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Japanese Beetle (JB) Q & A

Jeffrey Hahn, Asst. Extension Entomologist

Q. Where did JB come from?

A. The first JB was found in Minnesota in 1968 after which the Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture (MDA) started a trapping program. Despite traps being set up in the Twin Cites area, between 1969 - 1979, only three beetles were captured. Between 1980 - 1983, only 16 JB were found. There were no trapping between 1984 - 1991.

Jeff Hahn

Photo 1: Japanese beetle adult close-up. Note feeding damage.

The trapping program resumed in 1991 and in 1992 298 JB were trapped. In 1994, over 6,800 were trapped in 12 counties. In1999, nearly 36,000 were trapped; over a half million in 2000; and over 1 million JB trapped in 15 counties in 2001 (99% of these were found in Hennepin and Washington counties). Then in 2002, the numbers crashed and only 1,682 in 19 counties were found.

MDA discontinued their trapping program after that, feeling that JB was established. Very few reports were received by Extension over the next several years. Starting in 2005, Extension started receiving noticeably more calls and e-mails on JB. Each year afterwards contacts about JB gradually increased and as they become more common each year. As of 2009, JB had been found in 27 counties, primarily in the Twin Cites and the southeast and south central regions of the state.

Q. How long do they feed?

A. JB emerge about July 1 each year and are active through September. They have been reported as late as October during late falls.

Jeff Hahn

Photo 2: Physically remove Japanese beetles and toss them into a pail of soapy water.

Q. Are there any non-chemical methods for managing JB?

A. The best method is physical removal. A good way to do this is to take a pail of soapy water and brush them off or pick them off by hand so they end up in the pail. The soapy water kills them. If you just knock them off plants, they will fly and return to them. It is best to do this right away in the morning or in evening when they are less active.

Q. Are there any low impact products I can use on JB?

A. There are a couple you could consider. Products containing Neem are reasonably effective, especially when JB numbers are low to moderate. They act as an antifeedant to deter JB from feeding on plants. Pyrethrins containing PBO (Piperonyl butoxide) is also effective. Both products need to be reapplied fairly frequently.

Q. What residual insecticides can I use to treat JB?

A. Neonicotinoid insecticides, especially imidacloprid (various trade names) and dinotefuran (Safari) are good choices. They are systemic, are easy to apply, and are long lasting. They do not kill JB quickly but they do cause them to stop feeding with death coming later. One important drawback of these products is they are very toxic to bees. Avoid treating trees and shrubs, like linden and roses, that are attractive to bees. It doesn't matter that the trees and shrubs are not flowering at the time of application as these insecticides will be active for a year.  Another consideration is that it takes some time, especially for imidacloprid, for the tree to take up the insecticide.  You need to factor this lag time when using these products.

There are also a variety of residual insecticides that you spray directly onto the leaves that are effective, including pyrethroids like permethrin, bifenthrin, esfenvalerate, and lambda cyhalothrin, and carbaryl. Be sure that the foliage is thoroughly treated.

Jeff Hahn

Photo 3: Japanese beetle damage on linden.

Trees and shrubs are best treated as soon as damage and JB are first noticed. Since they have had about a month to feed, you should consider how much damage has already occurred if you are still thinking of treating. If over half of the tree or shrub has been defoliated then it probably not worthwhile to treat it any more this year. If at least half of the tree or shrub is green, then there is still value to use insecticides to help protect trees.

Q. What can I spray on food plants, like apples and raspberries.

A. There is not a simple answer to this as one active ingredient, such as permethrin, may be labeled for food plants on one product but may not be on another. People need to check to see if the particular food crop you intend to treat is on the label of the specific product you want to use. If it is, then you can use that insecticide to spray your desired edible plant. Then be sure to observe the interval between when you spray and when crops can be harvested.

If the crop you want to treat is not on the label, then don't spray it. Check the label before you buy a product and again before using it to be sure you know what plants can be treated.

Q. How effective are JB traps?

A. JB traps can catch what appears to be an impressive number of JB. However, research shows that they actually draw more JB into the area than what they catch. The result is you not only do not reduce JB adults and their damage but you actually increase the amount feeding damage that occurs to susceptible plants.

Q. How effective is it to treat my turf to prevent JB adults from getting into my garden?

A. Treating for JB grubs does not protect your yard from adult beetles. Adults are very mobile and can easily fly in from outside your property. Only treat your lawn if you are seeing damage from the grubs.

Click here for more information on Japanese Beetles.
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