Food for Health Garden…Challenging our Notion of Control over Nature

Japanese Beetles love roses, but this week we learned that the pesky insects, with their voracious chomp, also found our zinnias and other flowers, quite appetizing. The beetles have probably discovered our new garden by luck or from the sweet smell of the surrounding peach trees. Of course, this was another education lesson for our gardeners, as we began a trial of what works and what might not. it was time to conquer the insect by learning more about how to encourage the beetles to take their destruction elsewhere.

Japanese Beetles are not indigenous to North America, and so they have few enemies, making them hard to control. In Japan, this is not an issue as they do have natural predators. Beetle scouts follow the scent of new greens in your garden and soon invite their friends to join them. If a home is established in your garden, the beetles will overwinter in the soil and in summer they once again emerge in the same location. Japanese Beetle’ s damage is easy to identify by skeletonized leaves.

Watering and fertilizing will reduce the damage caused by beetles, but sometimes you simply need to get rid of them. How to accomplish this:

  • Row covers protect plants during the 6-8 week feeding period
  • Hand pick- the most effective and time consuming way to get rid of the beetles. Knock them off in a solution of 1 Tbsp. liquid detergent and water.
  • Neem Oil- Neem oil and spray containing potassium bicarbonate are effective.
  • Traps- Japanese Beetle traps can be helpful in controlling large numbers of beetles, but also might attract beetles from beyond your yard. Place traps far away from plants.
  • Fruit Cocktail- Open a can of fruit cocktail and let it sit in the sun for a week to ferment.Then place it on top of a brick in a light colored pail and fill the pail with water just below the top of the can. Place the pail 25 ft. from the plants you want to protect.
  • Safe homemade solution: mix 1 tsp of liquid detergent, 1 cup of veg.oil and shake well. Then add to 1 qt. water and add 1 cup rubbing alcohol. Shake and place in spray bottle. Use it in 10 day intervals.


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