They are a pest that is sweeping across neighbourhoods, devastating gardens, shrubs, trees and field crops without mercy. A relatively new introduction to our area originating from Japan (big surprise), landing in North America a century ago. While they are naturally controlled in Japan, the lack of natural predators here has made them a major pest. Japanese Beetles are especially attracted to plants like raspberry, canna, roses, potato vine and maples among many. They’ve been known to feast on over 300 plant spices (so clearly it’s not a selective eater).

Japanese beetles are an easy pest to identify in the garden as they make themselves known immediately. When present you can spot them as they have bright metallic green heads with metallic copper-coloured bodies. If none are visible the skeletonizing of the leaves they feed on is a dead giveaway. These beetles seem to not enjoy the veins as they feed around them leaving the distinct damage in their wake.

This frustrating insect is a hard one to control for a couple of reasons, first is a lack of ‘quick and easy’ option to apply and the second is the physical structure of beetle pests. Their hard shell is thick and provides protection from traditional options that can penetrate thinner pest coatings. That said there are still things that gardeners can do to fight these nasty bugs and thwart their effect to destroy your beautiful gardens!

Japanese Beetle Traps

  • A trap using pheromones to attract the insects and a sack to catch them when they clumsily fly into the trap (Japanese beetles are poor fliers). Proven to be highly effective in attracting the beetles (maybe too much so).
  • Studies show the traps often attract more beetles than they can trap which is why we at Heeman’s do not endorse the use of these traps.
  • For gardeners driven mad by the beetles, we recommend you place the traps far away from your garden or ‘hot spots’ to draw the beetles away from your treasured plants. Be sure to empty the traps daily (or as often as possible) as they can only hold 10-15 beetles.
  • Unfriendly neighbour’s yards (kidding, sort of) or the far end of your property make great homes for your traps.
  • To watch a helpful video about unboxing, setting up and installing the Safer’s Japanese Beetle traps, watch our video.

Soapy Water

  • Grab a bucket and fill it with soapy water, then handpick or shake the bugs into the bucket to kill them. You can leave the dead beetles beside your plant to scare off any future munchers.
  • Japanese beetles are sluggish and sleepy in the early morning and their iron-like grips are often very relaxed making them easy to shake off. They are also less likely to take flight when shaken off in the early morning and more likely to land in your soapy water.


  • Japanese Beetle life cycleNematodes can help in the two-pronged attack of Japanese beetle prevention. Applying nematodes in the spring and fall when they live in your soil as grubs can kill the problem before they emerge as adult beetles.
  • Consult the life cycle chart for timing or visit the Iowa State University website for some good life cycle information.
  • Only the nematode heterorhabditis bacteriophora is effective in Japanese beetle grub control. Don’t worry, that’s the kind in those red packages of Lawn Guardian nematodes that we sell at Heeman’s.
  • This is not to be confused with other types of nematodes (yes they are like dogs with many different species) so getting the right one is key as nematodes are reared for attacking specific grubs or pests.
  • Important to mention that nematodes are great at controlling the grub stages in your lawn but shouldn’t be used just to control Japanese Beetles. Those winged pests can just fly in from other yards so unless everyone in your neighbourhood makes a pact to apply them, it’s really not going to be worth the time & effort.

Old Fashioned Hand Plucking

  • Often the least preferred method for busy people, people with a huge infestation or those in search of a quick fix.
  • When Japanese beetle first appears in your garden removing them by hand when they appear is often a great preventative measure. Where there is one today, there will so be more so preventing them from settling in can help in your battle.

Extremely Measures – Malathion

  • In response to the lack of options left available to gardeners in Ontario, Malathion was returned to the market.
  • This chemical option has shown to give some control of beetles, including Japanese Beetles. It’s a broad spectrum control that is used with great effectiveness on beetles that are present but need to be handled with great care. It has a skull & crossbones warning label, unlike traps, nematodes and EndAll. You’ll need to follow the label and apply in the evening with no wind, a mask on and not re-enter the area too soon. IT’ll kill the beetles in the area you spray but could need re-application when more fly-in.
  • Note, Malathion can kill a lot of insects good and bad. Use with caution. Again, if you use it, we strongly suggest you apply at dusk so pollinators, pets, kids and people are inside or not active.


  • While Japanese beetles are known to feed on many plant species avoiding their favourites can help keep them away. If you have major problems with Japanese beetles or have a serious phobia, avoid plants like roses, Japanese maple, raspberries and cannas.
  • We have compiled a list of some plants you can use that are less attractive to Japanese beetles, which you can find in our Garden Guides section.

Geraniums to Paralyze Japanese Beetle?

Research out of Ohio State University shows that geranium flower petals have toxic effects on Japanese beetle. Local gardener Marsha D. brought this to our attention after she decided to do some research when she noticed a large number of dead beetles under her geraniums. Could be some promising developments there. Read the full story.