Japanese beetles - dust buster?

The Japanese beetles have arrived over the past couple of days. Trying real hard not to spray insecticide but they're out of my reach at about 7 ft, attacking my porcelain berry vine which they seem to prefer to anything else. Has anyone ever tried using a battery operated dust buster to suck them up? That would help me reach the critters without harming my plants or other beneficials like bees and dragonflies.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

For Japanese Beetles that are out of reach, I usually shake the vines and make them fly away.

If I can reach them, I squish 'em!

But don't they fly right back?

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

CindyMzone5 - I'm not sure if the beetles fly back, but the fewer beetles on the vegetables, the fewer will be attracted. Japanese beetles smell other JB's and fly in to feed.

I figure if I can get them to fly away, perhaps they'll find food eslewhere and won't return.

I'll be out hunting down those critters later today. They usually are most active in the afternoon in the strong sunlight. I'm going to try the dust buster on those too high for me to pick off. That'll give me an extra foot of reach. Good to know about the JPs reacting to scent. Thanks.

Tried the dust buster on the Japanese beetles - not enough suction to pry them off of the plants. Did resort to hand-picking them and drowning them in soapy water. Not quite as much satisfaction that way though.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

So far I've only seen/squished one Japanese beetle this year. I'm sure more will show up eventually.

I think I pulled in between 30 and 40 yesterday. They're very attracted to my porcelain berry vine, maybe because it's up higher. Pulled only a few from rose flowers. I'll be out there again today. Since they're busiest in the afternoon in the full sun, I made about 4 or 5 passes roughly a half hour apart.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

I don't get that many - maybe five or so a day. Like you, I walk thorugh the garden frequently squishing bugs as I go.

I picked another 15 or 20 yesterday. I was wondering how long these critters actually live to swarm around - if new ones arrive daily or if they fly around for days unless eliminated.

Shawnee Mission, KS(Zone 6a)

Talk with Darius. She just picked up something to put down on her property to get rid of the Japanese Beetle grubs.

We have put milky spore down for two years now, 2 or 3 times a year. But that won't keep the critters from flying in from elsewhere. We put down the milky spore to eliminate the grubs in the lawn that the neighbor's "pet" raccoons keep digging for.

Shawnee Mission, KS(Zone 6a)

Yes. Sorry forgot to mention the local only part and flying in issue. But it does get rid of the grubs.

I've passed the 100 mark on my hand-collecting. 97% of them were picked off of the porcelain berry vine. I do have to be careful that I don't mistakenly grab a wasp or hornet though.

West of Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Hi all. I'm new to the forum. This will be my first post here. This thread caught my eye because we've been having a significant problem with JB's this year and wanted to see if anyone was having better success with them. They've infested our birch trees, grape vines, fruit trees, and raspberries.

My husband has been using the power washer to spray up into the trees with a Dawn dish soap solution. In the blender, he also whizzed up a concoction of catnip, garlic and Dawn. In addition to that, he placed several traps around the yard. It appears they might finally be moving along, with the exception of one birch tree that was left untreated all this time. It's now infested more heavily than the rest.

Something is working. I'm guessing the Dawn. But he's been at this daily for longer than a week. The traps drew in hundreds of beetles. We can't tell if they did more harm than good.

As a side note, the chickens really love these things. Too bad they can't fly as high as the beetles. They would decimate the population.

This message was edited Jul 1, 2012 12:18 AM

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

lusciousleaves - Japanese beetle traps are best set far, far away from your garden, otherwise you will attract more than you otherwise would.

Northeast, PA(Zone 6b)

I find it deeply satisfying to have my chickens eat the JB's that I've collected.


Check out the youbetyourgarden.org website. He's got some good points about breaking the JB cycle but it has to be done on a yearly basis. Says to only use the traps to monitor the arrival of the pests and then take them down once you see the first one. Spraying would involve either Neem or one of the spinosads.
Came home from a mini vacation and collected another 50 of the critters within an hour of my arrival. Couldn't stand the sight of them. Maybe with the heat and drought here it's just a bad year for them?

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

The JB's must be bothering other gardeners this year, because so far, I've seen/killed fewer than ten!

Decatur, GA(Zone 7b)

I've yet to see one here in GA. Killed a few last week in western NC.

Still collecting the critters here although the numbers seem to be getting fewer. I wonder how long this will last as I'm getting a little tired of patrolling during the hot afternoons here.

West of Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Definitely no drop off in their presence here. Every morning the decks near the birch trees are covered with their droppings. The cherry tree is almost stripped of leaves on the top layer. The peach tree the same. Hubs is still out there every day to every other day spraying Dawn and water into the treetops. We're wondering of bats eat them, seeing as how we now have bat guano under the birch tree. Would that be nice?

I heard they have a short season - three weeks or so? It's been at least a month here and we'll be very glad to see them move on.

