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9 Ways to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles Without Harsh Chemicals

Cedarcide blog post image, 9 Ways to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles

The story goes like this: in the early 1900s Japanese beetles were accidentally introduced into the American ecosystem via shipments from Japan. Mostly isolated to the Eastern and Midwest regions of the U.S., 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.

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 & gardens in no time. If Japanese beetles are destroying your lawn, or you’re just looking for ways to keep that from happening in the first place, here are 10 All Natural Ways to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles.


Get Your Hands Dirty

The tried and true method of handpicking Japanese beetles from your lawn & 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 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.

Feed the Birds

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.

Take Care of Your Plants

Japanese beetles are most attracted to rotting and overripe plants, so keeping a healthy lawn & 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 important also.


Use Row Covers

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 trap the beetles inside the cover with your plants.

Beneficial Nematodes

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.

Choose Your Plants Wisely

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 installing such plants as much as is reasonably possible. For a list of Japanese beetles favorite meals, click here.

Drop Cloth

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.


Fruit Cocktail Trap

Most Japanese beetle traps are ineffective, usually only serving to attract additional beetles to your lawn & garden. However, a can of fruit cocktail can 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.


Soap + Water Spray

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.

Thoughts, suggestions, have your own tips to add? Comment below or head over to our Facebook page to let us know what you think!

24 Comments

  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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

    • 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!

  3. 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 🙂

  4. 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 🙂

  5. 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 🙂

  6. 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 🙂

  7. 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 🙂

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. 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 🙂

  11. 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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