The Japanese beetle, or the Popillia japonica, is an iridescent green beetle notorious for feasting on gardens. These hungry copper-brown winged creatures will feast on just about anything. However, they do have their favorites (roses being one of them). So what exactly What Attracts Japanese Beetles to your yard and are there any steps that can be taken to prevent them?

The origin of the Japanese beetle

This beetle was accidentally introduced to the U.S. in the early 20th century. As its name implies, they originated on the isolated islands of Japan where predators kept them in check. A law was passed in 1912 making it illegal to import plants rooted in soil; however, it was not implemented immediately and the beetles arrived shortly. They were first spotted in a nursery in Jersey in 1916. They quickly became too widespread to try to control with eradication programs.

What Attracts Japanese Beetles To Your Yard?

Various flower, fruit, and plant fragrances will lure in these pests, particularly trees of the black walnut, cherry, apple, and linden family. They also have quite the sweet tooth for grapes, plums, roses, and hollyhocks. Another factor that will have them swarming to your lawn is the pheromones of other beetles, so it’s important to keep your population low or nonexistent. In other words, if you have a large, open patch of grass, other beetles, and any trees or plants mentioned above, there’s a good chance that you’ll have a colony of Japanese beetles in no time.

Eating habits of the Japanese beetle

These beetles are destructive at all ages. In their larvae stage, they’ll chew on grassroots that will cause dead spots. As adults, they’ll feed on leaves and petals until they look skeletal in appearance. They enjoy feeding in groups and it’s been documented that they will feed on 300 types of plants/crops. They’re most active on warm, sunny days and you’ll typically see them chewing on plants that are in direct sunlight.

They’ll stay close to their food sources to breed and lay eggs. Adults will emerge from the ground and start feeding in the early summer months. This will last from June to sometimes September until they start dying. Females can lay 40 to 60 eggs in their lifetime. The larvae will become dormant in the winter and will resume feeding in the spring until they become adults by the summer.

Detecting beetles

As mentioned earlier, skeletonized leaves are a great way to detect if you’ve been infested with these insects. They are also active fliers and fairly easy to find so it won’t take much to notice their presence. You may also notice unhealthy, brown patches on your lawn. They’ll feast on roots when overwintering. Luckily, they can be pulled out easily if you’re concerned with the appearance.

Preventing and getting rid of them

Preventing these beetles may require avoiding certain trees, plants, and crops. You can find a comprehensive list of the best and worst plants here. Some of the least damaged plants include ash, boxwood, burning bush, dogwood, and pine. You’ll want to remove diseased trees or fruits as this will attract them in numbers. You can also practice companion planting by strategically planting garlic, rue, or tansy near-damaged plants to deter them.

You may also want to protect your plants by using row covers during the feeding period. Using a drop cloth when they’re most active will allow you to shake them off and place them in soapy water. Planting geraniums is another way to get these guys under control. This is a plant they’re attracted to but also one that gets them dizzy if they shoot for the blossoms. The natural chemicals in this plant will cause them to fall off where you can then dispose of them properly. And finally, physically hand picking them off of your plants is probably the most effective way to get rid of them. Although time-consuming, it’s a no-nonsense way to end the problem.

There are always solutions

Even though the Japanese beetle can be quite a nuisance to the health and beauty of your lawn and garden, there are many ways to keep them away and at bay. Now that we’ve covered their origin, eating habits, and what attracts them, you can make sure to keep them away. Whether that’s avoiding certain trees and plants, strategically placing crops away from each other, or even picking them off yourself, your garden doesn’t need to suffer from these starving bugs.

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