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Roses are plants, too!

Make Your Own Natural Spray for Japanese Beetles

A summer sight to turn any gardener's stomach!
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses
A summer sight to turn any gardener's stomach!
Photo/Illustration: Paul Zimmerman Roses

 

Every rose gardener has come to hate Japanese Beetles (Popillia japonica). Every summer they emerge from the ground and begin their voracious chomp through the garden. While they love all kinds of plants, they particularly seem to love roses. It breaks any rose grower’s heart to walk out and see their shiny bodies encompassing a just opened blossom. While they are found mostly in the Eastern United States, there is evidence they are moving further west.

The commonly recommended chemical treatment is Sevin, either in liquid or powder form. I’m not keen on this, as I feel Sevin can also harm to insects we want to keep around. Personally I advise against it. Liquid soaps won’t work because Japanese Beetles are hard-bodied insects as opposed to aphids, mites and thrips that are soft-bodied.

I’ve talked in the past about letting nature achieve a balance between “good” and “bad’ insects in the garden. The idea being you need some of the “bad” guys around because they are a food source for the “good” guys.

Here’s the problem. Japanese Beetles are not native to our shores, so therefore they have no widespread natural predator in the United States. In their native Japan, this is not an issue because they do have natural predators. I’ve heard ducks love them but I’m not sure I want to see a bunch of ducks perched on my roses!

Japanese Beetle Traps don’t really work because they tend to lure in more beetles they can handle. Picking them off by hand, drowning them in a jar and getting them off the property, while satisfactory from a revenge standpoint, is laborious at best. Simply shaking them off and stomping on them attracts more because when killed, the female emits a pheromone that attracts males. Hardly the desired result.

So, is there a natural alternative? Thankfully, the answer is yes. Double thanks because you can make it yourself!

It’s simply a spray made from cedar oil! Preferably Eastern Red Cedar. The principal is the same one used when storing sweaters in a cedar chest to keep moths away. When sprayed on the roses it keeps the beetles away and they fly off to another garden. I know this for a fact because I’ve tried it and boy did it work!

You can buy it from various on-line sites but recently I found a recipe for it. Simply take a few red cedar planks say a foot long each and put them in a one or two gallon bucket. Pour hot water over it and let it steep like tea for 24 hours. Cut the planks in half if needed, but make sure they are totally immersed in the hot water.

Pour the liquid (don’t dilute it) into the sprayer of your choice and spray the roses and the beetles. You may have to play around with how much cedar wood you use to get the right strength. When you have it right the beetles will either fly away or drop off almost instantly.

I’ve been asked if this would work with cedar shavings and in all honesty I don’t know. I have not tried it but if you want to give it a go let me know how it works! I’ve also seen red cedar oil for sale by itself and that diluted in water might also work.

None of us like Japanese Beetles but the chemical alternatives can sometimes do more harm than good. Thankfully a natural control is here and rapidly gaining traction.

Happy Roseing

Paul

 

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Comments

  1. EllenSousa 06/21/2012

    This is good info - will try spraying with Cedar Oil. I have to admit my method is to simply sweep beetles into a container and bring them to my chickens to eat - they LOVE to devour Japanese beetles! Works for me :)

  2. Garden_Addict 06/21/2012

    This is great info Paul, thank you, I will definitely try it.

  3. PFZimmerman 06/21/2012

    I was real pleased to discover it. I tried it over two seasons at our old nursery on some 3000 plants and it really kept them away.

  4. penster47 06/22/2012

    I will try this. I can't pick them off because they love my Rhodies, that's the only thing they go for in my yard! My best Rhodie is over 10 ft tall and I'm only 5 ft, so there is no way for me to reach them, but my sprayer will!!! Thanks

  5. JuleMG 06/22/2012

    I have tons of shredded cedar mulch, but no planks. I wonder if that would work?

  6. PFZimmerman 06/22/2012

    Cedar mulch might work if it's fresh. Give it a try and let us know!

  7. larryms 06/23/2012

    Paul---I have some pure Cedar oil, how much would you mix with gal. of water?---do you have to add anything like a little soap to help emulsify it in the water? Thanks, Larry

  8. PFZimmerman 06/24/2012

    I have not tried the cedar oil mixed with water. I ran across it while doing some reading for this post. In guessing I would try a tbs per gallon of cedar oil to start with. Test on a small area first.

