Cedarcide blog post image, 9 ways to get rid of Japanese Beetles without harsh chemicals

The story goes like this: in the early 1900s Japanese beetles were accidentally introduced into the American ecosystem via shipments from Japan. Unfortunately, these green and copper-colored beetles have very few natural predators in our country, which has led them to become one of the most widely spread and damaging garden pests in the U.S. Today. 

Most active during the warmest summer months (mid June to late August for adults, fall and late spring for larvae), these beetles and their larval grub form can wreak havoc on your lawn. The adult beetles “skeletonize” nearly all forms of plant life, while their younger grub counterparts consume grass and other roots from below the soil. Because Japanese beetles eat in groups and feed from both above and below the soil, they can devastate entire lawns and gardens in no time. If Japanese beetles are destroying your lawn, or you’re just looking for ways to keep that from happening, here are 9 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles

 

The tried and true method of handpicking Japanese beetles from your lawn or garden is still the most effective approach to controlling these pests. It can take some time, but the effect it can have on the health of your plants is well worth the effort.

For best results, do this in the early morning, when Japanese beetles are most active. Using gloves, pluck the beetles from grass and other plant life being careful not to squeeze or crush them (doing so could attract more beetles). Dispose of them by dropping them in a bucket of soapy water (2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap per 1 gallon of water)—this is one of the most humane ways to eliminate Japanese beetles.

 

Keeping guinea fowl around your lawn & garden is a proven way to limit not only Japanese beetle populations, but that of ticks and other pests as well. However, not everyone wants to keep these loud birds as pets. In that case, finding ways to attract ducks and other birds to your yard will do the trick.

Spraying your entire lawn with a soapy mixture of 2 tablespoons dish soap to 1 gallon of water will help force Japanese beetle larvae to the surface, which in turn will attract hungry birds (this should be done in fall and late spring, when Japanese beetles are in the larval stage of their life cycle). Continue this process weekly until no further larvae emerge from the soil.

 

Japanese beetles are most attracted to rotting and overripe plants, so keeping a healthy lawn and garden is key. Promptly remove diseased or otherwise dying plants, trees, fruits and vegetables before they attract additional beetles to your yard. Harvesting plants before they become appetizing to beetles is also crucial.

 
 

Row covers allow air, sun, water and other essential elements to reach your plants while keeping Japanese beetles out. Remember: To remain effective, the edges of the cover must be flush with the ground, or otherwise firmly sealed. If Japanese beetle grubs have already infested your soil, this method is not for you, as it will only serve to trap the beetles inside the cover with your precious plants.

 

One of the greener options for Japanese beetle control involves introducing parasitic roundworms into the soil. Also known as beneficial nematodes, these organisms can devastate soil-dwelling pests like Japanese beetle larvae. Once they’ve located and entered a host, these nearly microscopic worms release a bacteria that’s deadly to the young beetles. After killing their host they move on to another beetle, reproducing in the process.

For best results, introduce nematodes into your soil in late August or early September to attack the next cycle of beetles for the following year (while this is the optimal approach, nematodes can be added to the soil at any time, so long as the soil is sufficiently watered).

Note: the nematode species Heterorhabditis is said to be most effective against Japanese beetles. The nematode pest control method targets larvae, not adult beetles. Beneficial nematodes can typically be found at your local home & garden store.

 

While Japanese beetles enjoy eating a wide array of plant life, certain types are particularly attractive to these devastating pests. Inundating your garden with Japanese Beetles’ favorite food sources is just asking for trouble. Limit such plants as much as is reasonably possible. For a list of Japanese beetles favorite meals, click here.

 

Drop cloths can be highly effective at cutting down Japanese beetle populations. At night, cover your plants with a sufficiently large drop cloth. In the morning when beetles are most active, remove the cloth and dispose of the attached beetles using the aforementioned bucket of soapy water.

 

Most Japanese beetle traps are ineffective, usually only serving to attract additional beetles to your lawn & garden. However, a can of fruit cocktail can help quickly remove active beetles from your yard. First, ferment the cocktail by leaving it in the sun for a few days—this will make it more attractive to beetles. Next, place the can on top of a brick or bricks stacked inside a pail filled with water (it’s advisable to keep this trap far removed from the plants you’re trying to protect). The cocktail will attract the beetles, the water will drown them. It’s that simple.

 

Mix 4 tablespoons of dish soap with water inside a spray bottle. This simple solution makes for a great, all natural Japanese Beetle pesticide. Spray on any beetles you see on or around your lawn & garden.

 

56 Comments

  1. Swadeep on July 6, 2020 at 9:50 PM

    I have them on a crab apple tree. What is the best solution for it? They come in hundreds every year. I tried the chemical, but that didnt help much. Will the Soap Solution work? I researched other solutions and my next options are Neem Oil, Pyrethrin both of which are chemicals and expensive. Please help

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 7, 2020 at 7:12 AM

      Customers have had excellent success treating them using our PCO Choice Spray, which we hear kills them on contact and helps repel afterward. That’s the easiest solution we know of 🙂

  2. Githa on July 5, 2020 at 5:23 PM

    Hi,
    Would adding neem oil to soapy liquid help? If so what’s the ratio? My beautiful roses are infested with Japanese beetles and seems like I am the only one who has this issue in the neighborhood.

