The Best and Cheapest Way to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles Naturally

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If you’ve ever had Japanese beetles take over your garden, you know all too well how much damage those literal buggers can do. Thankfully, there are ways to get rid of Japanese beetles naturally so you can tell them sayonara (see what I did there?) without pouring toxins on your garden.

Whether you’ve got a brown thumb, are a hobby gardener, or looking through seed catalogs is your idea of a perfect date, losing crops and other plants to pests of any kind is one of the worst feelings ever.

Woodchucks, rabbits, deer–they’re all trying to get a free lunch (or rather, a smorgasbord) from your harvest, but there’s something particularly annoying and menacing about Japanese beetles.

These beetles are small, but they do an incredible amount of damage. The grubs can literally ruin lawns, golf courses, and pastures while the Japanese beetle adults attack the leaves, flowers, or fruits of all kinds of plants leaving skeletons of leaves in their paths.

As if that isn’t enough, the beetles also have a terribly annoying habit of attacking in groups and also mating on your plants. It’s totally NOT fun coming outside to see these buggers having a group party–literally pigging out and making babies all over your plants.

Thankfully, there are ways to address this pesky problem, and my favorite method for dealing with these pesky pests works pretty well–and is basically free.

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What Is a Japanese Beetle?

Japanese beetles are a type of scarab beetle. They’re a native of Northern Japan, which is interestingly where I lived for a year while teaching English in schools in one of the first years of the popular JET (Japan Education and Teaching) Program.

I enjoyed my time in Japan, but these beetles are one part of Japan that I wish wasn’t in my life any longer.

Japanese Beetle FAQs

Before we get into the meat of the post, here are some interesting factoids about Japanese beetles.

What are Japanese beetles attracted to?

Japanese beetles are attracted to the scent of ripe fruits and vegetables but have a voracious appetite for the whole plant including flowers, leaves, and stems. The beetles feed on more than 300 plant varieties and are particularly attracted to plants in the rose family.

What time of year do Japanese beetles come out?

Adult Japanese beetles emerge from the ground in early summer and begin feeding on plants. They are most active during June, July, and August, then they begin to die off due to temperature and climate changes, but can be active through September, depending on the location. An adult Japanese beetle lives for about two months before it dies.

How can you identify a Japanese beetle?

Some say that Japanese beetles are beautiful, but once you see them in action, I think they seem quite ugggglly. They’re about a third to a half inch long, with bright metallic green heads and copper wing covers. Their abdomens have white hair-patches, and the larvae are C-shaped and tan with white heads.

japanese beetle on leaf

When I’m on my daily beetle hunting escapade, I keep my eyes peeled for their green and copper bodies shining on leaves. It’s super helpful that they stand out in the sun like that. “All the better to see you with, my dear!”, know what I mean?

How quickly do Japanese beetles multiply?

Female beetles make tunnels a few inches into the ground and lay up to 60 eggs each over a two to three week period in the summer months and the eggs hatch midsummer.

The beetles prefer healthy, sunny, and well-maintained lawns for egg laying–that’s one reason to not take care of your lawn, I guess!  

How did Japanese beetles come to the U.S.?

Whether you live in the U.S. or not, you might be wondering how these buggers came to be so prolific here.

Japanese beetles were accidentally introduced to the United States on the roots of plants brought from Japan for the 1916 World’s Fair. Since there were no natural enemies in the U.S. to keep it in check, the beetles quickly spread across the Eastern and Midwest states and soon became a serious pest.

Things That Don’t Work

1. Picking Beetles

It will not work to go around picking beetles off with your hands. Maybe it did in the past and beetles are smarter now, but the beetles often see you coming and they move quickly.

Plus this would take a ridiculously long amount of time to pick beetles off one by one. AND they feel gross–their spines feel kind of like a bite sometimes. ICK!

2. Drop Cloth Method

Some sites say to put a drop cloth on the ground and knock the beetles onto the cloth where they will die.

Japanese beetles fly around when disturbed. Ain’t no way they’re going to land on the drop cloth and sit there waiting for you to kill them.

35 Ways to Control Japanese Beetles Naturally–Before They Drive You BUGGY

The following tips and techniques are all useful, but these buggers are intent on destruction and it’s best to use a full court press to keep them from wrecking your plants.

I recommend using at least 2 of the following strategies at the same time, but using as many as you can will help you get better results.

Prevention Methods

1. Lure Them

Japanese beetle traps work pretty well to reduce the beetle population in your garden.

