Do Japanese Beetle Traps Work?

Pros and Cons of Using Lures

Japanese beetle.
Japanese beetle traps cause more problems than they solve. Getty Images/M. & C. Photography

Japanese beetles are a very destructive bug that can really wreak havoc on plants, flowers and roots in gardens. The beetles hardly discriminate, loving hundreds of species of foliage. Japanese beetle traps are sold commercially and marketed to gardeners with roses and other susceptible plants.

However, Japanese beetle traps hanging in gardens are cringeworthy mainly because you might be calling for trouble instead of alleviating it.

In most home garden scenarios, Japanese beetle traps are not effective for controlling these pests.

How Japanese Beetle Traps Work

Most Japanese beetle traps contain two chemical attractants: a sex pheromone and a floral lure. Japanese beetles spend their days feeding in groups and mating, and the two chemical attractants in combination do an effective job of luring beetles in large numbers.

The big problem is that studies have shown that these pheromone lures attract far more beetles than they actually trap. In other words, when you hang a Japanese beetle trap in your yard, you are inviting every Japanese beetle in the neighborhood to your yard, but only a small percentage of these beetles will actually end up in the trap itself. The beetles that avoid the trap will now treat your well-manicured landscaping as a full-service buffet.

You want to discourage beetles from coming to your yard, not come flying in by the thousands.

You are better served by a Japanese beetle trap if you present it to your neighbors as a gift.

Or, if you can hold a neighborhood meeting and convince everyone in the neighborhood to hang beetle traps, that might stop the migration from yard to yard.

Benefit of Traps

Japanese beetle traps are not entirely without merit.

They can be used effectively as a survey tool, to determine whether the numbers of Japanese beetles in an area warrant some kind of control. They also work well for managing isolated populations of Japanese beetles.

The other benefit is that you are not spraying harsh chemical insecticides on your lawn. If you have kids or pets, this might be a big consideration for you. Probably the most effective mode of controlling a beetle infestation involves chemicals. There are other biological and physical controls you can use, such as shaking visible beetles into buckets of soapy water or using a dilution of dishwashing liquid to treating your lawn. It forces beetles in the larval stage, underground, to come up for air, which gives local birds a hardy feast.

Surefire Way to Remove Beetles

Japanese beetles can sometimes be selective with what they eat. If you are planning a landscape design for your property, choose plants that Japanese beetles are known to not like. This can help to keep beetles moving along to find a different spot in the neighborhood to eat.

If you have existing plants that are Japanese beetle favorites, you will have to consider if it makes economic sense to remove and replace those plants versus chemically treating the plants.

For example, if you have a flowering cherry tree, consider a kousa dogwood. If you have a linden, consider a red maple instead.

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Hadley, Debbie. "Do Japanese Beetle Traps Work?" ThoughtCo, Oct. 16, 2017, thoughtco.com/do-japanese-beetle-traps-work-1968390. Hadley, Debbie. (2017, October 16). Do Japanese Beetle Traps Work? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/do-japanese-beetle-traps-work-1968390 Hadley, Debbie. "Do Japanese Beetle Traps Work?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/do-japanese-beetle-traps-work-1968390 (accessed December 17, 2017).