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For years I’ve read horror story about Japanese beetles invading gardens. I’d even talked to local gardeners who have been plagued by the irridescent buggers. But until this year I’d never even laid eyes on one.

I read an article that suggested that our springs are too cold here (and particularly at my house near Lake Michigan) for them to get comfortable and take up residence and that seems like a logical explanation. Given the warm spring and very mild winter we had and the fact that I’m seeing them now for the first time also supports this theory.

This little bugger was just one of the little guys hiding in the blooms of my containerized rose. On the right you can see some of the damage they caused in the flower.

I first noticed them a couple weeks ago when I returned from being gone for 10 days. I was admiring the new blooms in my potted rose (developing because I was diligent about deadheading before I left), and noticed something black in the middle. When I pulled it out, there was no doubt: This was the dreaded Japanese beetle I’d heard so much about. I promptly crushed it and then found two more in other flowers that met similar fates.

I’ve only found them in flowers so far but I’ll bet my total number of kills is up to 15 or so. And I’m not naive enough to think I’ve found all there are to find.

So far I’ve only found them in that particular rose, but I’m keeping an eye out for them elsewhere. They made a real mess of the flowers, chewing big holes in them, and I’m certain they are doing other damage that I’ve yet to discover. I’ve not noticed any leaf damage yet.

I’m concerned because some of their other favorite plants to munch on are viburnums, which I have at least a dozen of, zinnias and apples. I’ve checked the apple tree but I need to give the rest of the plants a close inspection.

I’ve also started doing some research on them, and it’s not hard to find. Here’s one good paper with some information from which I’ve just learned that squishing them is a bad idea because they release a pheromone that attracts others of their ilk. Turns out I should be drowning the little buggers in soapy water.

I’m not sure if Japanese beetles will be an ongoing problem after this year at my house. If we get a typical Wisconsin winter and spring, that may solve the problem (and cause others including making the gardener crabby), at least temporarily. Still, I’d have been plenty happy to remain one of the few who was blissfully unaware of this invader.

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14 Responses

  1. We got attacked big time! My bushes, my small rose bush, hostas! They aren't picky at all. My mom's front yard looks like fall, they got her birch tree.

  2. They're in CO big time. I go out every morning with my bowl of soapy water and plastic fork (I don't like using my fingers because they grab on, eeewwww) and hunt for them. They've mostly been attracted to my pole beans this year and a few here and there on my zinnias and other plants. A lot of people here treat their lawns with milky spore to kill the larvae.

  3. Ugh, I hate them so much. Thankfully we don't have many here, though this year we have more than usual (I think because of the mild winter we had). I hope this isn't the start of a yearly Japanese beetle visit for you!

  4. My husband uses his BernzOmatic torch to kill them. We have also used Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) galleriae (a quick search will yield several products that contain it) and noticed far fewer beetles the following year.

  5. I live in Wauwatosa, and have been seeing the nasty buggers for about 7 years. For a while, they were just eating the tree leaves (Linden and Newport Plum). This year, they started in on my roses. I have decided to follow the two-pronged approach of picking off adults and following up with grubicide. But, my yard is not large, and I can easily get around to all my bushes on a regular basis with a deli container of soapy water (you only need a couple of drops of dish soap). I have plastic gloves on, and grab the bugs with my fingers and throw them into the water. They attempt to swim for a little while and then give up and drown. I pour the “beetle juice” out on the driveway after a few hours. Sometimes birds go after the dead bugs. I have not noticed the carcasses attracting live Japanese Beetles the way those trap bags do. A few weeks ago, I was getting 40 or so a day. Now, it is down to 6-8. Especially in the beginning, I was trimming my roses, particularly the places where I noticed the bugs. I read that they leave a scent or residue. So, for a little while, I’d get a rose bloom and then chop it off almost the same day. Very disappointing. Good luck to you!

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