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 7, 2020 at 7:15 AM

      Hi, Githa!

      I’m not sure about the neem oil with the soap. But our customers have told us our PCO Choice spray can knock them down and fairly quickly.

  3. JB on July 5, 2020 at 2:07 PM

    How many tablespoons of Soap per Gallon of water?

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 7, 2020 at 7:17 AM

      Hi, JB!

      Aim for about 12

  4. Tonya on July 5, 2020 at 10:23 AM

    Earlier this year we planed a barefoot apple tree and it now has Japanese beetles. Is it to young to spray with soapy water?

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 7, 2020 at 7:18 AM

      Hi there, Tonya!

      It should not be too young, no. I would also recommend trying our family-safe lawn spray, PCO Choice, we’ve heard great things from our customers about its efficacy against Japanese Beetles.

  5. Brenda Morris on July 4, 2020 at 3:24 AM

    Hi there…if I spray my grape vines with the soapy water and (of course it will) it gets on the grapes, will just washing the grapes rise them enough so I can still eat them…the japanese beetles are terrible on them.. I actually make jelly from them…also if I spray them with Neem spray, which is so suppose to be organic, can I still eat them? Thank you so much……

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 7, 2020 at 7:20 AM

      Hi, Brenda,

      We strongly recommend avoiding spraying the grapes directly and only spray the surrounding vines and bases of plants. For any beetles on the fruits themselves, simply pick them off and drop them in a bucket of soapy water and dispose of them that way.

  6. Carey B on July 3, 2020 at 7:16 PM

    Does it matter what type of dish soap you use?

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 7, 2020 at 7:21 AM

      Hi, Carey!

      We also suggest natural dish soap 🙂

  7. June on May 31, 2020 at 8:03 AM

    If the soapy water doesn’t repell them what is a natural repellent??? The soapy water does kill them on contact. But I don’t want to have to continue to space my plants everyday if it isn’t going to repell the bugs. Thanks.

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 7, 2020 at 7:42 AM

      Our customers tell us that our PCO Choice spray does both! Just spray twice the first month and monthly after that 🙂

  8. Lisa on May 27, 2020 at 2:05 PM

    What I’ve done is take a long sturdy stick and place it at the base of my rose bushes and just kind of hit it against the base of the bush in between the branches and they will scatter. Did this last year every time I would walk by them just about and it seemed like they got the message after several times! 🙂

  9. Aislinn Cuvi on May 17, 2020 at 11:28 PM

    I saw quite a lot of white larvae in my yard deep inside the ground while doing some gardening. I am a little worried that they will kill my new crops so I was wondering if I can water the soapy mix into the ground of already established crop without damaging them. For instance I have some really great growing tomatoes and cucumbers I’m worried about.

  10. Connie Hute on May 17, 2020 at 11:04 PM

    I have dinner plate hibiscus and hyacinths here in eastern Iowa which the Japanese beetles love! They devour not only the leaves but blossoms and buds. I have put down diamatatous earth and will go with dish soap and water spray. I makes me sick to my stomach to watch them devour my beautiful flowers! I also will give the fruit cocktail a run for the money! I will also tell my daughter-in-law about this as she has the same issue! I hate the nuggets with a passion! A dear friend has a large yard full of fruit trees, hyacinths and hibiscus which the critters just about destroyed at least half! She used the traps and I told her about the dish soap and fruit cocktail! I know she is anxious to try these!

  11. Clare Bursky on August 9, 2019 at 11:35 PM

    I live in a condo. So far I ‘ve stepped on and killed10 beetles. Several have flown or run awat. I’m putting a borax powder around my walls and clorox inside my toilets and sinks. The beetles seem to reappear. Is there anything else that you can suggest? These beetles are residing on the first floor of my condo. My neighbors claim that my condo is the only one that has them. Thanks.

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on August 22, 2019 at 12:18 PM

      Hi there, Clare!

      Sorry to hear about your beetle problem, but we’re here to help. Cedarcide Original will work great as a contact killer, as well as a deterrent if you spray trouble areas and possible entry points. Give us a call at 800-842-1464 if you need any more help or suggestions with the beetles, we’re always happy to talk customers through issues like this 🙂

    • Diane Printz on July 6, 2020 at 7:08 PM

      I have Oriental beetles that just appeared 4 days ago and are now overtaking my entire lawn! They are very aggressive also. How would you treat an entire lawn?

      • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 7, 2020 at 7:12 AM

        Our customers report success treating them using our PCO Choice Spray, which they say kills them on contact and helps repel after that. 🙂

  12. Karen on July 24, 2019 at 3:53 PM

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed, my ivy is full of them, hundreds, too many to pluck off, and too high to reach! Just sprayed…….