Some say the traps aren’t a great idea, because you bring more beetles on to your property, but the beetles have to go somewhere, right? May as well lure them and kill them, rather than have them go somewhere else and multiply. Dead beetles are a good thing in my book!

Just make sure to place a trap or two as far away from the place where the beetles are congregating.

The trap we’ve used is this Spectracide Bag-A-Bug Japanese Beetle Trap that lasts the entire beetle season. It uses both a floral lure and pheromones so it apparently works better than other traps that use only one.

Milky Spore (With an Important Caveat)

Apply one teaspoon of milky spore powder to your garden or lawn every four feet or so and in rows four feet apart. Then water the area and avoid mowing until watering is done.

Milky spore addresses the beetles in the grub stage (they eat the spores and it kills them) so you don’t get as many–and it can really lower them to below the damage level.

Keep in mind that you need to have sufficient soil temperatures and a large enough population of beetles in order for milky spore to work. Otherwise it could be a waste of time and money.

Bacillus Thuringiensis (bT)

Bacillus Thuringiensis (bT) is a bacteria that lives in soil that is toxic to Japanese beetles. You apply this to the soil to kill beetles in their grub stage.

This looks like a quality all-natural source.

Water Your Grass Less

This prevention tip is totally free and will even save you money!

Japanese beetles don’t like dry grass as much as a well-watered lawn, so not watering your lawn from about late June to late July (or whatever beetle season is in your area) will make your lawn less attractive to egg-laying beetles.

Welcome Beetle Loving Birds

One other way to keep Japanese beetles at bay is to welcome beetle loving birds like robins, crows, cardinals and bluejays into your yard.

Try a bird feeder or suet on a tree to bring your natural beetle hunters to your property.

Raise Chickens

chickens feeding in dirt

Raising animals that are natural Japanese beetle killers like ducks, guinea fowl or chickens is also a great idea. They’re cute animals, too!


Another option is to spread nematodes, which are roundworms that can live in a variety of environments and feed on a wide range of foods, including the beetle’s larvae.

This company is the most reputable place for purchasing nematodes that I’ve found. They have options that helps control ticks as well.

Attract Tachinid Flies

tachinid fly

Tachanid flies are another of the Japanese beetle’s many predators. Plants with flat florets like carrots, cilantro, dill, buckwheat, clover, and daisies can help attract tachinid flies and help you in your fight against the icky beetles. 

Parasitic Wasps

Attracting parasitic tiphia wasps to your garden can help some with keeping Japanese beetle populations down.

Having a pool or pond of water, or planting plants that they like will attract them to your property.

Plant Things That Repel Japanese Beetles

To get rid of Japanese beetles, try planting plants that repel them especially near plants that they’re attracted to. Catnip, garlic, leeks, onions, chives, nasturtium, and marigold are some natural Japanese beetle repellents.

Japanese beetles also don’t like plants with fuzzy / textured leaves like begonia, hydrangea, pine, chrysanthemum, common pear, or flowering dogwood.

I mentioned here elsewhere, however, that our flowering dogwood doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on our beetle population. Boo!)

small garlic plants

That being said, we have a flowering dogwood right by our most problematic beetle area so…..

Plant This Paralyzing Plant

In a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, geranium petals caused beetles to roll over on their backs, twitch their legs and antennae, and remain paralyzed for several hours. The beetles are then often killed by predators that spot them on the ground and eat them.

person planting geraniums

Avoid or Get Rid of These Plants

It’s not always easy to get rid of plants that these beetles like, but if you’re adding to your landscaping or deciding about plants to maybe get rid of, some plants to consider ditching are – apple, apricot, cherry, peach, plum, birch, crab apple (ours don’t seem to attract too many beetles), American linden, grape vines, hibiscus, Japanese and Norway maple, pin oak, raspberry, and roses.

Row Covers

squash plant under row cover

Row covers work great to keep Japanese beetles off most crops.

In our case, they’re not a great option since our most affected plants are raspberries (the thorns would destroy the covers) and cherry trees (row covers won’t work on them). For some reason they didn’t like our beans (they’re supposed to–what’s the deal with that?), otherwise I would consider it!

Keep in mind that row covers will keep pollinators out too, so if you choose to ues them, you’ll need to remove them during times when you need pollinating to occur.

Tend Your Plants

Japanese beetles are attracted to rotten wood and diseased plants, so keeping your yard free of these things will help keep the beetles away.