  9. Mewtzo 06/26/2012

    My method is each morning make a solution of Dish soap and hot water and go on Jap beetle patrol several times a day. The beetles are suspended in the dish soap water and unable to move. I use the same container all day and the solution continues to work! I also noticed that the times between 12p to 2p is their most active and menacing times! I can even catch them with my hands. I don't know if the new crop of beetles arrive at those times but...They seem to like to settle in the roses, hollyhocks, tops of daisies and coneflowers, hibiscus and today I noticed them on my corn!! Wish they'd head west and not return!

  10. Rosarian 06/26/2012

    Sounds like I will give this a try. Can you tell me if this mixture is safe to spray in the hot weather.
    We are located across the border form Mich.

    Thanks

    Bill

  11. larryms 07/05/2012

    Here are the results of my try at using a cedar oil spray for JB control. The oil I used is listed as "100% natural oil of aromatic eastern redcedar wood" produced by "Giles & Kendall".

    1st tried 1 tbsp oil in 1 gal of water---this had little affect on the JB's, none left & they remained active on the sprayed roses.

    Got up to 3 tbsp oil per gal of water & this finally caused them to leave the sprayed roses. Came back 2 hours later & could still smell cedar from the sprayed roses but the JB's had returned also. Checked the roses the next day & JB activity same as non-sprayed roses. Also evidence of the oil causing some damage to the older leaves & significant damage to new growth, so the redcedar oil doesn't appear to work in my test.

  12. CarolScott 09/24/2012

    Japanese Beetles have been plaguing my roses for years. Turns out if your target the white grubs before they mature you can stop the problem most effectively. Here's more info on the grub control: http://www.scottslawnservice.com/sls/templates/index.jsp?primaryNodeId=5000002&pageUrl=slswhitegrub

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  14. Urbanroseguy 07/08/2013

    Paul, could you please give us the formula and concentration of the spray you used successfully? I made up one batch without success so would like to try again Thanks

  15. Urbanroseguy 07/08/2013

    Paul, could you please give us the formula and concentration of the spray you used successfully? I made up one batch without success so would like to try again Thanks

  16. PFZimmerman 07/18/2013

    I've only purchased it on-line. In making it, trying adding some more planks or let them steep longer.

  17. Urbanroseguy 08/07/2013

    Paul, what dilution of the oil product worked for you?

  18. ahmadotaibi 05/07/2014

    RX attraction cologne spray is really hot for a guy to wear and deffinately helps get the ladies... :)

  19. user-7007119 08/05/2014

    I use my shop
    vac. Seems unorthadox using it in the garden,but it works. make sure you have a filter and then plug the hose with a rag so they don't crawl out after.

  20. joncharney 08/13/2015

    The adult beetles lay eggs in the ground. The eggs hatch into larvae or grubs. The grubs emerge from the ground as beetles. I broadcast granules to kill the grubs in the springtime. It doesn't usually kill all of them but it definitely helps - Jon@PriceTermite

  21. Ookami7 07/12/2016

    I tried your suggestion, and I regret it. The cedar oil discolored the leaves of my tree, made the young branches wilt and the leaves are turning brown (I just hosed them down to help get rid of some of the cedar oil). It didn't repel the beetles at all either. My poor trees, I hope they recover. Those Japanese Beetles are a real pain in the butt. They are defoliating all of my deciduous trees.

    1. user-7008196 07/28/2016

      Maybe it was to strong

    2. s_aaron 07/31/2017

      I just tried skin so soft, just a little with water (they use it on horses to keep flies off) and the original of course and its working!

  22. LoneWolf1038 05/21/2017

    If it munches.....use Neem Oil! It alters their thought pattern and they forget to eat, drink, mate, maybe even walk and fly! Neem is systemic....which means the plant absorbs it, so when something eats....it gets a dose of Neem. I try to spray early morning or late evening when the good bugs go to bed...but it is not really harmful to them because they do not eat the plant and ingest it. Also safe for pets but I try to keep mine out of the area until it drys.

    1. jean_purdy 06/05/2017

      what is the mix of Neem Oil to water, or do you spray it neat?