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 25, 2019 at 10:39 AM

      Wishing you the best of luck! Let us know if we can be of any more help

      • Neeta on June 28, 2020 at 3:58 PM

        I’d like to know how much vinegar to add to the soap solution. My new apple trees are being devastated by the beetle 🙁

        • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 7, 2020 at 7:23 AM

          Neeta,

          Vinegar can be harsh on plant life. I would go with our family-safe, pet-safe lawn treatment PCO Choice or the above mentioned soapy water solution.

    • Leilani Luke on August 15, 2019 at 6:14 PM

      I used the water and soap solution as well as adding some white vinegar and boy did those beetles drop to the ground. They then flipped over on their backs and died. I like this natural solution as it doesn’t hurt the environment and it actually works…
      Thank you for that recommendation……

      • Jonathan At Cedarcide on August 22, 2019 at 12:07 PM

        That’s what we’re here 🙂

        Thanks for the comment, Leilani!

      • Diane Reynolds on April 29, 2020 at 1:00 PM

        I have a 3 gallon sprayer so how much dish soap will I need

        • Jonathan At Cedarcide on May 16, 2020 at 11:23 AM

          Hi there!

          Aim for about 12 tablespoons. Let us know if you need anything else 🙂

      • Kim on June 14, 2020 at 8:00 AM

        I use olive oil infused with garlic. I spray it on my basil and the Japanese Beetles can’t jump off fast enough.

      • Carol L. on July 2, 2020 at 12:42 PM

        How much vinegar? I use it to kill vegetation in the cracks of my sidewalk, why wouldn’t it kill my plants?

    • Stacy on April 16, 2020 at 6:12 PM

      They love my lemon blossoms. And all my flowers. I’ll try dawn and water in a spray bottle

    • Amy Gambrell on June 10, 2020 at 3:07 PM

      My knockout Rose’s are covered with them. I just bought the home with 10 to 20 bushes they are on the top of them at 4:30 p.m.

  13. Ray Coleman on July 23, 2019 at 1:53 PM

    Just sprayed my roses. I use the soap and water for aphids. This is my first time having the beetles.

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 25, 2019 at 10:38 AM

      Awesome! Let us know if we can be of any more help 🙂

  14. seng vang on July 21, 2019 at 5:35 PM

    I just tried the soap and water method and I’m so excited! I might have used too much soap (4 tablespoons in a tiny spray bottle) but it seems to be working as the beetles even seem like they’re dead. They fell off my rose tree and are no longer moving on the ground. Yay!!!

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 23, 2019 at 9:24 AM

      Yay! We’re so glad to hear it. Let us know if we can be of any more help 🙂

      • Amy on July 4, 2020 at 11:43 AM

        Does the soap and water method kill beneficial insects or just the beetles?

        • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 7, 2020 at 7:19 AM

          Hi, Amy!

          It should kill and deter the beetles, just be careful not to spray any beneficial insects directly and they’ll be just fine.

  15. Laura A Rude on July 18, 2019 at 5:44 PM

    Can I use the soapy water solution on raspberry plants and still harvest the berries for consumption?

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 19, 2019 at 2:51 PM

      Good question, Laura!

      I would test on a small area first or consult a local gardening resource for that one 🙂

      • Hector on June 27, 2020 at 10:17 AM

        Can I spray the soap solution on the actual new bloom and existing roses / flowers? Will it hurt the blooms??

        • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 7, 2020 at 7:24 AM

          Hector,

          I’d avoid the spraying any blooms, fruits, or veggies directly.

  16. Denise Grosman on July 15, 2019 at 10:44 AM

    If the beetles are feeding on the fruit cocktail, how do they end up in the water?

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 19, 2019 at 2:52 PM

      Great question! If the trap is constructed correctly, they will never reach the fruit cocktail, the smell simply attracts them to the bucket, where they will slip and fall in the water. Let us know if you have any more questions 🙂

  17. Cynthia on July 13, 2019 at 3:43 PM

    What is the amount of water to use with the dish soap?

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 19, 2019 at 2:59 PM

      Filling a typical 32 oz. spray bottle or smaller will do the trick 🙂

  18. CJ anderson on July 10, 2019 at 11:53 AM

    Do you open the fruit cocktail? Place the can in water?

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 19, 2019 at 2:48 PM

      Hi, CJ

      Yep, that’s correct!

  19. Anna Burley on July 10, 2019 at 7:34 AM

    The soap n water does work I tried it lastnight at my sister in law’s house and they scattered in a hurry.

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 19, 2019 at 2:47 PM

      Hi, Anna!

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  20. Laura on July 9, 2019 at 10:05 AM

    Tried the soapy water spray this morning. Scared two beetles away immediately. Just checked my rose bush a couple of hours later and it is crawling with Japanese beetles! 👎

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 19, 2019 at 2:46 PM

      Hi, Laura!

      To clarify, this spray works as a direct contact killer, not as a repellent. Most of these natural approaches were best in conjunction with one another 🙂

  21. Nicole Ramey on June 30, 2019 at 3:39 PM

    Will the soapy spray hurt flowers and vegetation?

    • Jonathan At Cedarcide on July 5, 2019 at 2:15 PM

      Nicole, great question!

      Generally, no, that should not hurt plant life. However, if you have especially sensitive or expenses plants, we would suggest testing on a small area first 🙂

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