Picking Them Off (Japanese Beetles)

Japanese Beetles love roses, hollyhocks, crepe myrtle and hibiscus especially, and I dislike them with a passion for ruining my flowers.

A Japanese Beetle on a yellow flower.

Photo: sankax (Flickr)

Japanese beetles love roses, hollyhocks, crepe myrtle, and hibiscus especially.

July is a hot sticky month here in the Midwest and my least favorite gardening month. While, as the saying goes, you can bury a lot of trouble digging in the dirt, you have to get up early in the morning if you want to dig in the dirt in July. Fortunately the day-lilies are unfazed by the heat and together with the black-eyed Susans, cone flowers, helianthus, and an assortment of flowering annuals, carry the garden through the heat of midsummer.

As I have mentioned before, I do more drifting around and less actual work in the garden in July. I do, however, keep after the Japanese beetles that appear like clockwork in July and stay about a month. These iridescent beetles love roses, hollyhocks, crepe myrtle and hibiscus especially. I dislike them with a passion for ruining my flowers. So, I carry an open-necked jar half-filled with water in which I have squirted some dish-washing detergent whenever I go out into my garden in July.

Whenever I see a beetle on a flower I pick it off and throw it into the jar. I like to think it is a merciful and quick death for the beetles, and it is certainly preferable to squashing them. When there are a cluster of beetles on one flower it is challenging to avoid some escaping, but I usually put my palm over the whole flower and pull it and all of the beetles it harbors into my closed fist. I then open my fist over the top of the jar. I am exhilarated when I get them into the jar and terribly disappointed if one manages to fly off and escape.

When I don’t have my jar, I pick them off and stamp my foot on them. But morning and night, jar in hand, I do a thorough beetle walk, stopping at all of their favorite haunts in my yard. After my hunt, when they have all drowned in my jar, I pour the whole contents onto my gravel driveway and leave them for the birds. Armed with a jar, surgical gloves, soapy water, and the resolve to kill, even the most squeamish flower gardener can become proficient at doing a July beetle walk.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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