herbs. Plus I have two puppies who spend their days on the deck. If I just start smooshing them, will that control them? It creeps me out to crunch them, but I could do it if I have to.


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efam(z7b GA)

I have a herb garden and I covered mine with netting (fabric department at Wally world) to keep the JBs out. Other than Sevin dust, you can squish them or knock them into a bucket of soapy water. I would love an organic method, too, since they are the bane of my existence.
I wouldn't worry about your tomatoes. I have grown tomatoes next to a cherry tree for three years and have never seen a jb on them (but my cherry tree will have hundreds).

    Bookmark   June 5, 2006 at 1:43PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Hand removal IS the best and most efficient organic control of JBs. I'm going to attach a photograph for you, by the way, so you can make sure of what you have.

They are also fairly susceptible to insecticidal soap sprays, but you should save that only if you have a BUNCH of the critters all over everything.

Don't assume that you brought them in as hitchhikers. They can 'commute', you know.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 5, 2006 at 9:45PM
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The only way to get rid of the adults is to trap them and kill or spray. Now, at this time, put down Milky Spore( a powder form)around all plants. This goes into the ground and the bacteria destroys the developing grubs of the Japanese Beetle. Next spring you will only have a few. It needs to be repeated every 3-4 yrs. It also destroys iris borer grubs as well as other grubs. I've used for 30 years.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2006 at 10:56PM
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Did you actually see the beetles? Flea beetles eat holes in the leaves of plants as well. and are hard to see.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2006 at 11:00PM
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Yes, the photo rhizo posted are definitely what I have. There were tons of them on my basil plant. But the other herbs around it were untouched.

I handpicked about 5 of them off and dropped them in a bowl of soapy water. Put a lid on it and sealed their fate.

Will look for more today and put out milky spore.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2006 at 11:26AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Mind you, the milky spore bacterium inoculant may help control the grubs in YOUR lawn, but that has little to do with the adult beetles that come to your yard for lunch. ;-(

This is also not the time of year to be making an application of milky spore. The grubs have already turned to beetles! I honestly don't know if it controls the iris borer or not....MS is very species specific in its ability to infect beetle populations, with JB being the primary host and some of the other chafer beetles controlled, as well. Do some research on MS before spending money on something that might not be a successful tool in controlling those darned things in your yard.

Along with hand picking, insecticidal sprays and neem soil applications have proved to be great ways to knock 'em down.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2006 at 2:02PM
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michelle11(z7 AL)

I put down milky spore in feburary, and have been amazed at how few JBs I have gotten this year. I usually hand pick them too, but the way I do it is place a large mouth bottle with soapy water directly beneath where they are roosting, and then just shake the plant slightly. Their instinct is to let go and just drop onto the ground-or in this case into my jar! I usually kill hundreds this way.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 8:09AM
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bama35640(Z7A AL)

When you have 3 acres and 20 fruit trees along with 40 blueberry bushes there is no such thing as organic control I shook the Kiwi Trellis and about 2000 flew into the air! I looked at milky spore but at 1500-2000 dollars to properly apply to my yard I decided not. Although I have heard the best thing to do is buy those Bag a Bug JB traps and give them to all of your neighbors and everyone from your yard will go attack their yard!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 4:58PM
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catbird(z7 AL)

I've been using the traps for several years and can tell you that they work! The first year I put them out, I must have put out new bags every other day for weeks.It was a nasty job, but I got rid of a LOT of JBs. Since then, I've never had much of a problem with them. I put a couple of traps out every spring and may get half a bag full on each trap by the end of the season. I'll have a few lacy leaves on the crape myrtle and other things, but not enough to matter.

