Sunday, July 7, 2013

How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles

The raspberries are starting to ripen. Every day, I get a small handful of my favorite fruit, but soon there will be more berries than can fit in my hand. I'll need an ice cream pail or one of the many other containers I have saved in anticipation of the arrival of more fruit than one family can eat. My age is showing, as I suddenly feel pride in saving Cool Whip containers as well. Sigh...I'm becoming my mother...or maybe my mother in law.

Wouldn't you know it; just as the raspberries started to develop, so did a hefty flock of those blasted Japanese beetles. I had no idea that they would leave their favorite trees to seek out the forty-some   Latham raspberry bushes we planted last year. How dare they!

I read somewhere that the beetles have to consume about 40% of the plant foliage before the plant dies. This is a theory I'm not going to test. These beetles must be stopped; they do far too much damage to their hosts. Furthermore, Japanese Beetles must like to have group get togethers. I can often find about six or seven beetles on one leaf!
Together, they eat a leaf until it resembles a finely crocheted, lacy skeleton. (see picture below)

Not wanting to spray any chemicals on the fruit, I turned to the internet to find another solution, since the beetle traps weren't doing an adequate job. My search turned up a very easy, safe alternative. Other people suggested the best way to get rid of these pests is to fill a bucket (or a Mason jar, as I did) with some soapy water. Then I was to simply shove the jewel-colored nibblers into the bucket. The soap weakens the surface of the water, leaving the beetles unable to rest atop it.

I learned a couple of things as I did this:
  1. Japanese Beetles play dead and then roll off the leaf. As long as I had my jar at the tip of the leaf, I just had to scare the beetle a bit with one hand while I held the jar with the other. Rarely did I have to touch a bug. This is a good thing! :)
  2. Although the bugs appear to be dead in the water after a few minutes, they most likely aren't. My first collection was "dead" for at least a half hour when I buried them in the dirt. The next day, when I went to bury my second collection in the same hole, I was mortified to unearth live beetles from the day before! EEEEK! I'm pretty sure I'll have a nightmare or two about beetle corpses crawling towards me for revenge. Needless to say, my second collection will be left to sit in the soapy water for a few days. 
I've been going out three times each day to remove the beetles from the raspberries. With so many plants, it takes a looooong time to get them all. You can see the five rows we have below.  

Now, if you have a strong stomach, and you'd like to see the beetles I collected midday, you can scroll down to see the picture of the Mason jar with 100+ beetles. 

I'll give you some space so you don't see it by accident....  

keep scrolling if you dare....

Ugh...gross, I know.
Happy harvesting!



  1. going to try this on my English roses they are devouring. thanks for the tip

  2. You're welcome. Let me know how it worked for your roses.

  3. How tall are your raspberry trellises ? I put 4 foot stakes and green garden wire around to make a rectangle to hole them upright. Was this tall enough? I only have a small patch now, about 6 feet by 2 feet. I put in Caronline. I am letting them spread in that space. I planted a second patch with Encore variety. and and other small space with a golden ann. Thanks

  4. It's been three years since I've planted my raspberries in six 20' rows about five feet apart. I don't have them supported with trellises, and I hope I don't regret not having done so. Some of the lengthier canes bend over and touch the ground, but they're beautiful that way.

    I'm guessing your 4' stakes will be sufficient, as that's what I've noticed some of my neighbors are doing. Maybe I'm a rebel? :)

    After the season is over, I'll cut down all the canes that produced fruit. Early to mid spring, I remove other unwanted canes and the tips of the ones that show winter kill. I hope my good fortune continues. I find the local extension office website to be very helpful. They put out great information and articles on anything grown in your area.

    Best of luck!


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