It's been about 3 weeks here so hoping they'll end soon. Do your bats only come out at dusk? I don't remember seeing the JBs flying too late into the evening. Would be cool though if they were eating them.

West of Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

The bats do come out at dusk, but you have a good point. The JBs probably settle in for the night before the bats come out. It was a nice thought. :)

In a gardener's world, that would have been justice. :)

West of Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Indeed! I stepped out onto the deck the other night to protect my seedlings from an impending storm front. Instead of rain, I was showered by JB's falling from the tree. About 20 of them came hailing down onto the deck and table like little black pellets of ice. Must be the Dawn intoxication. :D

Those things creep me out. Can't imagine them raining down on me. But then there must have been some satisfaction! One flew down my shirt yesterday when I was out collecting them and it was all I could do to keep from pulling off my shirt to get rid of it. I'm approaching the 300 count and have worn a path in the lawn from my patrols. I'm thinking my garden would have been toast this year if not for catching them.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

I resorted to JB bug bags this year since I haven't received the duster yet to apply the 50# of food grade DE (diatomaceous earth) I bought around the garden (for most pests) and the yard (for fleas and ticks). The JB's were so thick on my raspberries and blackberries that it was hazardous to pick fruit. The JB's immediately left my filbert bush for the traps; last year they chewed almost ALL the leaves off the filbert and I thought it might die.

In the last 3 weeks, the JB's have filled NINE of the bug bags! I'm sure some are from the neighboring houses but I have the only garden and my berries and filberts would draw the JB's anyway.

I also bought milky spore which I will apply in September, but it takes a couple of years to really work.

Darius - do you think you have less damage using the bug bags or fewer JBs? Are they the actual JB traps that I've heard about? I'm sooooo tempted to use one after tramping around swatting them into soapy water for a month. Good thing it's too hot to do much gardening because I sure wouldn't get any done. This year I have more sun in the small garden bed that they're targeting and I notice that while there are a few before 11am, they really target that area once the sun hits it and then wind down in the late afternoon. It's been a month since I spotted the first one and they're still flying in. I've collected about 50 since yesterday. We put down milky spore twice last year and in the spring this year. I've heard that to keep the milky spore at it's best performance that some JBs do have to lay their eggs in the ground but have no experience to go by. I wonder if our dry, hot weather has any affect on the JB population.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Cindy, I'm using the easily-found JB traps from Spectracide. I don't have fewer JB's but I sure have less damage. I've seen more JB's this year than ever.

I hadn't read that milky spore needs a few JB's to lay eggs in the ground to be more effective. All I know is that every JB I collect in the bags is one less to lay eggs. I suppose a full bag of them holds maybe 1,000 JB's, and I've collected 9 bags so far.

Yeah, I should have started several years ago, but better late than never.

Holy smokes! 1000 per bag??? Guess I shouldn't be complaining (too much). Perhaps I'm thinking about Bt with needing underground larva to keep it growing.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)


I don't see many JBs here but this year more than usual. And mine hang out in the porcelain vine and the Virginia Creeper vines. I knock them into a cup of soapy water each day around 4 pm. The smell from the cup when I remove the cover is very remenicent to me of BMSB ( brown marmorated stink bug). In fact , as I have dealt with stink bug invasions here over the last three years, I find that habit wise JBs and stinkbugs are similar in a number of ways(Fly in in afternoon, hang out in groups to feed, fly off to hunker down somewhere for the night repeat, both like porcelain vine and virginia creeper...few natural predators)

Last year I did use a vacuum to capture stink bugs when they appeared in large numbers on the southwest side of my house looking for overwintering quarters as temps cooled. I used a small wet/dry vac with about an inch of soapy water in it. This vac was powerful enough to suck them right up and drown them. I did add an extra long hose ( Plastic laundry tub hose from HD) with duct tape and used the crivice tool that came with the vac.. This gave me the height and reach up to 20 feet or roof peek. I attached long hose and end to a long bamboo pole and was able to maneuver it quite well.

My setup works on JBs . I even caught one on the fly! I've also used on gypsy moth, winter moth and tent caterpillars and ants. Several 100' extension cords and I can get to most of my gardens. Unlike a reg vac or dustbuster, the wet/dry vac is so much easier to clean and deodorize.

I think mine is a 3 gal and I run it without filter. There are smaller and also battery operated, too.

Hope this helps Judy

PS Secretly I'm hoping that more people will vacuum their garden pests so I won't feel so weird!

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Judy, I never considered vacuuming mine, perhaps because there are so many and my garden is so spread out. It sure would beat hand-picking them.

I did read today that the JB's lay eggs early in their life cycle, then feed and repeat ad nauseum, so I guess that means another bunch next year. The milky spore says it takes 2-3 years until the grubs begin to take up the spore and then spread it.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Pure, cold-pressed neem oil works extremely well as a powerful antifeedant. I put 6 amur maple leaves in a bug box with a handful of beetles a few years ago. 3 of the leaves were eaten almost completely and 3 were untouched - guess which were the untouched leaves? Neem oil also acts as a chemosterilizer, leaving the beatles unable to reproduce.