I put a trap 15-20 feet from each end of my border so they'll draw the beetles away from the plants I want to protect. I'm reluctant to endanger the earthworms by treating the soil to kill the grubs, and there's no way to reach most of the branches of the crape myrtle to remove the adult beetles. That leaves me with the traps. I keep saying that if enough of us use them we'll kill off most of the adults before they lay eggs for next year.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2006 at 10:24PM
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Is there anybody but me that DOESN'T have these things? Are they more prevalent in one area of the state than the other?
Not that I want to wish them on myself, but I'm almost paranoid and examine every beetle that I see in my yard.
I have more trouble with grasshoppers eating on my gingers later in the season than anything.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 5:33AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Kabby, you live in a part of the state (warmest climate) that does not have JBs. Consider yourself blessed, although you have your fair share of other pesky critters....all year round! I wouldn't be surprised to find some in your garden one of these days, however.

When I lived in SC (8b), a few hours' drive to the upstate would lead you into JB territory. You could actually see the damage to the trees in the forested areas. But back home, nary a one for the over 20 years I lived there! ;-)

The GOOD thing about milky spore inoculant is that it does not affect anything but JBs and a VERY few other beetle species. Worms are perfectly safe. It actually occurs naturally almost everywhere, just not in very large amounts. What a lot of people don't understand about milky spore is that it needs to be applied at the right time(s) of year, the correct way, and in soils that will allow the bacteria spores to propagate and survive. It's not real effect, therefore, in very heavy, hard, clayey soils.

Bama, it's reported that Neem oil products are very helpful in controlling JBs and other chewy insects. Have you tried that? Might you want to experiment and report back? I would, but I just don't have ANY of the darned things! My neigbor's purple leaf plums are the perfect JB trap! ;-) (I'm serious)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 11:10AM
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I used Neem last year and I think it has been very helpful. I haven't seen near as many this year (yet of course). I planted 3 knockout roses this spring and they did find those and chewed a few leaves, but so far my JMs have been spared.

I too have used the bag traps, but only far away from the house and gardens. They are usually full in a few days, so I figure every one I trap this way is one less I have to deal with on the plant buffet. I put a couple far, far away from the house; probably about 150-200 yards away.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2006 at 3:57PM
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This might sound crazy, but in my search for a non-chemical way to keep Japanese beetles off my basil plants, I learned that they hate garlic. So, I found a garlic-flavored olive oil spray in my cupboard and I've been lightly spraying the plants with it. It seems to be working. No sign of beetles. I have no idea if this might affect the plant in other ways, but garlic and basil seem like a natural pairing.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 11:15AM
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I live in Michigan, and up until this point I have enjoyed healthy basil growing in a container garden. This past week I started noticing many JB's tearing up the basil leaves. I only have 3 small plants because of limited sunlight in my backyard, so it won't be long before they decimate them. I am not opposed to picking them off by hand, but I am wondering if anyone has tried Orange Guard, and if it is successful on JB's. Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2006 at 12:29PM
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I live in upstate NC and just had my first JB experience. i planted two apple trees, a pear and and peach. One apple got decimated, tho other a red variety didnt get touched and the pear was attacked. I opted for the hand picking which netted me a few dozen beetles in a jar. Funny thing is they never touched the basil plants.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 6:24PM
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I have had the problem and I have a good solution. I live way out in the country and can't use milky spore due to the vast areas of lawn around me. So I did a little experiment with an organic growth stimulator from my local indoor grow shop.

I put my seedlings into a mound top dressed with some worm castings. I watered one plant with the Greenfuse product one time. When I went back to water them a month later, my basil was devastated by Japanese beetles except for the one PERFECT plant. It was a bit more pale than the others and the tissue was visible thicker, but otherwise no taller than the others. Clearly, its demands for fertilizer were not met!

I also use the Greenfuse on my orchids for more blooms, in my flower garden to prevent powdery mildew, and on my cuttings to get a healthy root mass.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 1:12PM
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Oh, I finally put in the long URL and not the clickable link, and it was still available.

