Getting Rid of Japanese Beetles Naturally

Photo of a Japanese BeetleJapanese beetles have been terrible, voracious visitors to my garden. In years past, I've watched them destroy so many beautiful blooms that I actually considered pulling out all of my rose bushes. Two years ago I found a two pronged solution to the problem.

Catch Japanese Beetles Early

In most areas, Japanese beetles emerge at the end of June. You will see a few tentative specimens checking out your garden, and that's when you should act. Be on the look out for them, because catching them when they first emerge can be the solution to your Japanese beetle problem.

These first visitors leave scents behind that others (many others) will follow. It's like the old depression era hobo story. Hobos would leave a specific symbol on the fences of homes and farms where they were given a hot meal as a signal to other hobos that this was a good place visit. But unlike the hobos, Japanese beetles are never welcome visitors. They are too greedy.

Trap and kill these first beetles and place them in a bucket of water to which you have added a couple of tablespoons of dish soap. The rotting beetles will send another scent indicator to other beetles: STAY AWAY, and the soap will discourage mosquitoes and other pests from using the water as a breeding ground.  Keep this up every day for a week or so.

If you do this early, the word gets out and Japanese beetles will leave your garden alone for the season. I think this explains why one garden will be plagued with the little @#!* while the garden next door is spared.

This works much better than traps, which can even start attracting beetles if you're not careful.

The emergence of Japanese beetles every year is pretty predictable. If you don't know when to expect them, start keeping watch at about the end of the second week in June. Your local horticultural society will probably be able to pinpoint it pretty closely. If you still need guidance, check out your local Cooperative Extension Location. You can find the online link here: Cooperative Extension Office Locator

Remember, it's important to catch them when they first start scoping out your garden.

Use Special Plants to Fight Japanese Beetles

I've referenced this in my herb blog: The Herb Gardener, and it works great. Planting rue and garlic together near your tastiest plants will discourage Japanese beetles from munching on them. Rue is an attractive plant, and only grows about 12" high, so it won't detract from your beauties.

This has worked beautifully for me. I think it will for you too.


Amber said...

Thank you so much for these tips. I am hoping it's not too late to work for this year yet. They have been the one thing I hate about gardening too - little buggers!

Sara Elliott said...


I've never tried it this late in the season. Good luck, and let us know how it works out for you.


Lynda said...

You said that the scent of the dead rotting beetles would send out a scent of warning to others. After trying all kinds of stuff in the past, I finally got fed up and now I go to my rose bushes with my husbands big sandals, one on each hand and start killing the little buggers as fast as I can. Every morning and at least once or more in the afternoon and evening. I would think that with the thousands I've killed this way , that it would send out that scent of "your buddies have died here so go away" but they still come. What am I doing wrong? I'm just not using the soap bucket, which I think I'm going to try. But why isn't my way working? Also, do Japanese Beetles attack? or, are the ones that escape just bumping into me by accident after killing a bunch of their buddies? Thanks

Sara Elliott said...

Hi Lynda,

For me, it's all been in the timing. Here in Kentucky I start to see the little demons around the second week in June. If I catch them right away, I can kill a few scouts, put them in water, and that's the end of my problems for the season. When I haven't caught them early enough, they're a nightmare. In years past, they've been so thick on my roses that clumps of them look like Christmas ornaments.

I hope this year is better for you.


Tantezoe said...

Thanks for this potential solution. I'm in KY also and the little green devils are ALL OVER my morning glories, nasturtiums and now the sweet potato vines! These are inter-planted in pots, with herbs. As I'd like to be able to consume the herbs and nasturtiums, I'm reluctant to even spray some on=f the natural remedies - not sure I want cayenne flavored basil, etc... I'm using rinsed out plastic coffee cans as buckets, with the soapy solution and plan to tuck the watery crypts below the pots (on porch pediment) below them in the dirt = less obvious. What do you think?

Sara Elliott said...

Sounds good. My only concern is that it may be too late in the season to do much good this year. Around the second or third week in June next year would be perfect to start watching for Japanese beetle scouts and setting out your repellent.

Good luck,


drjcagle said...

I have also found a companion plant that kills Japanese Beetles for me. If you can make them fit into your landscape design, try a few Castor Bean Plants. They are very large (and poisonous) tropical plants that reach about 6 to 10 feet in a single season from seed...very attractive annuals. Japanese Beetles will eat a few bites of the plant's leaves, get very still, and die...quickly.

kelly crandall said...

This is the first year I've ever seen them. This is also the first year I've planted a vegetable/herb garden. Coincidence? I don't have roses. I found four of them in the house so I don't know which plants they are attracted to.

Could it be something in my new garden? Tell me which vegetables or herbs they like best, please.

Sara Elliott said...

Hi Kelly,

Here's a link to a post I wrote with a list of Japanese Beetles' favorite plants, trees and shrubs:

Good luck,


Luis Alberto Simauchi Jr. said...

Japanese beetle traps can be effective tools for getting rid of these pests. It is recommended to kill these insects while they are still in the larvae stage (white grubs), but if they are already grown and infesting your property, using traps in conjunction with the sprays such as Talstar P or Essentria IC3 above can work really well.

Anonymous said...

The traps - unless everyone in your neighborhood has them - will only serve to attract MORE beetles to your yard. Wanna get rid of the beetles in YOUR yard? Buy a couple of the traps and give them to your next-door neighbors as gifts!

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