How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles Quickly (3 Ways)

Photo of author

By Alex Harris

As soon as summer rolls around, it’s that time again to get that neglected garden looking shiny after those cold winter months.

There’s only one problem, these pesky little bugs seem to be munching on our crops and undoing all our long hours of hard graft.


How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles

Fortunately, there are many methods available today to rid our gardens of these little suckers, be it natural, using chemicals and pesticides, or by outside help like pest control. Read on for an explanation of each method and its steps.

how to get rid of japanese beetles

Humane or Natural Removal

Sure you want to get rid of these tiny critters, but maybe you don’t want to harm them. Here’s how to do that naturally.

1. With Your Hands

Use gloves, and don’t crush or squeeze them. Dispose of them in a bucket of soapy water- with one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing solution, causing them to suffocate.

2. Exclusion

Cover your plants with protective sheets or row covers to prevent beetles from reaching them. Great for late summer.

3. Trapping

Research has shown that traps attract more beetles than they kill. These traps contain two types of bait; the first creates a scent identical to virgin female beetles, luring in males. The second is a sweetly scented one that attracts both genders.

Both of them create an attractant so strong it can lure thousands of beetles into your garden every day.

4. Use Resistant Plants

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the following plants have been found as resistant towards Japanese beetle attacks:

  1. Red maple
  2. Magnolia
  3. Lilac
  4. Hickory Boxwood

5. Row Covers

You can protect your garden by using row covers or nettings purchased at your local store. However, this method won’t work all that well if your garden’s already infested.

Quick Tip: Wait till your plants finish blooming before you cover them up so that you don’t prevent them from being pollinated.

Chemical Removal

If natural removal isn’t your thing and you don’t care about killing these little plant destroyers, then here’s how.

japanese beetle chemical removal

1. Neem Oil

Neem Oil works as both a pesticide and a fungicide and can obliterate more than just Japanese beetles – parasitic wasps, cucumber beetles, and mosquitoes.

Neem Oil will kill on contact only, meaning you need to spray it once every morning and in the evening as beetles can also be active in that period but sluggish.

The good news is, insects do not become immune to it over time as they do with other pesticides. It’s also biodegradable, non-toxic, and doesn’t cause harm to pollinators like bees and ladybugs.

Another advantage is that it’s capable of literally wiping out an entire generation of Japanese beetles. When an adult beetle ingests the spray or solution after it lays eggs, the Neem oil is carried over to their larvae, killing them.

2. Pesticide Sprays

There are multiple insecticides on the market geared towards Japanese beetles. However, some have drawbacks like harming plant life or affecting vegetation.

Japanese Beetle Larvae Removal (Prevention)

Killing them off is one thing, but actually preventing them entirely is a much better way of ensuring you don’t get infested.

japanese beetle preditors

1. Natural Predators

Adult Japanese beetle predators include spiders and assassin bugs, guineafowl, and catbirds. There are no natural predators for Japanese beetle larvae. However, there are methods to exterminate them before they turn from white grub to adults.

These methods include heterorhabditis bacteriophora, a beneficial nematode. It works by targeting eggs in the soil and plant roots and can exterminate them before they turn into adult beetles. Another is milky spore powder; both are available for purchase.

2. Milky Spore

Milky spore is a bacteria that affects your soil with milky spore disease, effectively ending the growth of beetle grubs through paralysis. Its effects last up to fifteen years!

However, it might take over four years to work, making them less popular than beneficial nematodes. It also won’t work if there aren’t enough larvae to spread the infection, meaning that the more the number of grubs, the quicker the disease spreads.

Signs of Japanese Beetle Damage

It’s pretty easy to spot damage made by these beetles, here are the most common:

Skeletonized Leaves and Flowers

The tell-tale sign of Japanese beetle damage is the appearance of “skeletonized” leaves. These garden pests can wreak havoc upon your crops or your lawn by eating leaves and leaving them with a skeleton-like appearance.

They also munch through flower petals – their favorites are roses – leaving them with holes and a hollowed appearance.

Unhealthy, Brown Patches in Lawn

Strange, irregular brown patches in your lawn could also signal a Japanese beetle problem.

Most Vulnerable Plants

Some plants are much more susceptible or “tasty” for these little bugs.

