After the loss of one of our beloved plum trees last year, I’m on the warpath when it comes to Japanese beetles. I’m not for chemically insecticides as you may have gathered, so it’s been tough trying to sort it all out. First off, let me say that if an insect is native to your area, it’s best to leave it be. Chances are, that’s another critter’s dinner and part of the food chain. But the Japanese beetle is quite insidious because it’s not from around these parts. In fact, perhaps you’ve noticed an awful lot of them on your Asian ornamental trees and plants. They really love those imported goodies since they’re a taste of home! I suppose that’s what happened to my plum tree. So how do we get rid of them without yucky bright yellow bags and dangerous chemical sprays?
I’ve been looking into who is the natural predator of the Japanese beetle. I must have a yard full of the larvae, and someone would surely like them for dinner! Turns out there are several species of birds that rather enjoy them. Since Japanese beetles lay their eggs in nice green lawns (and especially thrive in the lawns that are manicured and weed-free), certain birds will enjoy eating the larvae if invited to your yard: grackles, starlings, and crows. (I know some people hate those birds and even shoot them off their feeders, but they’re doing quite a disservice to themselves and their landscaping!) Birds that like eating adult Japanese beetles are: robins, cardinals, meadowlarks, catbirds, English sparrows, wood thrushes, brown thrashers, purple grackles, and European starlings. Try adding birdbaths and feeders to your yard to attract more of these birds.
Birds aren’t the only ones who like a meal of Japanese beetles. There are many spiders, ants, and other insects who eat the larvae if given enough lawn. Try keeping your lawn no shorter than 2 inches so these bugs have a place to hang out. You’ll find a longer lawn and no pesticides in the grass will actually reduce your insect problem much more than trying to do them in with chemicals! Ironically, the larger the variety of insects found in your yard, the fewer problems you’ll have with any one species taking over. They tend to keep each other in check.
Read more on how to get rid of Japanese beetles.
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