How I use:

1 pint of very hot water
1 pint of rubbing alcohol
1 tsp neem oil (recommend Dyna-Gro's product)
few drops of Murphy's or other real soap

Mix soap and neem into hot water. Shake well. Add alcohol. Use in a 1 qt hand spritzer - shake regularly as you apply to keep the product from separating. Use it all up in 1 day - it doesn't store well. Cover all surfaces of the plant.


Judy - Brilliant! We have two wet/dry vacs and one is smaller. Will have to talk to DH about commandeering the smaller one for the season. Don't have stink bugs here (that I know of) but have heard that they are a real problem in the east. The only smell I detect is the drowned JBs in soapy water left in the sun for a day or so. I keep my container handy so that I can collect the JBs throughout the afternoon. I'm becoming a little OCD about collecting them as I've had my porcelain berry vine for years and never get to see the colorful berries. I'm determined this year to see some.
Darius - I had recently read about the egg-laying repetitive cycle and that's somewhat discouraging. I had also heard to avoid watering the lawn during this period as the JBs have a tough time laying eggs in hard dirt.
tapla - thanks for that recipe. In the past I had used nasty commercial insect sprays on the JBs which also tended to damage the foliage in the hot sun. So, I hesitated spraying anything this year, not knowing what might harm the foliage and needing to keep beneficials around for my tomato, squash and cucumber plants (which the JBs don't touch). I do have some neem but will have to make sure it's the right type as it's been difficult to find locally. Only thing I could find is Natural Guard Neem-Py for fruit trees which says on the label that it's harmful to bees if sprayed directly (and they're out early in the morning). I don't think that's the stuff I want to use.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Yes, tapla, thanks for the recipe. Along with Cindy, I'm wondering if you (or other readers) can speak to using your recipe in direct sun,? Temps above 80 degrees? will it burn leaves? how long is it effective?, how should it be stored to prevent it going rancid? can it be used on "edibles"? should it be sprayed lightly on all plant surfaces or til dripping wet? does it do anything to already laid eggs? and anything else you'd care to throw in...!!

Seems there are a number of products out there that contain neem oil but that also contain chems that I prefer not to use like the Natural Guard stuff with permithrins/pyritums, etc that Cindy mentions as they do harm beneficials.

If Darius, for instance, used your recipe now on plants currently being eaten by JBs would that be the way to go (weather wise, etc) and would it in addition to protecting the plants, also disrupt the continual egg laying?

Are there any downsides to using your neem recipe or instances you have found ineffective?

Thanks in advance for reading and considering my many questions and double thanks for your response!

West of Chicago, IL(Zone 5b)

Guess what? The crop sprayers were out and almost decimated the JB population overnight. Now we know where they were coming from. Still have some, but more like a normal year than before.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

So you prefer the crop sprayers to the JB's?

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Darius, I first began my adventure with vacuums in the garden when our oak trees here were over run with gypsy moths. Defoliation was very real and a promise of even more for the next year. It rained caterpillar frass everywhere. I determined that I myself was the closest thing to a natural predator in my neck of the woods and set about devising ways ti save the trees and significantly decrease the population exploding all around me.

One control measure I undertook involved banding my trees about three feet up with a sticky barrior to prevent the caterpillars from crawling up and down the trunks to feed in the canopies and another band of burlap underwhich they would take shelter. I banded thirty large oaks, maples, etc mostly on my property.

I quickly learned that like Mickey Mouse in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" where the brooms kept multiplying that hand picking tree by tree for several hours each day was a losing battle, ie one stuck bug became a highway for others to cross over the stickies. In the time it took me to do one tree by hand, twenty to thirty on the other trees were already out of reach.

In shear desperation, I grabbed an old canister vac slated for the trash with a half full bag of something, plugged it in...and it worked! Filled that bag, plopped in another and hauled out my extension cords and OCD ed my way from tree to tree. I did this crazy thing daily for almost four weeks, filling countless bags, the contents of which I stomped on repeatedly inside of the trash bag as I wanted no survivors to go to the land fill. ( Guess it didn't occur to me how else to recycle them. Most birds still don't like them much. )

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Here is a pic of a small (2 gal) wet/dry vac similar to the one I currently count among my garden tools. Good luck Cindy and if you don't like the smell of sun cooked soapy JBs hope the brown marmorated stink bug doesn't keep invading new territory and comes into some sort of ecological balance.

This message was edited Jul 21, 2012 2:47 PM

Thumbnail by coleup
So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Great story Judy.

I checked my still small filbert yesterday, and it looks like I'll have twice as many nuts as last year now that the JB's aren't defoliating it. (Last year, where it first produced nuts, the "crop" was about 15 nuts!) I need to start several more of them around the yard. If/when Push comes to Shove, I currently raise very little that will provide Omega 3's and have no animals for fats.

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