  • Crabapple – Popular as ornamental trees, crabapple trees are unfortunately prone to beetle infestations.
  • Crape Myrtle – Crape myrtle leaves are prone to Japanese beetle damage, turning a brownish color.
  • Birch Trees – Birch trees are popular for new garden owners but also very susceptible to grub damage.
  • Apple – An essential for all new lawns, this fruit tree is a favorite to scarab beetles.
  • Rose – These flowers are a tasty treat for Japanese beetles and suffer quite a bit of damage in the shape of holes, giving a hollowed appearance.
  • Cherry (Plum, Apricot, Peach) – These fruits can turn inedible under the effect of beetle damage.
  • Japanese Maple – This beautiful plant native to Japan, Korea, Russia, China, and Mongolia (and are also more expensive than most trees) can be ruined by an infestation.
  • Pin Oak – A favorite plant for many, this tree is popular for its quick growth and dense shade.
  • Linden – Linden leaves have many medicinal benefits, such as being used to make tea. Its leaves are also used for coughing, stuffy nose, fever, and headaches. Make sure to protect them from beetle damage!
  • Norway Maple – Also known as Acer platanoides, this tree can grow up to 40 to 60 feet, making it ideal for the beetle population to burrow in and ruin.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you can’t find an answer to your question below, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

What Are Japanese Beetles?

Japanese beetles are species of the scarab beetle and a pest feared by many garden owners. Growing up to approximately half an inch long, they are distinguished by their metallic-looking green bodies and copper-colored wings. The appearance of one beetle in your lawn can attract more, meaning one bug in your garden can turn into 50 the following day.

Are Japanese Beetles Lethal to Plants?

Yes. As aforementioned, Japanese beetles can skeletonize leaves, destroy crops, and turn fruit and vegetables inedible.

Do Japanese Beetles Bite?

They don’t bite humans, nor do they possess any threat to them – they’re not poisonous. Their texture is prickly, though, which can sting a little if you touch them. This is why you should be wearing gloves if you plan on hand-picking them as a way of getting rid of them.

What Do Japanese Beetles Feed on?

They have a pretty large diet, feeding on over 300 types of plants, leaves, and flowers, from roses to peaches to birch trees. This is what makes them such a dangerous and invasive pest. They can have destructive effects on entire gardens and lawns.

Should You Call Pest Control?

You don’t have to call pest control if you have a mild case of infestation or a slight presence. However, if you’ve used the methods discussed in this article and still struggle with them, it might be a good time to get help from a professional.

Will Japanese Beetles Ever Go Away?

Good news, yes, they can! Using beneficial nematodes and milky spore, you can prevent their presence in your lawn for good by using them on your soil to kill them as larvae, preventing you from ever seeing them again!

Will Soapy Water Kill Japanese Beetles?

Soapy water drowns Japanese beetles, and unlike insecticidal soap, it’s not bad for you, your skin, or the environment. Simply mix one tablespoon of dishwashing detergent into a gallon of water to make your soap water mix, shake the tree those pesky bugs are at, and drown them into the soap.

What Is the Natural Enemy of the Japanese Beetle?

Many insects such as spiders, assassin bugs, predatory stink bugs, and ants. Also, fowl such as guineafowl and catbirds, as well as ducks, robins, crows, sparrows, turkeys, and shrews.

How Do You Get Rid of Japanese Beetles Permanently?

Hand-picking and chemical removal work temporarily. Permanent methods include beneficial nematodes and milky spores to kill them in their larvae stage.

What Time of Day Are Japanese Beetles Most Active?

In the early morning and the evening. They are sluggish in both states, so it’s an ideal time to hand-pick them.

What Smells Do Japanese Beetles Hate?

Garlic, catnip, leeks, onions, and white germanium.

What Do Japanese Beetles Hate?

They are deterred by certain smells (like the ones mentioned above) and certain natural predators that feed on them.

Are Japanese Beetles Good for Anything?

No. We don’t like to bash mother nature, but these bugs don’t seem to do much good. Neither their larvae nor their adults contribute to anything.

Will Vinegar Kill Japanese Beetles?

A concoction of apple cider vinegar mixed with water will kill Japanese beetles because of its acidity.


  • Depending on the severity of the infestation in your lawn, you might not need pest control.
  • Many home remedies exist to help you get rid of them yourself.
  • Either go the natural way or use chemicals.
  • Beneficial nematodes and milky spores will get rid of beetles for good and are cheap.