A little off topic specifically, but has anyone read the book BOTANY OF DESIRE? How plants can manipulate even US, to achieve their own ends? Such as the tulip, the apple, the potato? Very thought provoking book to read.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 11:06AM
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Attract Birds to your yard by putting out feeders the seed eating birds will attract the meat/insect eating birds. The best bird for this is a Summer Tanger they are not here yet. I found an organic article once about this and it said catch them and put them in a bucket of water and leave the bucket near the plant you are having trouble with. The smell of the decomposing beetle bodies is suppose to deter them. Also soapy water in the ground around the plant they are bothering will stop them from breeding and laying their eggs in the ground near your plants. This is kind of late BUT maybe it will help someone else or help you this year..

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 10:06PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I've read the book, moccasinlanding...a couple of times. Survival strategies for plant and animal species are remarkable, aren't they? Did you happen to catch PBS (I think) when the broadcast of the same name was televised over several weeks?

It's worth mentioning that milky spore won't work in many locations around the country, and certainly won't work in the way we would like it to. You might want to check in with your local extension office to see if your specific location is amenable to the use of this biocontrol. (It's not well suited for clay soils, for example.) It would be an expensive folly if it won't be useful.

Applying it now will have little to no effect on this season's JB problem. Summer applications can be most helpful in infecting the grubs that hatch from eggs laid by this year's beetle population. But, again, checking with your local county extension office will be helpful for something like this.

Remember that milky spore (which occurs in nature) was originally processed so it could be blanketed over zillions of acres of forests, or over whole communities plagued by the beetles. It was not originally meant to be packaged to individual homeowners, where it's use is truly minimal, at best.

Another plant besides geraniums that is reported to be something of a JB killer is the pretty Four O'clock. Might be worthy of an experiment, if someone is willing.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 3:40PM
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lily51(OH 5)

I think the JB is in every one of the 48 states!
It's amazing how fast these creatures can devour a plant.
Do marigolds work as a deterrant as they do for other pests? We plant marigolds with our tomatoes every year and it seems to be a companion way to keep the tomatoes healthy.

Another plant that I love is annual statice. Granted,the plant isself is not impressive, looks like a large dandilion. But the flowers are wonderful, blooming from now until frost in every color imagineable, plus can be air-dried.
It is a plant with no natural it's a way to un-invite pests to your garden.

I think I'll try the 4 o-clock idea next year,too.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 5:24AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Japanese Beetles aren't found, other than on very exceptional occasions, west of the Rockies. Keep your fingers crossed, you guys! They are also relatively uncommon in the most tropical of the sub-tropical southern states. I never saw one in the over 20 years I lived in lower South Carolina, for example.

I've actually never known marigold to repel anything, but am always interested to hear of others' experiences. I do know that they are spider mite magnets, but haven't seen anything else on them, that I can think of. Other than they will attract butterflies!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 11:25PM
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Another organic alternative, especially if you have alot of real estate to cover, is using Kaolin Clay. It's basically baby powder. Use a 1/2 lb per gallon and spray away. Your plants will look like they're covered in snow, but the JB's do not like it (as wells as squash bugs, cucumber beetles and stink bugs). It also helps with sun scald and keeping fruit cooler in the hot summer days.

There is a professional product called "SurroundWP" which is Kaolin Clay with some sticking agent. You can purchase this online but shipping is expensive. You can also try obtaining SurroundWP locally at your local feed/farm store. If they don't have it, you can still request it to be a special order and save $ on shipping vs. purchasing it online. I get mine from Southern States for $30 per 25lbs.

The only issue with Kaolin clay is you need to respray after rain as it washes all the clay away.


Here is a link that might be useful: Kaolin Clay fact sheet

    Bookmark   July 10, 2012 at 4:42PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Thanks for the reminder about Surround....I use it every year for a variety of reasons, JB repelling is one. But I have to disagree that a rainfall will wash all of the clay off. If mixed and applied properly, a good layer will last through a few rainfalls

With JBs in particular, which don't stick around very long, one good application will be sufficient.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 9:16AM
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