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Japanese Beetle

Control of Japanese Beetles and White Grubs

The Japanese beetle adult and its grub damage lawns as well as certain desirable plants.  Information on this page includes description of adult Japanese Beetles and their White Grub immature stage, life cycle of grubs as they migrate from shallow to deeper areas in the soil, adult beetle damage to plants, description of grub damage to lawns, cultural practices, timing of white grub control, suggestions for controlling adult Japanese Beetles that feed on leaves of plants as well as the control of White Grubs that infest lawns or grasses.

Control of adult Japanese beetles can be a concern but control of white grubs is important to maintain a healthy lawn.  White grubs are the immature stages of different beetles that cause damage to plants, grasses and lawns.  Japanese Beetles, May Beetles, June Beetles and Chafers are the adult insects that invade certain areas at certain times of the year.  Their young or immature stages are what we call White Grubs.  General description and other information can be found by going to the White Grub web page where the grubs of Japanese Beetles, June Beetles, May Beetles and chafers are discussed as a group.


Adult Japanese Beetles are quite colorful and easy to recognize once you know their markings.  This beetle can be distinguished from other damaging beetles (June beetle, May beetle, chafers).  The Japanese Beetle (adult stage) has as shiny appearance.  Its body has a metallic green color that is in sharp contrast to its outer wings which are bronze colored.  In this adult stage the bug can cause moderate to severe damage to the desirable plants in your landscaping.
When adults emerge in the spring of the year, they can be seen clustering and feeding on the leaves of plants.  The Japanese beetle feeds on the leaves from the upper side and primarily feeds in the daytime.  This will be discussed further in the Japanese Beetle Biology section.

Immature Japanese beetle grubs can be from .5 inches to 1.5 inches long, depending on the instar or stage of its development.  This grub is identified by the noticeable "C Shape" of all White Grubs when it is at rest in the soil.  This immature stage of the Japanese Beetle will be described in more detail in Japanese Beetle Biology as well as in white grub control.

Japanese Beetle Biology

The adult Japanese Beetle can be seen in the spring of the year as it begins its feeding and reproductive cycle.  They are most active in daylight, as opposed to May or June beetles that are more active at night.  Adult beetles fly to certain plants where their pheromones tend to bring them together in groups or clusters.  They will be most active on days that are sunny and warm.
Adult beetles feed on many plant species, including roses, other flowers and ornamentals, fruit trees, grapes and even poison ivy.  They usually feed in groups and prefer plants that are in the sun.  Beetles feed on the upper surface of leaves which results in a skeletonized appearance of damaged leaves.  If the beetles are not congregating in large numbers, they can be physically picked off of your desirable plants by hand.  In most cases their numbers are too high and a long residual spray treatment might be called for, especially if the adults are decimating delicate plants in landscaping that cannot tolerate loss of foliage.

Once the feeding and mating is in full swing, the mated female beetle begins to fly to the soil to lay her eggs and back to the plant material for food.  With each trip to the ground, she will lay only a few eggs but the routine is repeated until she has deposited about 50 to 60 eggs.  These eggs are not left to the elements but are deposited in the soil where they usually hatch in one to two weeks.

Newly emerged grubs that have just left their egg stage begin to feed on organic material near the surface of the soil.  This is the stage that is easiest to control.  The grubs are tiny and very close to the surface, two points of interest when applying grub control insecticides.

These grubs continue to feed until temperatures begin dropping.  By late September and early October, most of these grubs begin to migrate deeper into the soil where they will hibernate for the duration of the cold winter months.  At this time of year, soil applications of pesticides for grubs (or grubacides) will not be very effective and the practice is discouraged.

The grubs have gone through their first two molts by early fall.  They are in their third instar during the hibernation period.  This period is spent up to 8 inches of depth in cells where they are protected from cold winter temperatures.
As the ground and air temperatures rise in early spring, the white grubs once again begin to move, this time towards the root system of your lawn.  This movement coincides with the green up of turf grasses and other plants.  When they reach the roots, they feeding begins anew.  If you missed your late summer application of pesticides it is possible to treat your lawn during this last feeding binge.  (When spring inspections reveal active, feeding White Grubs you obviously cannot ignore them and watch them devastate your lawn.)  However, your results will be not near as favorable as the summer applications.  

Once the Japanese Beetle grubs have finished their final active stage of development they will pupate in cells that are about two to four inches deep in your soil.  After a couple of weeks in their pupal cells, newly formed adult Japanese Beetles emerge to begin the cycle all over again.

Adult Beetle Damage

When Japanese Beetles are in their feeding and mating stage, they are often easy to recognize as they tend to cluster in areas where mating occurs.  They are also daytime flyers and prefer plants in warm, sunny areas.  The characteristic of feeding from the tops of leaves is one that shows definite signs of damage.  Small insects often feed from the bottom side of plant material which leaves small holes from piercing/ sucking mouthparts.  Worms or caterpillars tend to feed from the edges of leaves which shows bite marks that are easily distinguished from adult feeders.
By contrast, Japanese Beetles leave the plant's leaves with a skeletonized appearance.  You will find leaves that still have their stems but a large portion of the leaf has been eaten.  It is this feeding that can damage certain ornamental plants.  Without sufficient leaf surface, the plant cannot get enough sunlight to support life.  If too many leaves are allowed to be eaten, the plant will not usually survive.  When this type of damage is done to plants in your landscaping, you will need to spray for adult beetle control.

