How to Stop Japanese Beetles From Attacking Your Trees and Shrubs

The Japanese Beetle, a.k.a “June Bug” is out in full force throughout the Midwest causing damage to young trees and tender shrubs. Every morning before work, I take a walk around my yard and inspect and enjoy my lawn, trees, shrubs and flowers. I do this, first off, because I am a fanatic, secondly, because I enjoy my landscape and thirdly, and most importantly, because I want to ensure everything is in good health.
On Wednesday morning (July 9th) I took my morning stroll and noticed nothing out of the ordinary. But Thursday morning, I awoke to find…

Japanese Beetles up close

…Hundreds of Japanese beetles had infested the small river birch in my backyard and had already nearly defoliated the top 50% of the tree. Those Bastards!!!!!
I didn’t have any ornamental landscape insecticide handy, but I did have some general liquid insecticide available that I use to spray around my doors and windows to keep ants out. I used the spray to hit those little punks direct and was able to stave off the attack until I could get the right product and apply that evening.
Now I would NEVER recommend you use products on your trees and shrubs that are not designed or approved for that use. I am merely letting you know how serious this problem can become if left for more than 24 hrs.

In case you are wondering, Jap Beetles are the adult stage of that nasty grub worm that infests and destroys lawns in the late summer and fall. These little buggers are the “perfect storm of bugs” as they damage everything underground as well as high up in the trees.

I can usually judge how bad the Japanese Beetle problem will be in a given year based on how many of them end up drowned in my pool skimmer, and this year has been the worst in my unscientific records. If you live near a cornfield like I do, you will have an even bigger problem.
Jap Beetles are “skeltonizing insects,” meaning they eat all of the soft leaf tissue out from between the leaf veins. As you can imagine, this weakens the affected plant because a leaf with no surface area can’t photosynthesize properly, robbing the tree or shrub of sugars, eventually killing it.

Japanese Beetle Damage to River Birch

The best control for these Japanese beetle infestations is to use a product that works systemically, meaning the root system of the plant takes the product in, creating an effective “shield” when beetles attempt to feed. Bayer Advanced makes a great systemic control that you mix with water and pour around the root system of the most vulnerable trees and shrubs. However, if you have a case like mine where you need immediate control, Spectricide makes a product called “Immunox” that works well as a direct kill by spraying it on the leaves. It comes in premixed spray bottles, or you can buy concentrate and mix in a pump sprayer for bigger jobs.

I recommend buying the concentrate, mixing in a pump sprayer and covering the leaves on the top AND bottom throughout the hot months of summer. Three treatments of Immunox spaced 3 weeks apart should be sufficient… BUT READ THE LABEL before you go doing everything I say! Keep in mind that beetles will attack young trees first as they are more tender!

Another very effective control for Japanese Beetles is Talstar. It works well and can also be used on your other trees and shrubs as well as your lawn to kill ants, flease, mosquitoes, spiders and mites.

On a final note, those “beetle bags” you can get will do a great job of attracting, trapping and killing Japanese Beetles, but you have to wonder how many bites they take of your precious and expensive landscaping on their way to the party in the bag?!?! Those bags just might effectively create a block party of beetles, eating up everything in their path on their way to destruction in the bag as they die with a full stomach!

Here is a list of plants that are very susceptible to Japanese Beetle attacks.
1. American linden
2. Crabapple
3. Apple
4. Japanese maple
5. Norway maple
6. Rose
7. Crape myrtle
8. Pin oak
9. Birch
10. Purple Plum, Apricot, Cherry, Peach

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Grub Worms in Your Lawn this Spring are NOT a Concern

grub wormJack from Chicago asks: “Should I be concerned with grub worms this Spring if my neighbor had them in his lawn last Fall?”

In the same vein, Brian from Louisville¬†asks: “I found grub worms in my lawn while digging around recently, are they a concern?”

That’s a very good question and one that can be easily answered by saying, “no.”
Here’s why…

Grub worms are the larvae of the Japanese beetle or June Bug. These beetles are actively flying around in early summer…, eating trees and shrubs, warming themselves on your porch lights, and getting caught in my pool skimmer. In July and August they begin laying eggs in well-watered lawns. These eggs develop into larvae called grub worms.

Grubs feed on the roots of the grass plant, causing dead patches that begin to show up in early Fall.
Just before winter, they go deep into the soil and hibernate until June, when they emerge and the process starts all over. With this in mind, some grubs will grab a quick snack in April and May just before they take off, but usually this is not going to be enough to cause any noticeable damage to your turf.

Long story short: Your neighbor’s grubs are in his lawn to stay until June, and even if you had some of your ownjapanese beetle last year, any early feeding they do this year will not cause noticeable damage.
We wouldn’t want you spreading pesticides in your lawn when they are not needed… just keep your lawn properly fertilized and mowed, and you’ll be all good.
I would recommend this summer you put down a grub worm preventative product such as Scott’s Grub X. Japanese beetle populations have been extremely high in the Midwest in the last couple years… but not until the summer!

Final Note:for those of you who don’t believe what I wrote above and still want to know what to put down this spring for insects, your best bet is poduct containing Dylox.