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How to Control Japanese Beetles In Your Organic Vegetable Garden

Japanese Beetles In The Organic Vegetable Garden by JamuudsenJapanese Beetles In The Organic Vegetable Garden by Jamuudsen
What's green, shiny and buzzes all over? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not as amusing as you might think. The answer is Popilla japonica, the Japanese beetle. If you live in the United States, and you are reading this during the months of May, June or July, this pest is likely to be hard at work in your organic vegetable garden at this very moment. Japanese beetles can be found happily munching on trees, ornamental plants, lawns and vegetable plants.

5 Organic Ways to Get Rid of Your Japanese Beetle Problem

I'll start with the good news: it is possible to reduce your garden's Japanese beetle population by using organic methods and you don't have to completely eliminate this pest in order to save your plants. The bad news is that Japanese beetles are good flyers and they are glad to move into your garden from up to 5 miles away if they sense that it's a good place for them to be.

What attracts Japanese Beetles to your organic garden?

Now that we know what makes them want to move into your organic garden, we can create a strategy for discouraging them. According to the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, "When you remove beetles daily by hand from a plant, only about half as many are attracted to that plant compared to those on which beetles are allowed to accumulate." Japanese beetles tend to congregate in clusters that can easily be knocked off of your beloved plants into a bucket of soapy water where they will drown. Squishing them is an option for those of us who feel more aggressive towards them.

Removing the beetles will also decrease the amount of damage they do to their host plants. This further decreases the amount of beetles that will migrate to your organic garden. Harvesting your fruits (strawberries, apples, etc.) and vegetables (peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, etc.) before they become overripe or begin to rot will also decrease the number of beetles that you attract to your organic garden.

Strawberries and eggplants are two of the many garden crops that Japanese beetles are attracted to. Covering these and other affected crops with floating row cover will help but will also interfere with the pollination of these crops.

Should I use pheromone "Bag a Bug" traps to combat Japanese beetles?

In your battle against the Japanese beetle, please refrain from using the popular pheromone traps--these attract many more beetles that they catch, leaving you with more beetles than you started with. If you absolutely can't resist using them, keep the traps well away from your favorite garden plants so as not to lure the beetles right to them.

The shiny adult Japanese beetles are most active for 6-8 weeks in early to mid-summer. By the end of their annual reign, they have laid their eggs and the grubs have hatched and have begun feeding. During the winter, these grubs will burrow into the soil and await next summer's bounty.

The biological controls available to organic gardeners can help keep these grubs in check. These controls include parasitic nematodes, Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis), parasitic wasps and milky spore. These controls can often be purchased in garden centers or through mail-order bio-control catalogs.

Luckily, the beetles are only in full force for several weeks at a predictable time each year. We can use our knowledge about Japanese beetles and their habits to beat them at their own game. Now, let's get to work and take back the summer!

For More Information:

Managing Adult Japanese Beetles with list of Japanese beetle resistant landscape plants
USDA site with extensive information about biological pests of Japanese beetles
How to Grow Blueberry Plants in Your Organic Garden - 5 Tips for Getting Loads of Blueberries
Exciting Organic Eggplant!
A Guide to Using Floating Row Covers in Your Organic Vegetable Garden