How (Not) to Get Rid of Beetles in the Garden

When there are beetles in the garden, skip this trick for getting rid of more in less time. Really.

In today’s story, Dances with Beetles by Emily Edwards, I not only got a good chuckle, but I also learned something new! I don’t feel like I’m much different than Emily when I say that I’ve used new gardening and pest products with not-optimal results before.

For example, I know there’s a perfect ratio of water to dish soap to neem oil that can get rid of aphids and spider mites, but what I didn’t realize was that the ratios exist for a reason. One day after being startled by spider mite webs all over my healthy, blooming lemon trees, I quickly threw all of the above together in a bottle, sprayed like mad, and my lemon trees practically immediately curled up, and in a few days, they dropped all their leaves. The mites were gone, for sure. Nothing to feast on with all those blossoms gone and all.

But that story was more sad than funny, and Emily’s piece today is hilarious. And I’m sure she thinks so too, looking back on it. I don’t generally struggle with beetles in the garden, but I still think we can learn something from her story. I’m guessing a thousand Japanese beetle legs crawling all over her wasn’t so funny at the time!

Download our FREEBIE, GreenPrints Sampler: Animals in the Garden today and read about the mostly funny side of adventures with garden critters.

Don’t Try This At Home if You Have Beetles in the Garden

This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that inject the joy of gardening with critters and animals into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope it does for you as well. Enjoy!

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Dances with Beetles


By Emily Edwards

I am not a fan of bugs, specifically, Japanese beetles. I attribute my strong feelings to one particular incident I refer to as “Dances with Beetles.”

It was a beautiful late-May day, the first Spring at our “new” (read: old starter) home, and I couldn’t wait to start planting. I had planted the first of my roses and just finished mowing the lawn when I spied the first of the invaders.

Japanese beetles.

Their tell-tale, iridescent green, hard shells blanketed my lush grape arbor as they greedily feasted on newly opened leaves. How dare they treat my arbor as if it were an all-you-can-eat buffet?!

My poor baby grapes didn’t stand a chance! And my roses! How could they survive? My maternal instincts kicked into overdrive.

But I had just the solution waiting in my barn: two Japanese beetle traps. I slipped the potent lures into their slots, knowing it was only a matter of time before the invaders would be trapped in these hanging coffins. But hold on. Would one lure really be enough to pull in all the beetles? Just to be safe, I added an extra lure to each trap. I marched toward the grape arbor to give the pests a whiff of their upcoming doom. Then I would stake the bags way back behind our small orchard, where two shepherd’s hooks stood waiting.

My plan was coming together perfectly.


When I glanced behind me, my heart dropped to my feet. I was being chased by a Japanese beetle swarm of biblical proportions! I let out an inhuman shriek and took off through the orchard, arms outstretched, beetle bags whipping in the wind! I ran full-speed, trying to make it to the shepherd’s hooks before the swarm over- took me and I felt their tiny, sticky legs on my skin and in my hair.

Swarm of beetles

I reached the hooks, but now I had to struggle to hang the bags with the Earth’s lure-drunk Japanese beetle population buzzing around me. Blindly I swatted the beetles away from my face, fighting the urge to scream lest one fly into my mouth. After what must have been an eternity, I felt the loops slide over the hooks and, still swatting frantically, retreated a safe distance to catch a beetle-free breath. I watched in amazement as the swarm hovered and dove around the traps. The bags were full in an hour! I was going to have to grab them, dispose of the beetles, and reset the traps.

Heavens. I gritted my teeth and began.

Suffice it to say, I no longer use beetle traps. These days, I swat them off of plants into a bucket of soapy water. I can tell you, after my Dance with Beetles, it took more than a bucket of soapy water to make me clean again. It took a long shower.

Several long showers.

By Emily Edwards, published originally in 2018, in GreenPrints Issue #118. Illustrations by Tim Foley.

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Did you enjoy this story about animals in the garden? Have you ever done something as funny as this? I’d love to hear it!

Download our FREEBIE, GreenPrints Sampler: Animals in the Garden today and read about the mostly funny side of adventures with garden critters.

  • Rhonda N.

    This story was hilarious! I know what pests those beetles can be! Even though we have fewer each spring, I’ve learned a few things about deterring those critters. First, I prune rose bushes really good when spring first arrives. Then I let them alone, because the beetles seem to be more attracted to the scent of fresh cut rose branches. Secondly, I no longer discourage our neighbors guineas from coming to visit. They are the only life-saving mechanism that eats those beetles. When the guinea has it’s belly full, it will sit in one spot, wait for the food to digest, then gets up to eat even more. Pruning once the beetles are almost gone, seems to be the answer to making the rose bushes thrive once again.


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