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Japanese Beetle

Japanese beetle

The Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica Newman) is a highly destructive plant pest of foreign origin. It was first found in the United States in a nursery in southern New Jersey nearly 80 years ago. In its native Japan, where the beetle's natural enemies keep its populations in check, this insect is not a serious plant pest.

Japanese Beetle Life Cycle Chart

In the United States, however, the beetle entered without its natural enemies and found a favorable climate and an abundant food supply. By 1972, beetle infestations had been reported in 22 States east of the Mississippi River and also in Iowa and Missouri. Since then, the pest has continued to disperse south and west. Isolated infestations have been found in Wisconsin, Oregon, and California. Without its natural checks and balances, the Japanese beetle has become a serious plant pest and a threat to American agriculture.

Both as adults and as grubs (the larval stage), Japanese beetles are destructive plant pests. Adults feed on the foliage and fruits of several hundred species of fruit trees, ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, and field and vegetable crops. Adults leave behind skeletonized leaves and large, irregular holes in leaves. The grubs develop in the soil, feeding on the roots of various plants and grasses and often destroying turf in lawns, parks, golf courses, and pastures.

Today, the Japanese beetle is the most widespread turf-grass pest in the United States. Efforts to control the larval and adult stages are estimated to cost more than $460 million a year. Losses attributable to the larval stage alone have been estimated at $234 million per year— $78 million for control costs and an additional $156 million for replacement of damaged turf.

Japanese Beetle

Identifying the Japanese beetle

Japanese BeetlesThe adult Japanese beetle is a little less than 1/2" long and has a shiny, metallic-green body and bronze-colored outer wings. The beetle has six small tufts of white hair along the sides and back of its body under the edges of its wings. The males usually are slightly smaller than the females. You are most likely to see the adults in late spring or early summer.

During the feeding period, females intermittently leave plants, burrow about 3" into the ground— usually into turf— and lay a few eggs. This cycle is repeated until the female lays 40 to 60 eggs.

By midsummer, the eggs hatch, and the young grubs begin to feed. Each grub is about an inch long when fully grown and lies in a curled position. In late autumn, the grubs burrow 4" — 8" into the soil and remain inactive all winter. This insect spends about 10 months of the year in the ground in the larval stage.

In early spring, the grubs return to the turf and continue to feed on roots until late spring, when they change into pupae. In about 2 weeks, the pupae become adult beetles and emerge from the ground. This life cycle takes a year.

Controlling Japanese Beetles in the landscape

There are no quick fixes that can rid homeowners of the Japanese beetle once it becomes established. The best process is to keep your eyes peeled for the first signs of Japanese beetles becoming active in the landscape. Depending on your geographic location, Japanese beetles have favorite plants that they congregate on. Among the most common are grape vine leaves, roses, rose of sharon, linden trees, and crape myrtle. In fact, Japanese beetles feed on more than 300 different species of plants.

Once you detect the beetles in the landscape, remove them by hand and drop them in a solution of soapy water.

If the initial wave of beetles are not controlled, they will attract hundreds of other beetles and may completely devaste the host plant.

Recent research by the University of Kentucky shows that not only do the beetles give off sex phermones that attract more Japanese beetles to the plant, but the plant itself gives off odors that also attract the beetles.

Local populations of Japanese beetles will seem to explode almost over night. When the infestation reaches this point, it's no longer possible to remove them by hand picking. When they reach this point an insecticide may be your only recourse. Several insecticides are labeled for use against Japanese beetles. Those include bifenthrin (Talstar, Bifenthrine, Brigade, Capture), carbaryl (Adios, Bugmaster, Carbamec, Carbamine, Crunch, Denapon, Dicarbam, Hexavin, Karbaspray, Nac, Rayvon, Septene, Sevin, Tercyl, Torndao, Thinsec, Tricarnam), deltamethrin (Butoflin, Butoss, Butox, Cislin, Crackdown, Cresus, Decis, Decis-Prime, K-Othrin, and K-Otek) and malathion (Celthion, Cythion, Dielathion, El 4049, Emmaton, Exathios, Fyfanon and Hilthion, Karbofos and Maltox). Follow label directions carefully and use cautiously.

Bag-a-bug Japanese Beetle TrapJapanese Beetle Trap

Pheromone traps

Pheromones are the chemicals insects use to find each other. Pheromones can be manufactured and used in traps to monitor the activity of insect pests.

The common Japanese beetle trap is the most commonly commercially available pheromone trap. This trap is sold for control of Japanese beetles, but research has shown that the traps capture only 50% — 60% of the adult beetles attracted by the pheromones and more beetles are actually drawn into the area than would normally be present.

According to David Shetlar in the Department of Entomology at The Ohio State University, "Recent data indicate that these traps do not significantly reduce grub populations and in some cases may actually contribute to increased foliar plant damage. There has been no correlation between trap captures and reductions in white grub populations in surrounding turfgrass areas."

Japanese Beetle Grubs

Also read:

Japanese Beetle Controls: an IPM for long term control of these pests

Grub control is a better way of reducing Japanese beetle infestations and the resulting damage caused by them.


Japanese Beetle Damage