      1. LoneWolf1038 06/05/2017

        I use the 70% Neem oil that you can get at any garden shop. I mix 1 oz of Neem with 1 gallon of water. I shake it periodically while spraying so it stays mixed well. Be sure to spray the tops AND the bottoms of the leaves, stems, etc. I spray 'til dripping. I spray every 3 weeks or after it rains and washes it off. Once it's mixed, it's only good for a few hours after mixing, so just mix what you're going to need so you don't waste it by having it sit in the sprayer.

        1. jean_purdy 06/06/2017

          thank you, i will give it a go.

        2. harrietgrice 07/09/2017

          I will try this ASAP as they're eating my sunflower leaves and my morning glories !!!!

        3. adrienneurban 07/18/2017

          Why is it only good for a few hours?

          1. LoneWolf1038 07/18/2017

            It states on the label: "• Spray solutions should be used within several hours of preparation for maximum effectiveness. Do not store diluted solution for later use."

        4. LoneWolf1038 07/18/2017

          Some info stated on the label: "SHAKE WELL BEFORE USING.
          Do not apply this product through any type of irrigation system.
          GENERAL INFORMATION:
          • Kills eggs, larvae, and adult insects.
          • Prevents and controls black spot on roses, anthracnose, rust and
          powdery mildew.
          • Formulated for interiorscape use.
          • For optimal performance, do not mix with cold water (less than 45ºF).
          • 70% NEEM OIL is most effective when applied in early to mid-morning or late afternoon when adult pests, such as whiteflies are normally sedentary on the undersides of the foliage.
          • Spray solutions should be used within several hours of preparation for maximum effectiveness. Do not store diluted solution for later use.
          • Do not apply to wilted or otherwise stressed plants, or to newly
          transplanted materials prior to root establishment.
          • Do not apply to known sensitive plant species, such as impatiens
          flowers, fuchsia flowers, hibiscus flowers, some rose flowers,
          ornamental olive trees, or some carnation varieties without prior testing.
          • As with other oil-based products, care should be exercised in timing applications to early morning/late evening to minimize the potential for leaf burn.
          • Use with care on plants with tender tissue. Check for leaf burn in small scale trials prior to use.
          • Thorough coverage is necessary to provide good disease and mite control. 70% NEEM OIL prevents fungal attack on plant tissue and contact activity to mite pressure on the plant. Avoid excessive runoff of spray material for maximum control.
          • Do not add adjuvants (spreaders, stickers, extenders, etc.) to 70% NEEM OIL.
          • Stops powdery mildew in 24 hours."

    2. vicki_stankewitz 07/14/2017

      They like basil too and are ruining my process to make pesto. Gonna have to try the neem oil. I wonder if my local health food store will have it? I know neem is found in some natural toothpastes.

      1. lisa_thurber 07/21/2017

        I got mine off Amazon with my prime 2 day shipping. I have not tried it but I'm about to do it right now because I just saw some beetles on one of my favorite plants.

  23. terryshannon 06/30/2017

    I have them on my grape arbor. Would the cedar spray affect the grapes?

  24. user-7008700 06/30/2017

    I just tried this with cedar shavings (from the pet store) - I boiled a couple handfuls of the shavings in water, which I then put in a spray bottle. I then dumped a large bag of cedar shavings over the top of the tree and at it's base...then started spraying! The beetles didn't leave instantly, but as I walked around the tree for about 1/2 hour, spraying any I could see as well as trying to soak as many of the leaves as possible, I noticed the beetles flying away one by one. I also noticed them trying to land on the tree again, but having a hard time finding a spot to their liking. There are a few tenacious ones still hanging around, so I might use the old "beetle in soapy water" trick for those guys. Hope this continues to work!

  25. user-7008731 07/08/2017

    This is fantastic! I can't wait to try it. We just received a bunch of red cedar from a neighbor to use as firewood and I've got a 2.5 gallon sprayer. .. If this works my neighbor and I will toast you over our lovely back yards. Thanks for the recipe.

  26. marisajonesfaith 07/21/2017

    I'm so bummed because the height of this infestation is right before we leave town for a week! I hope that one of these methods will work enough to keep my plants alive for the week and able to survive the beetle all you can eat buffet.😓

  27. gale_cannon 08/04/2017

    Japanese beetles are eating my canna lillies. I heard that putting them in water in a container near the plants would help; well not this year. HELP!

    1. gale_cannon 08/04/2017

      Will the Cedar or Neem hurt the canna lillies?

  28. gale_cannon 08/04/2017

    I have Neem leaves that I sometimes use to make tea. Can I use that?

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