Damage of Japanese Beetle Grubs to Lawns

White Grubs (as the immature beetle larvae are commonly named) feed on the roots of grasses and some plants.  This loss of roots can be severe enough to totally separate the turf from the soil.  When this happens you can actually roll up sections of the grass as if it were a strip of carpet.  Other signs of white grub damage is a yellowish tinge in grass color.  In some cases these areas can actually brown out.  Signs of grub predators are obvious as skunks, raccoons, birds and moles feed on the protein source these creatures crave.  Certain animals such as raccoons, skunks, armadillos and moles can in turn do their own damage to your lawn.  Ridding your lawn of white grubs is sometimes the solution to problems with burrowing or digging wildlife.

Adult Japanese Beetle Control on Plants, Shrubs

When populations of adult beetles are too high to justify hand picking the pests or when damage to desirable plants in your landscaping is noticeable, you should treat the plants to bring the population down to a manageable level.
Treating ornamental plants will help reduce the numbers of eggs being deposited in the soil close to or under your lawn but it is not a substitute for controlling white grub infestations as a stand alone pest control method.  If, however, you have not had a grub problem in your lawn this plant spray treatment could help prevent or prolong damaging infestations to grasses.
Pesticides suggested for spraying plants have a two-fold purpose: to kill as many adult Japanese Beetles as possible and to deter or repel others from landing on the treated plants.  This repelling action is not 100% effective but it does help to reduce the numbers of beetles feeding on the leaves of shrubs and other ornamentals.  If you can inhibit the female beetles' feeding you will be limiting the number of eggs she is able to produce. 
Older or conventional types of pesticides (Dursban, Diazinon, etc.) do not have the flushing action or ability to deter pests as do the newer (and safer) synthetic classes of insecticides.  Brand names in this class are growing but a few of the best that are used by professionals include Demon insecticides, Cynoff insecticides, Suspend SC, Dragnet Professional strength Permethrin) and Talstar One.   Demon and Cynoff might damage some delicate plants and are usually used for general purpose pest control for indoor use and exterior surfaces of structures.
Suspend SC can be used to kill adult beetles on plants without harming or burning.  Talstar One has given the best results when spraying for Japanese Beetles, June Beetles (or May Beetles, as they might be called in your area) and other pests of lawns and ornamentals.  The active ingredient in Talstar (Bifenthrin) has shown excellent initial knockdown of pests.  Talstar has also shown a superior residual for killing and repelling pests of ornamental plants.  Where conventional pesticides are notorious for lasting only a few days, professional Bifenthrin products can last up to two or three weeks.
Many landscapers tell us that they will use Talstar concentrate to broadcast lawns for white grub infestations.  Talstar is labeled for Japanese Beetles but is not labeled for controlling white grubs in lawns.  This does not mean that it (Talstar) will harm your lawn nor does it mean that it is not safe for residential use.  (Talstar is used extensively for control of molecrickets, chinch bugs, ants and many other lawn pests)
We do have customers that have purchased Talstar to treat their landscaped areas for plant pests and they prefer to spray their lawns with the same material for grub control.  In these cases it is important to remember proper irrigation.  The soil to be treated should be watered just before application and must be irrigated again, immediately after pesticide application.  The tendency of Talstar is to cling to soil particles instead of leeching.  It is this tendency that keeps the material from reaching turf damaging grubs.  Irrigating after treatment will help push the material deeper into the soil.

Control of Japanese Beetle White Grubs in Lawns

When control of Japanese Beetle grubs or prevention of the lawn pest is needed, cultural practices,  timing of pesticide applications and type of pesticide to use must all be considered.

The irony of white grub infestations is that they usually attack lawns that are well maintained and irrigated.  By nurturing a beautiful lawn and surrounding landscape we actually invite beetles and their destructive grubs.  These pests are attracted to grasses that are closely cut (such as mowed lawns and cropped pastures) and to areas where the soil is constantly wet or moist.  Frequent, light watering of your lawn is not as beneficial to the turf as less frequent but deeper irrigation.  In other words, watering the grass for longer periods just a few days each week (the number can vary in different areas) is a better practice than watering lightly every day of the week.  Good irrigation practices are not only more important in the development of a strong root system but also attracts fewer egg laying Japanese Beetles.

White grubs are easiest to kill or control when they are in their first instar and when they are close enough to the surface to be effected by your pesticide application.  This criteria can be met by applying proper insecticides to the area in late summer.  When in doubt, contact your local county extension office.  Ask when the the egg laying of Japanese Beetles usually occurs in your area.  When using Merit Systemic Insecticides, application can be made prior to egg laying or during the egg laying period.  Merit products (containing Imidacloprid) are available in wettable powder concentrate (a 75% concentration) and granular formulations.  Most professionals prefer to use Merit .5 G Systemic Insecticide Granules, the highly concentrated granular form, when treating for Japanese beetle larvae prevention, maintenance and control.  Most over the counter or store brands of grub control granules contain only 0.2% active ingredient instead of the 0.5% active found in Merit.
Generally, times suggested for application of insecticides to kill and control White Grubs in lawns are in the period beginning in mid-June and ending in July.  Due to temperature variances, these times might differ for your part of the country.

Merit Systemic Insecticides for White Grub Control

The best white grub control products on the market contain Imidacloprid.  This active ingredient has been a tremendous help in white grub control, due to its long residual and systemic properties.  In the past, pesticide applications had to be absolutely perfect in timing - otherwise the applications would not give a good kill of the grubs.

With Merit Systemic insecticides we can be reasonably sure of season long control of grubs when timing and conditions are perfect.  Even if timing is not perfect you will achieve better results with Merit than with conventional contact insecticide sprays or granules.
Merit is available in granular form and in wettable powder concentrate.
Merit insecticides work best when applied just prior to or during Japanese Beetle egg laying period.  Follow label instructions closely, to help ensure a safe and effective control of Japanese Beetle larvae.Japanese Beetles, White Grubs

Pest Control    Pesticides    Household Pests    Lawn Pests    White Grubs    Molecrickets

June Beetles    Japanese Beetle