Pick Up Fruit

Japanese beetles really like overripe and rotting fruits, so staying on top of picking fruit (or picking up rotten fruit) will help keep the population down.

Or Serve Them Fruit

Rotting fruit, that is.

This seems counterintuitive based on the last tip, but it’s not….

Just like rotting fruit helps you trap fruit flies using this DIY Fruit Fly Trap, put some fruit in a container and let it ferment in the sun for a few days. Then put the container on top of bricks stacked in a bucket of water.

Place this container away from the plants that you want to keep the beetles away from. The beetles will come to feast on the fruit and will drown in the water.

A number of sources say that you need to use fruit cocktail for this. There must be some coordinated effort going with the fruit cocktail industry because it makes no sense that you would need canned fruit to make this work.

Epsom Salt

A mixture of 1 cup epsom salt and 5 gallons of water sprayed on foliage can act as a great deterrent for beetles and other pests.

Essential Oil Spray

A DIY essential oil spray is another option to get rid of Japanese beetles naturally. The beetles don’t like peppermint oil or wintergreen, so mixing those diluted well with some water and spraying the plants is another great option.

This Homemade Body Spray is a great formula to use for this purpose.

If you’d like to buy it ready made, this peppermint oil garden spray is a great option.

Remove Skeletonized Leaves

Interestingly, Japanese beetles are attracted to the scent of the skeletonized leaves, signalling that the plant is in distress. So remove the really bad leaves from affected plants.

Obviously, if you remove too many, your plant will die so use your best judgement.

Control An Infestation

Neem Oil

Spraying neem oil on your plants is known to help get rid of these pesky beetles. The beetles don’t like the scent and since exposed adult beetles pass it on to their eggs which end up not hatching as a result. Woot!

Keep in mind, however, that neem can harm fish and other aquatic life so it’s not good to use it near bodies of water.

Potassium Bicarbonate / PB Spray

Sprays that contain potassium bicarbonate can also help (especially on rose bushes). They work particularly well when combined with a neem oil spray.

Dish Soap Spray

One version of a homemade Japanese beetle spray is to mix water with dish soap in a bucket and pour the solution into a spray bottle.

Spray the affected plants, and the beetles will drop from the plant and become food for birds or other predators.

Garlic Spray

You can find various options online to make garlic sprays made from garlic powder as well as fresh garlic. Use this spray every few days on your plants.

This garlic spray is a good ready made option.

Cedarwood Spray

You can buy a pre-made cedarwood spray or make your own. I’d definitely go for the store bought option if you want to go in this direction.

Olive Oil

That’s right–spraying plain olive oil on your plants when the beetles are there can plug the beetles’ pores and kill them.

However you will want to be careful to not overdo this as too much oil spraying could attract more bugs to the plants.

This is one of the brands of olive oil that I trust–and it’s been proven to be legit olive oil, unlike other fake brands.

Kaolin Clay

Kaolin Clay another option that works but heavy use can lead to killing off beneficial bugs, which can then lead to infestations of scale and mite pests, so use sparingly, if at all.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth is a good option that is very inexpensive and has a lot of uses besides killing Japanese beetles.

white sprinkle Diatomaceous earth

However, it’s messy and can also kill off some beneficial bugs in the same manner than kaolin clay can.

All-Natural Pyrethrin

While pyrethrin that you buy is not all natural, you can make it yourself. This is, of course, a lot of work, but I was so intrigued by it that I thought I would share it.

I really get into DIYing things as you can see in my DIY Cleaning Paste, Homemade Chocolate Chips, Homemade Laundry Detergent, Homemade Vitamin C Powder, and more, but I’m not quite up to the DIY Pyrethrin thing.

However, you never know!

Note: Pyrethrin can kill beneficial bugs too, so it might not be the best choice.

Beavaria Brassiana

Beavaria Brassiana is a beneficial fungus that you spray on plants to address an infestation. This is an all natural source that has great reviews.

This fungus is hard to find but it’s a great way to address Japanese beetle problems. It’s a naturally occurring fungus that helps keep certain insect populations at bay, but sadly has been depleted due to the use of fungicides and tillage.

Clap Your Hands

Simply find some beetles resting on leaves, and clap your hands on the leaves, thereby smooshing the beetles and killing them.

Get Out Your Kirby

Or whatever vacuum you own.

