Japanese beetles, with their shining armor of copper and green, have been in this area since the 60s. But not until 2001 did the invasive pest arrive in droves. I got that info from the University of Minnesota Extension website. And as an Olmsted County Master Gardener Volunteer intern, I'm here to share what I'm learning from the U of M about managing these bugs.
It seems they are everywhere this year. In the trees, fields, veggies and flowers.
UMN extension says that Japanese beetles are really just a cosmetic thing. Healthy plants usually survive the infestation, but drought-stressed or otherwise unhealthy plants may take a hit. Plants in a veggie garden may not produce well if the beetles eat too many of their leaves.
In order to control the population of any pest, you need to understand their life cycle. These guys start as grubs in the soil. They eat grass roots and can trash a yard. As adults, they feel on foliage, which can end up looking like leaf skeletons. The beetles leave behind a scent that attracts their buddies. Try to start removing them early before too much leaf chewing has happened.
Getting rid of them is not easy. The most low-impact method is to simply live with them. Or, you can try removing them. I walk around the yard and knock them off into a bucket of soapy water. Some people cover plants with mesh.
What about traps? The University of Minnesota says not to use them. Beetles may flock to them, but research shows the traps attract many more beetles than are captured. So you may end up with a bigger beetle problem.
Pesticides are an option, but many also kill pollinators, fish and even mammals. Low-impact pesticides exist and will spare other creatures. Read labels carefully.
The good news about all of this is that Japanese beetle season only lasts about six to eight weeks and their numbers fluctuate year to year. Plus, in the process of obsessively hunting them down, I spotted some other cool creatures, such as this katydid and this adorable tree frog.
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