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Using traps to control Japanese beetles

Jp80022_20japanese_beetles320 I'm going to take a detour from my bat rant to focus on Japanese beetles. The hungry bugs are just starting to emerge in the Southeastern U.S. (the Northeast usually gets hit in late June/early July), and their feeding frenzy will last about two months. These beetles have a taste for over 300 varieties of ornamental plants.

While disdain for Japanese beetles is universal, opinions differ on the best way to control them. Options range from pesticides to picking them off plants by hand.

Pheromone traps, however, are the most effective non-pesticide method of combatting Japanese beetles, according to an expert on the subject.

Until his retirement in late 2004, Dr. Michael Klein was a research entomologist at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) lab for horticultural insect research in Wooster, Ohio since 1969. Japanese beetles are his specialty.

The ARS team is responsible for monitoring infestations and preventing the migration of the Japanese beetle westward, because of the bug's serious threat to agriculture. To keep the beetles from hitching a ride on an airplane heading from Cleveland to California, ARS uses pheromone traps to catch them at various airports around the country.

In addition, Dr. Klein uses traps to protect the prized wild rose bushes and other plants in his own back yard. He contends that "Pheromone traps provide a visible means of combating a Japanese beetle problem and have a positive effect on the environment."

When I talked with Dr. Klein last year before his retirement, he addressed two common misconceptions (perpetuated by articles like this) about Japanese beetle traps:

Misconception #1: Traps lure Japanese beetles from miles around.

Most attractants lure them from no more than 160 feet, he says. The beetles, however, are strong fliers and can travel several miles, touching down at random intervals to see what's available for a meal. So the traps only lure beetles that are already in flight near the yard.

Misconception #2: Traps make the problem worse by luring more beetles than they catch.

Dr. Klein says that incorrect trap placement can lead to this conclusion. If a trap is placed next to a rose bush, a large number of beetles can be lured to that area, and some may stop at the roses rather than the trap.

Dr. Klein offers these tips for using Japanese beetle traps effectively:

  • Enlist your neighbors to battle the beetles with you. Traps are effective in your yard alone, but if you can get those bordering your yard to set traps along with you, the overall beetle numbers will be greatly reduced.
  • Trap placement is critical. Many people may mistakenly place the traps next to the ornamental plants, because that's where the beetles are present and causing the damage. Traps should be used about 30 feet from desired foliage, to lure the beetles away. It is preferable to place them next to a non-flowering tree or shrub, such as a pine tree or boxwood, which is not attractive to the beetles.

Jbtd_outdoors_1 Dr. Klein has used the RESCUE! Japanese Beetle Trap following our redesign of the product in 2003 and the favorable results he received from ARS testing.

June 6, 2005 in Japanese Beetles | Permalink


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I have a terrible infestation of Japanese Beetles, but I cannot purchase a trap to help control them. I have tried to contact companies that manufacture traps for the beetles, but they say they do not sell to California. I just read your last article about the bugs and how a Dr. Klein recommends a trap. Fine! But how do I get one? Can I make one at home with a Mason jar or something? Where could I get the attractant? I do not like using pesticides on everything; we have enough problems with our environment as it is.
Please help. I need some advice, badly.
Thanks, S. Griffith

Posted by: S. Griffith | Jun 27, 2008 5:19:43 PM

I have not previously heard about Japanese Beetles turning up in California, but shortly after you posted your comment, I found an article about them showing up in Merced. Are you anywhere near this area?

Posted by: Stephanie | Jul 1, 2008 4:20:27 PM

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