Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Controlling Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles are a common garden pest. They invade in mid-summer, usually from early July to the middle of August. They are voracious leaf-eaters. In my garden they seem to focus on fruit trees, especially the tender new trees, as well as grapes and raspberries.

It's not possible to eradicate the little buggers, so I'm concentrating on controlling them enough to limit damage. A few years ago we tried Japanese beetle traps, which use a pheromone to lure the bugs into the trap. It was successful (and disgusting to clean out), but some studies indicate that the traps actually increase the population of beetles in a property.

The same year that we used traps, we gave one application of beneficial nematodes to the lawn. This will help reduce the growth of the grubs in the grass and should last a few years. We also applied milky spore, another biological control method.

Lately, we've been using more immediate and practical controls. Hand picking the little rascals and crushing them between thumb and forefinger is icky, but it allows us to feed the bugs to the chickens. Most gardeners who hand pick just toss the bugs into a jar of soapy water. Finally, we let the hens into the lawn each evening to graze beneath the fruit trees. They enjoy scratching and pecking the grubs and beetles.

Japanese beetles won't kill a tree or plant, but the leaf damage weakens and stresses. The apricot tree in the photo above shows almost lacy leaves from beetle damage. The trees will survive to next year, and we'll continue to pick bugs during the most intense weeks of summer. Soon the apricots will make it all worthwhile.

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