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Removing Japanese Beetles from Your Landscape

Japanese Beetles on a weeping cherry tree.

As the weather warms up at the end of May, you might notice some new visitors to your landscape. Japanese Beetles are those iridescent green and orange bugs you see on trees and flowers, usually in stacked pairs. They tend to hang around in big groups, usually on tree trunks or stems. Whether you’re a veteran gardener or new DIY-er, you probably know what a pest these guys can be.

Japanese beetles, as the name suggests, are from Japan. They first appeared on the east coast of the U.S. in 1902 and spread westward. Their mating season in late May through June has become an infamous period for anyone spends time in their landscape or garden, since that’s when they come out in droves to mate and feed. These bugs prefer flowering fruit trees in particular, but will settle for most perennials as well. Apple, plum, cherry, and pear trees are at particular risk, thought virtually ever plant common in upstate New York can be a snack for them.

While conventional pesticides do work, they can also be harmful to important parts of your landscapes ecosystem, like pollinators! We recommend beetle bags. These bags are spread with a pheromone that lures just the beetles and traps them in the bag. The bags should be hung around your trees or garden, and when they’re full, they can be taken down and thrown out.

Looking for an even more environmentally gentle way to deal with this pest? Try making your yard or property a bird paradise. Members of the swallow family love Japanese beetles as a tasty treat. Starlings, Purple Martins, and Catbirds are the best “beetle eaters”, but most birds will snack on these guys. Adding bird houses and plants that provide birds with food (like berry bushes) can attract these guys and help you control the beetle problem.