Seriously this works. A battery-operated vacuum is best, however, or a very long extension cord, and your neighbors will think you’re a bit odd, but hey. Whatever works!

I bet they think we’re odd with the methods we’ve tried.

Shake Shake Shake

This technique helps get rid of the beetles by getting them to where you can get access to them.

Whenever I go out to “hunt” beetles, I’ll shake our cherry trees.

I’m sure it looks odd to the neighbors, but since there can be a lot of beetles at the top of the tree, shaking is needed to get them to fly away and often lower to where I can get to them.

I have to say, I think some of them have figured this out, or for some reason they prefer the high up leaves. Hmmm…..

The BEST (and Cheapest) Method

My favorite piece of equipment for getting rid of Japanese beetles naturally is one that’s basically free AND doesn’t lead to the killing off of beneficial bugs, and it’s 100 percent safe for your plants.

All you need is a bucket and…water.

dead japanese beetles in bucket of water

Many sites recommend soapy water (or apple cider vinegar), but neither are needed in my experience.

Just grab a sturdy bucket, fill with about 4 inches of water, and a few drops of dish soap if you like.

Hold the bucket under where beetles are munching (or mating), and slap the leaf or branch to send the beetles “swimming” for a bit before they die.

If you use soap, it provides surface tension that keeps the beetles from escaping, but I use plain water and it works just fine.

You can be a bit more humane by stacking another bucket on top when you’re done to prevent the beetles from having access to much air. Or crush them in your hands first, but–yuck. Squooshed beetles on your hands are gross and it’s not easy to do either.

Beetle Bucket Tips

Time of Day: It’s best to do this in the morning since the beetles tend to be more sluggish then (aren’t we all, LOL?).

Type of Bucket

This is the type of bucket I like to use–it’s big for massive beetle hunting success and has so many other great uses too.

I Recommend
5-Gallon White Bucket Pail Container with Lid

5-Gallon White Bucket Pail Container with Lid

This 5 gallon food grade bucket makes a great "Japanese beetle catcher." You can of course use any type of bucket but the wider top provides more space for the beetles to fall in as you smack the leaves where they are hanging out. 

Plus, these buckets are great for all kinds of other uses in the non beetle months. You can never have enough of these buckets!

A smaller bucket can work fine as well, but having more surface area for the beetles to fall into is a help.

Best Time of Day

The best time to do the bucket method is in the morning when the beetles are more sluggish, but I’ve been known to go beetle hunting (er, make that drowning) twice a day sometimes to take out the enemy.

Special Beetle Death Chant Tip

Studies show that if you say “I’ve got you, you disgusting bugs!” or something similar just prior to slapping the beetles into the bucket that it improves success.


Do NOT–I repeat, “do NOT” leave the open bucket anywhere near your problematic beetle area. Some people say that dead beetles don’t attract and will even repel other beetles, but I’ve found it to be quite the opposite.

My not so great beetle hunting video

Sorry this isn’t the best video. When it’s Japanese beetle season here again, I’ll try to get a better one. I figured something was better than nothing.

Our Son’s Favorite Method

I didn’t mention this (yet) in my post about gardening with kids, but my son is quite the natural Japanese beetle killer / hunter. He’s squashed them in his hands at times, but his signature method us to bring out his BB gun to kill the beetles while they’re having their last meal.

However, his method isn’t very economical, especially if you’re not an excellent shot (like him)!

Possibly The Most Important Tip of All

Share. This Post.

I know–it’s kind of a funny tip, but it truly is an IMPORTANT one.

It’s impossible to get rid of these beetles completely, but using some of the tips in this post will help you minimize their damage and get rid of a lot of them.

And if you share this information with neighbors, and they employ the same methods, your yard is much less likely to get re-infested. Woot!


I hope these tips help you get control and get rid of those pesky beetles.

And finally, as you start your battle against the beetles, I say, “Ganbatte!” which is Japanese and is pronounced, “gan-BAT-tay” and means “good luck!”

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    1. Hmmm..Can you refresh and see if it loads? I had trouble seeing it the first time but I thought it was an embedding issue. Let me know for sure!

  1. # 13: PICK ‘EM, THE SENTENCE IS INCOMPLETE. Sorry, my caps were on…
    Could you finish the sentence? Thank you.
    And thank you for the very thorough post!

    1. Hi there! I just updated that – thanks! I actually moved that to the “things that do NOT work” section LOL. I don’t know how I missed that it was still in that other area.

      You are so welcome!